Friday 04 February 2022

Bible Book:

'I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.' (v. 22)

Matthew 5:21-26 Friday 4 February 2022

Psalm 70


This section of the Sermon on the Mount begins a series of Jesus’ sayings that are structured with the pairing of the phrases "You have heard it said…" and 'But I say to you…" In each case, Jesus sets out a new understanding of what obedience to God requires. It seems clear that Matthew has in mind a parallel between Moses and Jesus as lawmakers. Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19–20); in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus also delivers his teaching on a mountain top.

Jesus’ teaching here takes the prohibition of murder in the Ten Commandments and extends it to prohibit anger and insults towards others. Under this new ethic, it seems that it is not only outward behaviour but also internal emotions that are relevant to what faithfulness means for Christians.

Jesus’ words here seem very demanding indeed. Is feeling angry with other people never appropriate? Jesus himself seems angry at times, such as when denouncing the hypocrisy of religious people (eg Luke 12:56) or when he drives out traders from the Temple (Matthew 21:12–13). And are insults as serious in their consequences as it seems in this passage?

 As noted on Monday, Christians have debated how to interpret these and other stark teachings in the Sermon on the Mount for centuries. Some have always said we just need to do what he says without quibbling. Others have argued that Jesus sets a standard that cannot be met in ordinary life. Thomas Aquinas said that these were counsels of perfection that might only be met by members of religious communities. Martin Luther said that Jesus’ teaching here reminded us of how far our lives fall short of God’s standards, which should help us realise our salvation depends on God’s grace and not our good behaviour.


To Ponder:

  • How do you interpret Jesus’ teaching here? Is this something you can follow?
  • Is anger ever appropriate? Do the examples from Jesus’ own life suggest that the anger he criticises must be something different?
  • Do you see useful points of reflection in Jesus’ teaching here for good interpersonal relationships?
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