Murder in the Heart

Matthew 5:21-26


Dr. John Hoole – May 1 & 8, 2016




In our lesson last week, we began investigating the six illustrations given by Christ in Matthew 5.  They begin in verse 21 and continue to verse 48.


We looked extensively at the contrasting phrases Christ used in each illustration, namely, “You have heard it said … but I say to you.”  We learned last week that the phrase, You have heard it said,” is not speaking of the Old Testament Law and what it says, but is a reference to the Rabbinic oral law taught by the Scribes and Pharisees.  So, Christ is not contradicting the Jewish Tanakh (Old Testament).  He is not changing what the Old Law said.


Because of time pressures last week, I skipped some of my notes.  Let me provide them today.  In these six illustrations, our Lord uses words that could not have come out of the Law.


For instance, in Verse 21, it says, “You shall not murder, and whoever does murder will be in danger of the judgment.”  The phrase, and whoever does murder will be in danger of the judgment,” is not found anywhere in the Old Testament.  Likewise, when Jesus stated, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy, He could not have been quoting from the old law.  The Old Testament never tells people to hate their enemies.


The six segments that fill the remaining 28 verses of Matthew 5 serve at least two purposes.


1.  To teach what righteousness looks like that surpasses the Scribes and Pharisees.


          2.  To describe the righteousness when lived out in the power of the Spirit gives a proper response to our heavenly Father.


I mentioned last week that the only command given by Christ in the first 20 verses of chapter 5 is found in the 18th verse, which reads:  Let your light so shine that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.


We need to keep this command to “Let your light shine,” as we study each segment.  In each of the six situations, I ask myself: “Do my attitudes and actions in this area of my life give others I meet a proper opinion of my Father who is in heaven?”


Matthew 5:21-22  (NKJV)


21       "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.


I am sure there are plenty of people in the world - maybe in this room - that believe implicitly in “You shall not murder,” but who do not live as if they believe anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to the same judgment.  But Jesus says it is so!!


These six illustrations do not all address one of the ten commandments found in Exodus 20.  But, in this first illustration, every Jewish person knew  He was alluding to the rabbinic interpretation of the 6th commandment, which states “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).


They also knew that this commandment did not prohibit every form of killing a human being.  The term used in this commandment has to do with criminal killing, and from many accounts and teachings in Scripture it is clear that capital punishment was not attributed to killings in just wars, accidental homicide and self-defense.


The violation of this commandment was the first recorded outbreak of sin after man disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden.  It was the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, recorded in Genesis 4:8.


Earlier in Genesis 4, we are told that Cain became angry and it shown on his face.  God speaks to Cain personally and asked him why he was angry and why did he have a fallen countenance.  He then gives Cain some good advice.


Genesis 4:7 NIV


7       If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."


         The NAS translation renders the first phrase:  “If you do well (that which is right), will not your countenance be lifted up?”


The murder of Abel was a terrible act, which Cain knew violated the divine law of God.  But the specific prohibition of murder is found later in Genesis.


Genesis 9:6 NKJV


6       Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.


Here the penalty for murder and the reason for its seriousness are given.  The penalty for murder is death for the killer and the reason for such a severe punishment was that man is made in God’s image.  To take the life of a fellow human being in murder is to assault the sacredness of the image of God.


Most people, when hearing “You shall not murder,”  go over and check this one off the list with the words, “at least this is one commandment I haven’t violated.  “I’ve done a lot of things - not all of them good - but I haven’t killed anybody.”


But the fact of the matter is, Jesus doesn’t let you or I off that easy.  And it is not because He is looking for people to condemn because the commandments were not given for our condemnation but they are given for revelation.  They weren’t given to simply put restrictions on you and me but to shed light on how life can be lived in the freedom of God.


In this passage, Jesus takes the issue of murder and extrapolates it to such a point that if it were anyone else than God Himself giving us the interpretation of that commandment we might very well be tempted to say, “hey, wait a minute.  You’re taking this too far.”  “What do you mean that anger is the same a murder and the angry person is in danger of the same judgment?”  What do you mean that I am in danger by calling someone “Raca,” which means “empty-headed, good for nothing,” which is not a whole lot different than our word “stupid.”-- or calling someone a fool, which means “destitute of any spiritual value” - a rebel on his way to hell.


Jesus is very direct and pointed in what He has to say about anger and is also very specific about the judgment - or ultimate end - of such an angry person.  In God’s eyes, the penalty is no less than that given to one who murders.


