Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Heart of Murder

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment’ ” (Matthew 5:21).

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus called the people back to the true meaning of the Mosaic law by warning them that “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The scribes and Pharisees kept the external letter of the law but took no care to follow the law in its broader applications.

For instance, they did not see that the positive side of the commandment against murder is the promotion of life. “Thou shalt not kill” implies “Thou shalt actively promote the well-being of thy neighbor.” When we see this, we see there are other ways to “kill” people than outright physical murder. Jesus expounds the law in these dimensions.

He says, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22). In other words, an evil attitude of the heart characterized by unjust anger is a violation of this law, as is verbal slander and abuse. Both of these tend to destroy the well-being of our neighbor.

A fool is a moral atheist, someone who rejects God’s claims (Psalm 14:1). A man who doesn’t fear God is a fool. We can find places in the New Testament where people are called foolish as a sharp denunciation of their behavior. Jesus called the two travelers on the road to Emmaus “foolish” because they were slow to believe the Bible (Luke 24:25). Paul called the Galatians “foolish” because they were forsaking the Gospel (Galatians 3:1).

We should be aware that Jesus does not mean it is always wrong to call someone a fool. He means that calling someone a “fool” in the biblical sense is the worst thing we can call someone. We need to be very sure before we open our mouths.

As you meditate on this passage of Scripture today, ask God to show you further aspects of the positive side of the prohibition against murder. Consider ways you can promote life and the well-being of your neighbors, fellow workers, or students. Pray that God would reveal specific ways you can make a difference in the lives of others.