Matthew 5:21, 22
You have heard that it was said to those of old, you shall not murder and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother Raca! Shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says you fool shall be in danger of hell fire.
After his discourse on the beatitudes and how they make up the character of God, Jesus then explains how the law is an extension of God’s character that is unchangeable. Jesus next speaks on the finer points of the law.
You have heard. Jesus proceeds to give specific examples of His interpretation of the law. As its Author, He is its only true expositor and as such He now begins sweeping away the rubbish of unsound rabbinical reasoning. Jesus begins to restore truth to its original beauty and luster. The expression “you have heard” implies that the majority of the audience upon this occasion had not read the law for themselves but rather had heard the law according to others. This was to be expected, for most of them were ordinary peasants and fishermen. On another occasion, Jesus while conversing with the learned priests and elders, Jesus later inquired, “Did you never read in the scriptures?” (Matthew 21:42). Yet on that same day He had spoken with the learned men and elders a group of common people within the Temple court addressed Jesus, saying, “We have heard out of the law” (John 12:34).
It was said. When citing earlier expositors of the law as authorities, the rabbis frequently introduced their remarks with the words Jesus uses here. You have heard that it was said to those of Old, “You shall not murder and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement.” The people standing before Jesus had no issue with the sixth commandment as they, too, believed and understood that murder was wrong.
As Jesus taught the people he drew their attention upon the country of Bashan, a lonely region filled with wild gorges and wooded hills that had long been a favorite lurking ground for criminals of all descriptions. Reports of robbery and murder committed there were fresh in the minds of the people and many were zealous in denouncing these evildoers.
Yet, while eager to condemn those that committed murder they were themselves zealous and combative, they cherished the bitterest of hatred toward their Roman oppressors and felt themselves at liberty to hate and despise all other people, even their own countrymen who did not in all thing conform to their ideas. Jesus was teaching them that in this way they too were violating the law which declares, “Though shalt not kill.”
The Pre-incarnate Christ, as the author of the law, spoke with authority when he said to the people, as he had to Moses, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart. . . . Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Leviticus 19:17, 18. The truths Christ presented were the same that had been taught by the prophets, but they had become obscured through hardness of heart and love of sin.
Jesus continued by saying: “Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council.” This was a common term yelled at another person as we might yell an expletive at someone today when they cut us off in traffic or have wronged us in some way. But the meaning of the word Raca goes far deeper than that. When one shouted this to another they were accusing that person of being an apostate Jew, or today we would call them an apostate Christian. One who has given themselves over to error and whose ways are contrary to the word of God. But, Jesus’ words revealed to His hearers the fact that, while they were condemning others as transgressors, they were themselves equally guilty; for they were cherishing malice and hatred.
God has shown how high a value He places upon every human soul. Because each person is of such value He gives no man liberty to speak contemptuously of another. We shall see faults and weaknesses in those about us, but God claims every soul as His property. They are His by creation, and doubly His as purchased by the precious blood of Christ. All were created in His image, and even the most degraded are to be treated with respect and tenderness. God will hold us accountable for even a word spoken in contempt of one soul for whom Christ laid down His life.
Christ is the example for us in how he dealt with those that spurned or condemned him. As the cross lay before Him, he did not rail against those that persecuted Him. Instead when hanging from that cross He asked that their sins be forgiven. Should we not follow that example when dealing with the enemies of Christ? We should say nothing in a spirit of retaliation or that would bear even the appearance of an accusation. He who stands as a mouthpiece for God should not utter words that the Majesty of heaven would not use when contending with Satan. We are to leave judgement and condemnation to God alone.
As a plant lies enfolded within the seed that surrounds awaits for the right conditions, springs to life matures and then bear its fruit. Murder is the fruit of the plant enfolded within the seeds of hate, jealousy and revengeful thinking. The seeds of hatred and jealousy start small, germinate and grow until it matures and bears the fruit of murder leaving in its wake death, destruction and lost souls. John the beloved disciple of Jesus said “Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15.
The spirit of hatred and revenge originated with Satan, and it led him to put to death the Son of God. Whoever cherishes malice or unkindness toward another is cherishing the same spirit as Satan had toward Christ, and will lead us to the same path Satan has followed.
To the Christian that has accepted Christ as their personal Saviour, how can we show hatred and malice toward another when Christ has shown such favor toward us? We have all fallen short of God glory, but He continues to love us. How can we not do the same for those around us?