Jesus tells them that the Law gets a lot deeper than just whether or not you murdered somebody.  Even by insulting our brother, or calling them a fool, or saying “raca”  or damning them, or slandering them, or anything that injures their person is prohibited in the wider application of the law. “Thou shalt not murder.”  And He says these deserve an equal punishment to that of the murderer.


So Jesus traces murder to anger and adultery to lustful desires.  You must look within and not on the outside to root out anger, resentment, the desire for revenge, and hatred.  For murder is, in actuality, anger full grown.


Anger is possibly the most common of all sins in the world today.  No society today is free of it.


The Greek word for anger - ORGIZO - has to do with brooding, simmering anger that is nurtured and not allowed to die.  This Greek word comes from the word ORGE, which is translated “wrath.”  Orgizo is seen in the holding of a grudge……or the smoldering bitterness that refuses to forgive.  It is the anger that cherishes resentment and does not want reconciliation.


I find it interesting that Paul refers to this kind of anger, and identifies its depth and intensity as a “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15).


There is a place for burning with anger at sin and injustice.  Our problem is that we burn with indignation and anger, not at sin and injustice, but at offense to ourselves.  In none of the cases in which Jesus became angry was his personal ego wrapped up in the issue.


More telling yet, when he was unjustly arrested, unfairly tried, illegally beaten, contemptuously spit upon crucified, mocked, when in fact he had every reason for his ego to be involve, then, as Peter says -- “He did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.” (1 Peter 2:23).  From His parched lips came those gracious words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34)


We have to admit it – by and large we are quick to be angry when we are personally affronted and offended and slow to be angry when sin and injustice multiply in other areas.


Again, Matthew 5:21-22  (NKJV)


21       "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.




         The Judgment.




         It is referring to the local tribunal. Some Bible translations (NAS) render it “courts”.


An interesting thing occurs here when Jesus begins to talk about anger in verse 22.




He uses the exact same word.  Jesus is asserting that anger and killing merit equal punishment.  The word “Judgment” refers to certain crimes for which men could be brought up before the local courts.


Jesus then makes a change in the next statement.  He says that anyone who says to his brother, “RACA”, is answerable to the Council.


Matthew 5:22b


         “…..And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council.“


This is the only place where this word occurs in the Bible.




Some of you have the NIV translation.  How does it read?   “anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin.“  The Sanhedrin is the highest court in the land for the Jews. (both civil and religious)


“Raca” was an epithet – a word of derision against another person – that was commonly used in the days of Jesus.  But, because it has no exact modern equivalent, in most Bible versions it is simply transliterated.  It is a term of malicious abuse and slander.  It has been variously rendered as brainless idiot, stupid, empty head, blockhead, etc..  Most commentaries take it to be close to an Aramaic word meaning empty.  It was a word of arrogant contempt.


David spoke of persons who use such slander as those who -- “sharpen their tongues as a serpent; poison of a viper is under their lips” (Psalm 140:3).  It appears that “RACA” is an insult of ones intelligence.


A Jewish legend tells of a young rabbi named Simon Ben Eleazar who had just come from a session with his famous teacher.  The young man felt especially proud about how he handled himself before the teacher.  As he basked in his feelings of wisdom and holiness, he passes a man who was especially unattractive.  When the man greeted Simon, the rabbi responded, “You Raca! How ugly you are.  Are all men of your town as ugly as you?”-- to which the man responded, “That I do not know, but go and tell the Maker who created me how ugly is the creature He has made.”


To slander a creature made in God’s image is to slander God Himself and is equivalent to murdering that person.  Contempt, says Jesus, is murder of the heart.


The contemptuous person shall be guilty before the supreme court, the Sanhedrin, the council of the seventy who tried the most serious offenses and pronounced the severest penalties, including death by stoning. (see Acts 6:12 - 7:60)


Matthew 5:22c


         “….whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.”


The Greek word translated “fool” is MORE (or MOROS).   It also can mean “stupid” or “dull,” and is the term from which we get moron.  It goes beyond the insult of one’s mental abilities, to casting aspersions on his moral character.  More often it was used in secular Greek literature of an obstinate, godless person.  It was also possibly related to the Hebrew word “mara,” which means “to rebel against.”  In that context, it        describes a person who is an “apostate,” or an “outcast.”


