Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anger and murder

“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.’ 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. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

I notice that I’ve been thinking that when Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven,” he was saying that it was impossible for anyone to enter the Kingdom of Heaven by means of their own righteousness. But I feel like the next couple paragraphs is him just going on to demonstrate what he means by having their righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees—that is, I think, that the sin is what goes on in the heart, not in the actions. So everything that comes out of the bad set of heart is a sin just the same as the sin that usually identifies it.

But, again here I’m noticing that I think about breaking the law as being binary—you do or you don’t. But Jesus does not seem to phrase it like that, at least it doesn’t sound like it. At least, it sounds like an angry person will be in danger of judgment, but things are a little more serious for the contemptuous person (Matthew Henry says “Raca” is a scornful word, though I don’t know what the council is, but it sounds serious.) And hatred and dismissal of the person’s existence (you fool!) is the worst of all. I’ve heard that to call someone a fool in Jewish culture was to call them apostate (“the fool has said in his heart, there is no god” etc), and it seems interesting and fitting that the punishment for consigning someone else to hell is to be in danger of it yourself. I guess you could also say that when someone is angry without a cause he has passed judgment unjustly, and therefore has made himself susceptible to judgment. I don’t know what the council is, so I don’t know if the same principle applies there. But that’s just to say that I wonder if Jesus meant the different consequences of sin to be intensifiers, or kind of a counterpoint to the beatitudes earlier, ie, the type of currency you will be paid in. Those who mourn will be comforted, those who scorn will be humiliated and who pass judgment unjustly will themselves be judged.

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