Good morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are continuing in our “Greatest Sermon Ever Preached” series…The Sermon on the Mount
So far in this mesage, Jesus has presented this sort of upside-down, counter-intuitive sort of life-style.
And he continues to challenge our normal perceptions in today’s passage
Let’s take a look at today’s passage:
By the way, if you’re interested, you can bring your Bibles to church
(Matthew 5:21-26) – NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
21"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22But 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. 23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 25"Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
So in summary, Jesus is encouraging us to take a good hard look at the topic of anger…and also forgiveness…reconciliation with people.
THE SOURCE OF ANGER: THE MIND
Six times in the rest of this chapter (after today’s passage)…Jesus says something like, “You have heard it said…but I tell you”
And often he seems to quote some idea out of the Old Testament (first part of Bible), and then he seems to tweak it a little bit
But it’s not really that. Jesus isn’t contrasting between the OT and his new way of looking at things. He is contrasting between the externalistic approach of the Pharisees (religious people of his day) and his internal approach (focusing on the heart)
So, for example in this passage, he says in verse 21, “You have heard it said, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”
OK, that’s true. That’s what the OT says. It’s 1 of the 10 commandments.
But here was the problem. In Jesus’ day, people got so wrapped up in just obeying the command as written. And anything else went.
So, don’t murder…but you could get away with a whole lot else.
And, what you thought in your mind and felt in your heart…that’s your prerogative. Think you want you want. Just don’t DO it. Cuz then you’d be breaking a rule
But Jesus says, “no, no, no, no…The OT was right. Don’t murder, but it’s more than that…Let’s look at verse 22 again
(Matthew 5:22) – NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
22But 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.
Let’s work backwards on this one. Jesus says that if you call someone a fool (a moron), you will be in danger of the fire of hell…
WHOA! What is that about??
Well, what were learning as we’re reading the teachings of Jesus, is that we don’t earn our way to heaven through doing good works and avoiding bad things, but by accepting his grace and forgiveness
So, when he says, if you call someone a fool, you’re in danger of the fire of hell, all that means is that it’s a sin worthy of judgment, just like anything else. And if you don’t accept his grace/forgiveness, then we’re in danger of judgment…no matter what it is.
And so also, is calling someone an “empty-head.” He says, if you do that, you should be answerable to the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin: High court of the Jews. Chief Priests, Elders, and Teachers of the law. There were 71 people total and it was lead by the high priest of the Jewish faith.
And then working backwards all the way back to the beginning of this verse, he says, even if you’re angry with your brother (disciple…not gender specific), you are subject to judgment
And all the judgment talk is a strong way of basically saying (he’s not really saying go to the supreme court), anger is an incredibly serious issue. Just like murder is.
The problem was, the religious ppl of his day, had written it off like it didn’t matter
But Jesus goes straight to the source! YES, murder matters, but so does calling someone a terrible name, or a not so-nice name, or even thinking angry thoughts…
Because here’s the reality. Anger is really just the birthplace of murder.
Sidenote: Anger is not in itself a sin. Emotions are amoral. They aren’t wrong or right in and of themselves. Anger can be a good thing. If you see a stranger trying to hurt your children, you better be angry.
However, most of the time our anger isn’t righteous anger. We just like to think it is.
But the question is on this murder thing…where does it start? Murderers just don’t murder out of nowhere, right? It starts somewhere. It starts in the heart.
But too often, even in our society today, we just focus on outcomes and we ignore the internal process that gets us there.
Teen Challenge vs. Jail example.
Let me give you another example: Our culture is so oversaturated w/ sexual images, I feel terrible for the future children of our country.
Seriously. It’s ridiculous. Between TV ads, Television shows, and rampant access to pornography, you can’t avoid it.
The average child now sees pornography at the age of 9.
Yet, we don’t really bat too much of an eye at it.
BUT, when a pastor, a politician, or a public figure has an affair. They cheat on their spouse. We crucify them.
But, let me ask you a question: Where did it start? Did they just wake up one day from some perfect state of living, and decide they were going to go cheat on their wife? NO way.
It starts in the heart. In the mind. And our oversexualized culture certainly doesn’t help.
And anger is no different. It starts inside.
And Jesus brilliantly points out that if you don’t start to deal with it in here (point to head) first, it’s just going to leak out
We get this principle (sort of) w/ our bodies.
Happened to be watching “The Biggest Loser” and was struck by this man who was 450 lbs and said he feared he might not live through his 30’s.
We don’t get it like that, but somewhere we know that we have to take care of what’s inside before it leaks out externally
I have to stop eating pizza 3 times a week, or I could have a heart attack at 45
I have to continue to work out or, perhaps I have lung problems later on. Bad cholesterol, you name it
But, we tend to treat our bodies like we treat our cars
I know I should bring in my 98 tracer for check-ups and maintenance more often, but I tend to just wait until it breaks to bring in it
AND unfortunately, we treat our anger issues like we treat our bodies and our cars
We tend to not do anything about them until it results in us screaming at our spouse, losing it at one of our friends, punching the wall, or even hitting another person.
Jesus is right. Anger is a serious thing, and We need to start policing our mind for anger.
I’d like to be open and honest for a moment if I could…
I grew up in an angry family. There was no hitting. And not a lot of yelling. But we hated people.
See, Sorn’s were fiercely loyal people. If you’re good to us, we will be good to you until the day you die. But if you cross us, even in a little way, we hate you. (sounds a little like the mob actually)
And I grew up as a smart kid with a really big mouth, and thus, made a lot of enemies, and didn’t have the know-how (or the modeling) to do anything but hate those people once they wronged me
It got so bad, that for a couple of years after high school, I couldn’t even look through my high school year book.