In the Septuagint [Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament], the Greek word MOROS is found twice – both in the same Passage


Isaiah 32:5-6 NIV


5       No longer will the fool be called noble nor the scoundrel be highly respected.

6       For the fool speaks folly, his mind is busy with evil: He practices ungodliness and spreads error concerning the Lord; the hungry he leaves empty and from the thirsty he withholds water.


It is speaking of one who is a persistent rebel against God, -- one on his way to hell.


In our Lord’s parable of the ten virgins, we are told that five of them were prudent (wise) and five were foolish (Morai, the feminine plural form of Moros).  You can read it in Matthew 25:1-13The sensible ones thought about the future and considered the need to take oil in their vessels.  The foolish ones, however, thought only of the present.  Thus a fool can be characterized as one who thinks only of the present time without any consideration of the future.  Certainly, there is no consideration for eternity.


Jesus is saying that the person who consigns his brother to hell, without hope of redemption, is in danger of the same.  Matthew 10:28 says that only Jesus can consign a person forever to hell.  In Matthew 23:37, Christ himself uses the word “fool”, to describe the Pharisees.  “Ye fools and blind…….”


In this illustration, in Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus is saying that anger is a very serious issue.  With the connection Jesus makes between anger and murder all you have to do is investigate God’s Word as to the severity with which He views murder to understand the equal severity He feels towards anger.


Matthew 15:18-20   (NIV)


18       But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'

19       For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

20       These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.'"


John 8:42-44  (NIV)


42       Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.

43       Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.

44       You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.


Galatians 5:19-23 NKJV


19     Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,

20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,

21     envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23     gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.


Revelation 21:8   (NKJV)


8        "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."


Reveltion 22:14-15   (NAS)


14       Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.

15       Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.


And John adds a very pointed statement in 1 John 3:15. (NIV)  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.


1 John 2:9-11 NKJV


9       He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.

10     He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

11     But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.


All of this helps us understand what God thinks of murder.  And because Jesus links anger to murder,……it shows how serious is the issue of anger.


Anyone trying to live the Christian life needs to understand what the Bible says on this topic.


                   •  How do we remain under control when volatile situations confront us?

                   •  What does God expect of us in this area of our lives?

                   •  How do we keep our tongue in check?

                   •  Does God expect us to be bland individuals who have no feelings at all?

                   •  Is all anger sinful?

-- If not, what kind of anger is?


Let’s begin with the question, “Is all anger sinful?”  According to the teaching of Jesus, Christians are supposed to follow the way of love.  Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and the second greatest is to love our neighbor.


Likewise, the apostle Paul described love as the supreme Christian quality, and states that it ranks above even faith and hope.  No wonder, then, that Jesus said this is the mark by which everyone would know His disciples.


But, if all that is true, then what about anger?  Can there be any place for anger in an economy marked by unlimited love?.




One verse that very specifically answers this question is found in Ephesians 4:26


(KJV)      Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:


(NIV)       In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,


“Be angry and sin not.”  When we think of the very common sin of anger, what we have in mind are things like:


•  smoldering resentment,

•  inward irritation,

•  hidden malice,

•  bad tempers that suddenly flare up into violent outburst and evident exasperation.


All of these are very patently sin.  But the wording of the command found in this verse would seem to indicate that sometimes anger is not sin.


In actuality this verse is probably a quotation from the Old Testament.  Take a Look at Psalm 4:4.


Be angry and do not sin.  Meditate with your heart on your bed, and be still


This verse says to me that there is a difference between the strong feelings I sometimes have and the seething hostility which is consistently condemned in the Scripture.  Our first task, it would appear, is to clarify that distinction.


In itself, anger is not a sin, because even God can be angry.


Deuteronomy 9:7-8   (NIV)


7        Remember this and never forget how you provoked the LORD your God to anger in the desert. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the LORD.

8        At Horeb (Mt. Sinai) you aroused the LORD's wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you.


Several times in the Old Testament the phrase appears, “the anger of the Lord.”




Certainly the life of Christ is our very best example of love and forgiveness in action.  He had unlimited love for the hopeless and impoverished.  He refused to meet hate with hate.  He was willing to go even to the cross out of His love for mankind.


But we read passages aplenty in the New Testament about times when Jesus blazed into a fierce anger.  In his righteous anger He cleansed the Temple of those who defiled it (John 2:14-17).  On several occasions He used blistering words.


         •  “You snakes,” He said.


