The Disciple’s Anger

There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.


Sometimes we call it “fruits” and “roots.” The action itself is a fruit, but underneath the action is a heart issue which is the root of the sin. In Matthew 5, Jesus contrasts the letter of the law (fruit) with the spirit behind the law (root). Remember that Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount has two purposes: 

  • To expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the religious system of that day. Jesus doesn’t contrast His teaching with that of the Old Testament law- He has just defended the law in 5:17-20. He contrasts the legalistic approach of the law by the Pharisees with the heart of God that is behind the giving of the law. 
  • To expose the purpose of the law. The law is holy and a standard, but because of the sinful nature in mankind, no one in the Old Testament was able to keep the law. The law doesn’t save, but points us to the grace of Jesus, the fulfillment of the law. After reading Matthew 5, we should respond “Jesus, have mercy on me for I am a sinner.”


Murder of the Heart 

The Pharisees’ interpretation of the law- 5:21. “Do not murder. If you murder, you will be subject to judgment.” The Pharisees limited the law to the physical shedding of another person’s blood. Many scholars believe that the phrase “subject to judgment” referred to the Jewish court system. In other words, the religious leaders were more concerned with the external act of murder and its consequence in the court system than the underlying heart issues that might cause murder and God’s judgment upon that person. 


Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ interpretation of the law- 5:22. Jesus contrasts the Pharisees’ legalistic interpretation of the law with God’s heart behind the law. The Sanhedrin was the court of judgment in Israel, and it was comprised of priests, Pharisees, and other religious leaders. Their law said that to be convicted of a crime like murder or adultery, the physical act had to be witnessed by 2 witnesses that had identical stories. They were more concerned about how to “skirt” the law than the heart behind the law. Jesus responds to their interpretation of the law by returning to God’s heart behind the giving of “do not murder.” Anger is “murder of the heart,” and the first murder was the result of anger. If you control anger, you eliminate murder. 


Two words to illustrate the principle- 5:22. 

Raca- “empty-headed.” 

This phrase was the ultimate insult to a person’s intelligence in Israel. It was a verbal insult that attacked the value of a person. In today’s language, it would be like us saying “You do not have the right to exist” or “I wish you had never been born.” These words are murder to a person’s soul. That offense breaks God’s heart, and it should place one before the Sanhedrin. It is murder of the heart. You can destroy someone without shedding of blood. The truth is words are more hurtful than weapons.


You fool- 

In the Old Testament, the definition of a fool was one who denied God and pursued evil. “The man who tells his brother that he is doomed to hell is in danger of hell himself.” In this statement, Jesus refers to the Pharisees. They didn’t shed blood, but they murdered people all the time through their condemnation of others, their evil talk about others, and their judgmental attitudes. The Pharisees were guilty of breaking the law through their superior attitude toward other people. Their attitude made them just like “the fool” in the Old Testament- they denied God’s mercy and pursued evil through selfishness. What are some specific attitudes people display that cause harm to others? 


Two “real life” examples- 5:23-26. 

Your brother. God is a relational God, and he desires unity among his people. Our relationship with others takes precedent over ceremony. Your relationship with your brother is a barometer of your relationship with God. You cannot be close to God and hate your brother. Therefore, if you have a problem with a friend or family member, go reconcile with them before you go to church to worship God. You cannot allow anger and resentment to harden your heart. It is a cancer that will undermine your relationship with God. Notice that Jesus didn’t mention who is at fault. This is how you practice the 6th commandment. Why is God so concerned about the health of our earthly relationships? 


Your enemy. Settle matters quickly. Keep the disagreement between the two of you and come to a settlement. Don’t let it go to court. The court may find you guilty, and it will “murder” you. Be the bigger person and settle issues with your enemy. Don’t give them reason to destroy you, because they will. This is how you practice the 6th commandment. What principle is Jesus teaching through this illustration? From Jesus’ words, how are we to address anger and problems with our enemies? Why does Jesus want us to manage our anger? How do you remove anger in your life so that you do not fall into sin? 



Heavenly Father, thank you for helping me each day to learn how to work with the leading of Holy Spirit! I refuse to waste time grieving over what I think I’ve missed. Your Word teaches me since I am sealed with Holy Spirit, the ministry Jesus has for me to fulfill will continue uninterrupted in my life. Holy Spirit, I ask You to bring me into a greater knowledge of how to cooperate with You each day, so that the goodness of Jesus increases in and through me, drawing more to the kingdom of God in these last days!

In Jesus’ Name, amen

Pastor Peter Henneberry

Peter Henneberry,

EMIC Groups Pastor
 Office: 817-252-2925
E-mail/ Group questions