Attitudes and Actions
I had a problem with anger when I was a kid. Once, I kicked my bedroom door and put a hole in it. My father left it there for years, as a reminder of what my anger could do. Another time, I threw my brother through the front room window onto the lawn. Dad had the glass replaced … and a week later, my brother threw me through that same window.
Jesus had something to say about anger in the Sermon on the Mount. "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" (Matthew 5:21-22).
The regulation against murder was on God's "top ten" list. But here Jesus goes beneath the action to get at the attitude, and the attitude is sinful anger. He's not changing the law, He is talking about what the heart of God is concerning the law.
It's an illustration of what He said in verse 20: "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Man looks at the outward appearance; God sees the heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7). In other words, the problem is not murder; it's anger.
Jesus strips away the façade to get at the root of the problem. Most of us would not place anger and murder in the same category. But most of us have been filled with hatred toward another person, and maybe wished they were dead. We didn't act, but the attitude was still there.
We make excuses for our attitudes: "I'm just a hot-headed person." We might even call our anger "righteous indignation." No, righteous indignation is anger toward sin. Most of our anger is sinful, and God hates it. (Even the worst murderers will seek to justify their actions and their attitudes!)
And note in verse 22 that angrily using words to slander a person made in the image of God is like slandering the God Who made him in His image!
So remember three things. One: The attitude of hatred may never lead to the action of murder, but it is equivalent to it. Two: Sin begins deep within the heart, so that if you allow it to continue, it will come to full bloom and become a root of bitterness. Three: Whenever we, by words, destroy another person's character, God takes that very seriously.
OK, so what's the remedy? Look at verses 23-26. First, admit it. Our problem is we don't admit there's a problem! Second, correct it. Repent, and let it go. The heaviest load you can carry is a pack of grudges. And third, expedite it. That means do it quickly. Don't allow bitterness to seethe and grow!
Here's the principle: "Be angry, and sin not: do not let the sun go down on your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26). Don't cover up a sinful attitude with a veneer of morality.
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