         •  “You generation of viper……”


         •  “You whitewashed coffins……”


         •  “You children of hell……”


I’m not sure how you feel about it, but, at least on the surface of them, those do not sound like very loving words to me.  We speak of Jesus being “meek and mild.”  Tell that to some of the Pharisees!  Tell the corrupt moneychangers in the temple that Jesus is “nothing but gentle.” I guess the question we have to ask is:  “Did Jesus fail to live up to his own standards?”


To fully answer that question, we probably have to answer another one.




The Greek word for anger - ORGIZO - has to do with brooding, simmering anger that is nurtured and not allowed to die.  It is seen in the hold of a grudge……or the smoldering bitterness that refuses to forgive.  It is the anger that actually cherishes resentment and does not want reconciliation.


When we strip anger of all the facade and the fancy excuses we have for condoning anger, such as “it’s just my natural Italian disposition,” or, “it’s just the ‘old man’ creeping out of its cage…”  at the bottom of it, we are confronted with an ugly word – selfishness!


Selfishness is most often at the root of anger that is sinful.  Although we love to excuse the weaknesses we all have in this area and try to justify our responses usually the nursing of our grudges and the indulging in angry, vengeful, bitter feeling is motivated by selfishness.


When I am angry, it is because someone has violated my rights and I am interested in myself.  When I am bitter against someone, it is because they have done something against me.  And again it comes back to selfishness.  Vengeance is always inspired by selfishness.


James 1:20  (NAS) tells us,


20       …...the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.


That tells me that if the righteousness of God is not served the anger displayed is most likely sinful.


Let me point you to a Scriptural illustration of this.  In Numbers 20 we have the record of the Children of Israel complaining to Moses, as they had done so many times before while they were wandering in the wilderness.


Numbers 20:3-5  (NIV)


3        They quarreled with Moses and said, "If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD!

4        Why did you bring the LORD's community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here?

5        Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!"


The initial reaction of Moses is portrayed in the next few verse.


Numbers 20:6-12  (NIV)


6        Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them.


This was the right thing to do.  When you have a problem, take it to the Lord.  The passage continues:


7        The LORD said to Moses,

8        "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink."


The words that follow show us that Moses didn’t really benefit from being in the presence of God.  Moses erupted in anger before the people.


9        So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him.

10       He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?"

11       Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12       But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."


Some may look at the outburst of Moses as relatively insignificant -- but God didn’t.  Moses had flagrantly disobeyed the express command of God to SPEAK to the rock, not strike it.  God’s plan was to show his gracious provision in response to the people’s needs, but the impetuous action by Moses ruined all that.  With a tirade of denunciation of the people, he struck the rock twice and the water gushed out.


Instead of conveying God’s grace and righteousness, Moses communicated his own rage and self-righteousness.


His poor example shortened his life as well as his leadership of these people, for his action caused God to decree that Moses would never enter the Promised Land.  God wanted to show grace and mercy and his righteousness to the people.  Instead, Moses denounces the people and ruins that opportunity for God.


If the righteousness of God is not served, then the anger displayed is sinful.  Unrighteous anger often limits what God is trying to do through his people.  Our testimony and witness for him is damaged when we are angry.


Why is it that Moses and the rest of us have such difficulty with anger?  The Bible teaches the existence of a potentially disastrous flaw in the character of every person which urges him or her toward sinful behavior, even though that person has a desire to serve God fully.  And this tendency affects every area of our lives, and most assuredly the urges to sin with anger.


Romans 7:21-24   (NIV)


21       So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22       For in my inner being I delight in God's law;

23       but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

24       What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?


You see, Paul was speaking as a Christian, yet he admitted the existence of an internal war between good and evil.  Anger that is sinful, along with jealousy, envy, unforgiveness, etc., are products of this inner nature.  Paul was not unique in that regard, for the same predisposition has been inherited by the entire human race.


It is really difficult for any of us to practice a truly holy anger or righteous indignation, as we sometimes call it, because our emotions are tainted by sin, and we do not have the same knowledge that God has in all matters.  God sees everything clearly and knows everything completely, and we do not.

I see unacceptable anger as that which motivates us to hurt other people - when we want to slash and cut with words, and inflict pain, whether physical or emotional, on another person.


Consider an example from the life of Christ – it is recorded in John 18.  Shortly before the crucifixion, Peter’s emotions were in a state of turmoil.  And seeing his Master being subjected to an unthinkable horror he grabs a sword and severs the ear of the Roman soldier from his head.  If there ever was a person with an excuse to lash out in anger, Peter seemed to be justified.  The honor of no less that Jesus himself was at stake.  Nevertheless, Jesus did not accept his behavior and he compassionately healed the wounded soldier.


