MATTHEW 5:21-26 – YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID
v21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ v22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell”
v23 “Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, v24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
v25 “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. v26 “Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”
WHAT DOES IT SAY?
This section of Matthew is usually referred to as “The Sermon on The Mount”. In it, Jesus is teaching and instructing His disciples in Kingdom principles and practices.
He teaches and contrasts the edicts of the Torah (the Law of the Old Testament) against the teaching, the fulfillment and the application of the New Covenant brought about by Jesus.
It is fitting that He starts His teaching with the words, “You have heard that the ancients were told” (verse 21), referring to the Old Covenants; and then begins this teaching with the 6th Commandment from the Mosaic Covenant, which deals with our relationships with one another.
It is worthwhile to highlight the main points:
1. The Old Covenant Law says, “You shall not commit murder and whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court”.
(a) But. Jesus says, “everyone who is angry with his brother is guilty before the court”
(b) And, Jesus goes on to explain, “Whoever call his brother ‘raca’ or him ‘you good-for-nothing’, shall be guilty before the Supreme Court”
(c) And, “Anyone who call his brother a “fool” shall be guilty enough to go to the fires of hell.”
2. Verse 23 clarifies the matter by saying “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you…”
(b) You are to “leave your offering at the altar and go;
(i) first be reconciled to your brother (ii) and then, come and present your offering
3. Jesus, then goes beyond simple reconciliation and says, “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way,
(a) so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, (b) and, the judge to the officer, (c) and, you be thrown into prison.
4. Jesus completes His instruction, with emphasis, by saying, “Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
1. Jesus is fulfilling the Old Testament law, which was written on tablets of stone which are an external standard for observance and practice and is bringing the new Covenant of His Grace and forgiveness and is writing it on the hearts of His people, so they will want to obey Him. (Ezekiel 11:19, 20 “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”)
2. Jesus is also telling us that continuing to think evil thoughts has the same effect as doing the act. Additionally, He is showing us that dwelling on an evil or sinful thought takes a person progressively deeper into evil thinking which will culminate in an evil act. Finally, He is telling us the punishment that follows sin is self-inflicted and deadly.
3. Jesus then moves (literally) to the heart of the matter when He turns our attention to our offerings to God which originate in the attitude of our heart.
Proverb 3:9 admonishes us to “Honor the LORD from your wealth, And from the first, your produce; 10 Then your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
1. Jesus has extrapolated the meaning of “murder” to include anger, hatred, loathing or dismissing a person as worthless.
(a) If you treat someone as such, it means you are in jeopardy of being tried by God, found guilty and sentenced to a “prison” separated from God.
(i) Matthew 6:14-15. “If you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive your offenses.”
(ii) Matthew 13:41,42 “ The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
2. “Presenting an offering before the altar” is not a reference, strictly to money and belongings. God is referring to the entire value of our being, which springs from the heart. When our heart is right, God says, our “vats will overflow with new wine”. The vats are symbols of our natural being – our body, soul and spirit – and the new wine is the fruit of The Holy Spirit. This means you cannot be right with God and at variance with your brother or sister and expect to prosper physically, emotionally or mentally.
3 John 1:2 “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
3. Finally, Jesus is saying you should make friends quickly with your opponent on your way to the “court” or you may be judged, convicted and imprisoned. And you will remain imprisoned until you repay the offended person, in full.
There is no judgment as harsh, no prison cell as secure and sentence as long as one handed down by an offended person with whom you cannot make amends. Never let the offense go that far, or you may suffer a life sentence of misery and regret.
This means that you must always seek forgiveness quickly and forgive even more quickly. Initiate reconciliation and seek a lasting bond of friendship. This is what brings true peace, prosperity and freedom for your soul.
(There is a lot of preaching and teaching about God’s Grace without the corresponding teaching of His Holiness and requirements that we also be Holy, just as He is Holy. God will discipline the one He loves, but, if you knowingly sin without conscience and never experience God’s discipline in your life, then, something is amiss.)
1 John 2:9 “The one who says that he is in the Light and yet hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. 10The one who loves his brother and sister remains in the Light, and there is nothing in him to cause stumbling. 11But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
Jesus uses similes of courts, judges, judgments and prisons to explain the Spiritual consequences of anger, hatred and murder. He is reminding us that whatever we bind on earth is bound in heave; in other words, once a matter is bound in heaven, then it is manifest on earth.
Romans 8:5 Is the perfect translation and explanation – “For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are in accord with the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
The word “flesh” in these verses comes from two root, Greek words:
1. “Saróō” – to sweep, clean by sweeping (to be swept away by)
2. “Sýrō” – to draw, drag, of one before the judge, to prison, to punishment\
The words “life” and “peace” in these verses translate as:
1. LIFE: “Zōḗ” – life, every living soul
(a) The state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate
(b) Of the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God.
(c) Life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by new accessions (among them a more perfect body), and to last for ever.
2. PEACE: “Eirḗnē” – Peace; a state of national tranquility; exemption from the rage and havoc of war.
(a) Peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
(b) Security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)
(c) Of the Messiah’s peace; the way that leads to peace (salvation)
(d) Of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is
(e) The blessed state of devout and upright men after death
This means we have the power to choose. Let’s begin today by setting our minds the things of the Spirit and find Life and Peace, and all that it brings.
Your Brother and Friend,