Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 14

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

Angry Much?

Read Matthew 5:21-26 (ESV)

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny."

Do you consider yourself to be an angry person? I wrote a blog a few years ago talking about my own issues: I have an anger problem. I have lived with it for over forty years. Now before you picture me in a moment of violent rage kicking the dog or ripping down the curtains from the wall, it is not that kind of anger. My anger is the kind that bubbles under the surface out of the public eye. Mine is the kind that slowly builds over time and emerges subtly in large and small ways. Mine is an anger that stems from the fact that I am not in charge of my life in ways greater or lesser ways and that everyone else around me is not here to serve and make life easier for me. Life doesn’t go my way. So, there is irritation. I get cut off in traffic or someone who is going slower than I want pulls in front of me. There is frustration. I get stuck behind that one little old lady who is still using checks and is in the line for 20 items or less (a line that is clearly for people who are in a hurry). There is a simmering. And it grows as she seeks not only to pay with a check but wants to balance her check book right there in front of us all. There is annoyance when my kids don’t act the way that I expect or do something that is an inconvenience to me (like wanting to actually talk about their day during a TV show or needing help with their school work in the middle of a good book I am reading). There is anger!

My anger comes out when I don’t get what I want. Mine stems from a deep selfishness that wants what Francis Schaeffer has called our striving after “personal peace and affluence.” Personal peace- sounds wonderful doesn’t it? A life free from distraction, suffering, annoyance, or disruption! Affluence- having what I want in such quantity that I don’t need the kindness and service and generosity of others to move through this life. I would like to be able to say that my anger is caused by all those people out there who just don’t get me, but the longer that I live, the more I come to agree with the Scriptures that tell me that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Basically, my anger is centered in my heart, my sin nature, that fights against the rule and reign of Jesus Christ in my life. As a believer, Christ is my savior, rescuing me from the eternal penalty of my sin nature and my sinful life, reconciling me to my Eternal Father. Now in this life, I live justified before the Father, and He has given me the Spirit to weed out the deep roots of sin and selfishness in my life. This makes me angry though sometimes, or should I say I respond angrily to it? I don’t always like the meddling and cutting that goes with this kind of pruning. It is inconvenient and painful at times, but it is oh so desperately needed. This kind of pruning is ongoing and will last a lifetime, this side of heaven, and so I must continue to fight against the anger that bubbles under the surface in my own heart and life, in the grocery store, behind the wheel, or sitting in my chair in the living room.

Here in our passage in Matthew Christ uses His familiar formula of “You have heard it was said…But I say to you”. What had they heard said? Jesus is quoting here from Exodus and Deuteronomy from the Ten Commandments. “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” In these commandments, God is intending the protection of life from wanton murder and the taking of life. Again, as was their pattern, the Pharisees had reduced the commands of the Lord to manageable, exterior ways of living. Christ would have none of this. He continues, “But I say to youthat everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment”. This must have been staggering to Jesus’ followers and to the others who would hear His teachings. Christ came and was returning the fuller meaning of these commands. No more would it be possible for someone to hear these teachings and simply obey in an outward way (not killing another). Now people must realize that the inside life (the spirit, the mind, and the thoughts) is important. Christ’s teaching here was to remind them that they could not keep these commands without a new heart and new affections. They would need the Holy Spirit and the Lord to be able to live the Sermon on the Mount!

Christ continues, “Whoever insults his brother (Anyone who says to his brother ‘raca’-NIV) will be liable to the council (Sanhedrin- NIV)”. “Raca” is the equivalent to the Aramaic for “empty”, and it expresses contempt for a man’s head/brain. In essence to say “raca” was to say someone is stupid. “Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” The Greek word for a ‘fool’ expresses contempt for a man’s heart and character, calling him a scoundrel. Christ says that the fires of hell await those who have such attitudes of others. Jesus’s listeners would be familiar with the imagery that He is using here. He refers here to “Gehenna” (in the original language) which was the dump on the outskirts of Jerusalem where trash was burned. This was a picture of God’s judgment, of hell itself. Together these imply that anger leads to contempt/insulting and that can then lead to a murderous heart and ultimately to hell itself for those who remain unrepentant.

So, is anger always wrong? We read in Matthew 21:12-13 of Christ’s anger. What distinguishes right anger from wrong anger, Jesus’ anger from our anger? Jesus did not become angry at personal mistreatment, but He did become angry for the sake of others, for people and for His Father’s name. We all struggle with anger, in large and small ways. Identifying it and dealing with it can be difficult though. Perhaps you have a little “mirror” walking around your house- a child or a brother or sister reflecting the kind of anger that you have learned to hide away from the world, only letting it out every now and then in “acceptable” ways. Our children or family members can be little reflections of ourselves, less refined, less socially acceptable, and certainly more raw. It can be disturbing to see ourselves reflected in others’ lives, our faults and failings and struggles, lived out in front of us each day. How do you deal with your own anger issues when you see them being reflected in the lives of those whom you love, whether you have little children or teenagers or brothers and sisters? Anger issues are easy to spot in others. “That guy has some real anger issues”, we might say, or “Rage much?” as we walk away from a particularly angry person shaking our heads. We can be great spotters when we see anger around us, but are we as good about seeing it in our own lives? How do we respond when others point it out in us? Get a little angry? Blame, deflect, explode?

So, What Now?

 “The command ‘Do not murder’ seems so simple. It is familiar, it protects us, and, externally at least, it is easy to observe. But Jesus comes to fulfill the law, to disclose its complete meaning, which is this: We must give up rage and contempt. We must be peaceful and make peace, with both brothers and enemies, with whom we offend and with those who wrongly take offense.” (The Sermon on the Mount by Dan Doriani, pg. 57) Pray today that the Lord would reveal what is at the heart of your angry responses to people, both inwardly and outwardly. Confess it for the sin that it is. Ask the Lord to replace your angry heart with one of peace and patience.