There is a vitally important message for all of us in this recorded event.  NOTHING justifies an attitude of hatred and anger that leads to a desire to harm another person.  We are treading on dangerous ground when our thoughts and actions begin leading us in that direction.  Not even the defense of Jesus Christ will justify that kind of aggression.  To make this an illustration in our world today, bombing an abortion clinic, where there is the potential for harm to other people, or harm someone’s property is never justifiable, no matter how unholy and ungodly is the practice of abortion.


Is it possible to be angry without sinning?  Absolutely.  You can be angry at injustices done to others (like unborn babies), and at its beginning, you may have anger that is righteous.  But, if allowed to smolder and simmer, it produces hate and erupts into verbal abuse or violent behavior, it is then no longer sinless, and unacceptable to God.


The Bible says that anger in our life not only affects our relationship with other people, but it also drastically affects our relationship with God.


For a few minutes, let’s look at verses 23 & 24 of our text.


Matthew 5:23-24  (NKJ) says,


23       "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,

24       "leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.


It may be an issue of semantics, but notice that none of these verse speak about you having something against a person or are angry with them.  They each address someone who has done something to you  or is holding something against you and you are aware of it.


The whole purpose of this passage is to give another person the opportunity, in private, the chance to correct his wrong or to tell his side of the case.  The visit to the offending person should not be primarily to get restitution -- to even the scale, if you will -- but to win the love and the affection of your brother.  And remember, you and I are to forgive as quickly and as mercifully as we hope to be forgiven (Luke 6:36-37).


I am not saying that if you do, in fact, have something against another person, you don’t have to deal with it.  Indeed you must.


Mark 11:25  (NAS)  instructs us:


25       "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.


Christians have for years used these verses in the Bible incorrectly.  We need to be careful, that in going to our brother because we have something against them we don’t cause the division between us to grow even wider Don’t let the real reason for confrontation be just to get something off our chest.  We still are obligated to show love and grace.  We are not there just to put the offending person in their place.


If you go to someone with that intent, and end up dumping on them something they may or may not even be aware of, that can also be an act of sinful anger on your part, not to mention unforgiveness. Our greatest desire, as believers, should be to keep a harmony of love in the body of Christ.  The world says that men are to meet each other half way, but Christians should be anxious to go as far as it is necessary to bring about harmony and agreement.


In our text in Matthew 5, the context of this instruction find us in a place of worship, ready to offer our sacrifice to the Lord.  What this verse tells me is that the reconciliation of anger between people is more important than coming together to worship.


The phrase “your brother has something against you” could refer to anger or hatred on the brother’s part.  That is, even if we hold nothing against him, if we are aware that he is angry with or hates us, we should do everything in our power to be reconciled to him.


Romans 12:18 does tell us to live peaceably with all people, as much as possible.  Obviously we cannot change another person’s heart or attitude, but our desire and effort should be to close the breach as much as is possible from our side and to make sure we hold no anger ourselves even if the other person does.


Regardless of who is responsible for the break in relationship – and often there is guilt on both sides –  we should determine to make a reconciliation before we come before God to worship.  True worship is not enhanced by better music, better prayers, better architecture, or even better preaching.  True worship is enhanced by better relationships between those who come to worship.


So, what’s a Christian do with regard to anger that comes our way?            Is there any help?  There are many Scriptures that address how we should act with regard to anger.  I want to leave you with four of them.  And all but one is found within the context of verses we have already considered on anger.


The first is Romans 8:1


Romans 8:1  (KJV)


1        There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


Earlier we read, in Romans 7, how Paul laments the continual struggle we all have with our “old nature.”


        Romans 7:21-24   (NIV)


21       So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22       For in my inner being I delight in God's law;

23       but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

24       What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?


As stated earlier, anger that is sinful, as well as jealousy, envy, etc., are products of this inner nature.  Keep in mind there were no chapter breaks in the original manuscripts.  The question, Who will rescue me from this body of death? is closely followed by Romans 8:1 that tells us there is no reason for being condemned, if we walk after the Holy Spirit and not according to the old nature.


So the first thing we need to control anger in our lives is to submit to the Holy Spirit.  We need to let Him help us in responding to difficult and explosive situations.