And you know, at the time, I’m not sure I even thought it was that bad…
But let me tell you something about anger…it is consuming. It will eat you alive.
We can’t stop thinking about the people who have wronged us. The people at work, our old friends, and often our own family members.
A couple years ago, a friend of mine used a phrase that I really liked. He was talking about a person who had wronged him, and he said, “They’re paying a lot of rent in my head”
And let me ask you this morning: “Who should be paying rent in your head cuz they’re in there so much?” “Who’s living up there?” “Who are you angry at?”
I met Jesus Christ when I was 18 years old. And I think perhaps the most significant impact he has had on my life is in this area.
Before I knew Jesus Christ, I probably could have given you a list of 25 people I hated.
It’s not like that anymore. He has really given me a love for people. It’s been a long process over the last decade, but He’s helping me love people.
Maybe that’s because I’ve come to realize that he came to die and forgive someone like me who used to hate some of his followers.
And maybe it’s also because, when you spend time with the Prince of Peace (Jesus Christ), he begins to change you on the inside. To give you His peace.
BEING RELIGIOUS BUT NOT FORGIVING
In this passage, Jesus says, it’s not just about being extra serious about our angry thoughts for people who have wronged us, but about being extra serious about people who WE have wronged with OUR anger.
Let’s take a look at verses 23 & 24 again
(Matthew 5:23-24) – NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Here’s the picture he’s painting: In Jesus’ day, offering a gift (sacrifice) would have meant at the temple in Jerusalem. However, his audience (where he gave the sermon on the mount) is north of there in Galilee. In fact, it’s 90 miles north! And most traveled by donkey. Or more likely, walking.
So, what Jesus is really saying is incredible: He’s saying, if you get to church and are about to give your offering and realize you’ve wronged someone, stop right there, don’t give your offering, walk back 90 miles, make it right w/ your friend, and then come back, and then continue worshipping. That’s how important working out your anger issues w/ other people is.
And in our own lives…sometimes our anger gets out…and we hurt other people. By something we say, or don’t say. Something we do…or don’t do.
And the question is, when that happens…what do you do about it?
And all too often our answer is: nothing. And on top of that, We trick ourselves into believing that God is at least still very pleased with all of the religious things we are doing.
And this is that very “overly-religious-hypocrisy” that Jesus fights against.
One of the main reasons people don’t want to become Christians is because they know too many people who are obsessed with church, but they aren’t very nice people
Because we end up thinking that God is much more concerned about our church attendance record than he is how we affect other people w/ our anger
But Jesus sets the record straight. He says, “yeah, church is important. Go there. But if you’re there and you remember you’ve wronged someone, fix it. And then come back, but humble yourself enough to apologize.
Because as he said a couple verses back, we are to be his Light in the world. And we can’t be his light if we just do churchy stuff and don’t actually LOVE other people.
So let me ask you: Is there someone you need to apologize to before you come back here next week?
Maybe, it’s someone that’s paying rent in your head. Someone that you’re angry at too. And maybe that’s why you haven’t apologized.
But just as Christ took the first step towards us when we wronged Him, we need to take the first step towards other people and ask for forgiveness
LETTING ANGER COST YOU
But it’s not easy to do…especially if it’s someone you don’t like that you wronged. An adversary. An enemy.
Take a look at verses 25-26 again
(Matthew 5:25-26) – NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
25"Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Jesus uses the example of a person who refuses to give in and is sent to prison. And he says, “You won’t get out until you’ve paid the last penny.”
And first of all, isn’t it crazy the pain we’ll put ourselves through just to prove we’re right. A person would put themselves in jail before they would admit they had any wrong,
We will put ourselves through so much before we’ll admit we had any wrong in the situation.
When I think of these verses, it always blows my mind how Christians are always so ready to sue someone who wrongs them rather than admit maybe they were partially at fault, so let’s work it out.
And we too in our personal lives put ourselves through so much before we will come forward and admit any fault
And maybe that’s where you’re at. Something has gone awry in your marriage, or in a friendship or with a family member.
And if you’re there, and you’re honest, it’s eating you inside. You’re suffering w/ it. It’s like being in jail (like Jesus said), but it’s the prison of your mind.
And to take it even a step further, in the financial example Jesus used, if the person didn’t admit wrong, and did get thrown into jail…they are probably never getting out cuz you can’t earn money to repay your debt in jail.
And for many of us, we never get out of that prison of anger in our minds
You hear stories all the time of things like: two sisters who had a major fight in their twenties, and haven’t spoken to each other since…even though it’s maybe been fifty years.
Or stories of someone with a distant father who wasn’t all he was cracked up to be, and because of the pain of their childhood relationship, they haven’t spoken to him since they were 18.
And it’s not always that dramatic, but our anger, our pride, it keeps us from really living
When I think of anger…I think of a clenched fist
Anger is like clenching your fists so tightly. (walk through that example….)
So start policing your mind…
Are you angry? Are you angry at someone? Have you wronged someone w/ your anger?
And take Jesus’ advice…and look to the source. Look for the little things before they turn into big things
Start in your mind…but notice the places where you get even a little angry
What’s your tell for when you are starting to get angry?
Is it when you start to get short w/ your family? Or just simple impatience? Or maybe it’s dwelling on a certain person?
And when you start to notice, follow the Kingdom of God advice of Jesus Christ that we’ve been talking about.
Ask Him to give you strength.
Ask Him to help you forgive.
And continue to spend more time with Him each day.
For it’s only by His Strength and His Peace that we could trust enough to let go.
It feels good to let go.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.