The second verse is James 1:19.


Earlier we looked at James 1:20  (KJV), which reads:


20       For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.


We said that anger displayed is sinful if the righteousness of God is not served……


But we didn’t look at the preceding verse 19.


James 1:19   (KJV)


19       Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:


“Slow to wrath;”  “slow to be angry.”


This is the Biblical equivalent of the old “count to 10 before you say anything” routine.  Literally, the word SLOW means to hesitate or delay.  This wise advice really is asking us to be patient.  It urges us to wait under the pressure with a good spirit while seeking a constructive response.  Retarding the speed of anger is accomplished by hesitating long enough to carefully evaluate the situation.


Also in that verse is the phrase, “slow to speak.”  In anger, we often speak to quickly and “fly off the handle.”


The third passage on what we should do is found back in Ephesians 4


The context of verses that surround the phrase “be angry and sin not,” not only expands our understanding of what sinful anger is, but also enlightens us as to what our responses should be.


Ephesians 4:24-32  (KJV)


24       ……put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25       Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.

26       Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27       Neither give place to the devil.

28       Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

29       Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

30       And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

31       Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

32       And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.


Notice the list of sinful action given here.  Especially in verse 31.  All of these actions are characteristic of one sin:  anger.  We are to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, slander and every form of malice towards others.


In its place, we are to be kind, compassionate to one another, forgiving of each other “just as God for Christ’s sake has forgive us.”


We are to love each other.  The next two verse, found at the beginning of Ephesians 5, read:


Ephesians 5:1-2  (KJV)


1        Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

2        And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.


The fourth verse I want you to notice is in Philippians 4.


Philippians 4:8  (KJV)


8        Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


Rather than let our minds to linger on those thoughts that cause anger to rise within us, we need to think on the things mentioned in this verse.




         1.      True (accurate)


                            Will what I say accurately represent the situation?


         2.      Honest (honorable)


                            Could what I think or the things I say be repeated without hurting someone?


         3.      Just (proper)


                            Is this appropriate thing to say at this time?


         4.      Pure (uncontaminated)


                            Is what I am thinking or about to say motivated by any pride or selfishness?


         5.      Lovely (pleasant)


                            Will my actions or words brighten the lives of all who hear them?

                                     ……or will they bring heartache?


         6.      Good Report (esteem)


                            Will my response damage the reputation of anyone?


         7.      Virtue (moral excellence)


                            Will my actions or words motivate others to live Godly lives?

                                     ….or will people be turned away from God?


         8.      Praise (praiseworthy)


                            Will my actions or words edify (build up) those who see or hear them?

                                     ……or will they be a catalyst of tearing down?


Let me end the lesson with another comment and then an illustration concerning Matthew 5:23-24.  We are instructed to seek reconciliation with the brother or sister who has something against us.  Unity within the Body of Christ is a very important things.  And when there are angry rivalries, the holding of grudges, unforgiveness for past action, God is not pleased, and our worship is hampered.


In one town where I lived, two rivers met.  I wish I could take you to a high bluff overlooking the place where they met and came together.  From that vantage point you would observe that well upstream, before they united, each river flowed gently along.  But right at the point of their union, look out!


Those two nice, easy-going, rivers came at each other with great force and fury.  They clashed in a wild commotion and turmoil.  They hurled themselves head-on, as if each was determined that the other should end its existence right there.


Then, as you watch, you could almost see the angry white caps bow in respect to each other and join forces as if to say ”we need to get along and work together…..ahead of us there is something better.”


And, sure enough, on downstream, at some distance, the river swept steadily, yet gently, onward.  It was broader and deeper there.  It gave you the feeling that something good had been fashioned in spite of the turmoil.  Together, they became more majestic and powerful than they could ever have become alone.


The church body, as well as any marriage, is often like that.  When independent streams of existence come together, there will probably be some dashing of life against life at the juncture.  Personalities brush against each other.  Preferences may clash.  Ideas and habits can contend for position.


Sometimes, like the waves, they throw up a spray that leaves you breathless and blurs your visions -- and makes you wonder where all the loveliness and graciousness has gone.


A strong church is not one in which all its members have no individual personalities.  Neither does a church exist where people worshipping there have no weaknesses.  But it IS one in which each knows how to handle IN LOVE the feelings of others.


In the light of what Jesus says about anger, let us be careful to guard against any form of anger that would harm others.  Don’t go down that path where Satan can trap you.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you become more like Jesus.