What does Matthew 5:22 mean?
ESV: But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
NIV: But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
NASB: But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘ You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
CSB: But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, 'You fool! ' will be subject to hellfire.
NLT: But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
KJV: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Jesus is demonstrating to His listeners how the righteousness of their spiritual leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, is not enough to earn heaven. They superficially obey and teach the law of Moses without any kind of heart-change. Jesus is teaching God's intent behind the commandments of the law. In particular, Christ is pointing out that unrighteous attitudes and thoughts, while not exactly the same as unrighteous actions, are just as much worthy to be labelled as sins.
Christ has pointed out well-known commandment not to murder (Exodus 20:13) and the civil judgment for those who do: death (Number 35:31).
Now Jesus contrasts the statements of Israel's spiritual leaders with a more complete understanding. Jesus' teaching. "But I say" is the phrase He will use to show where God intends mankind to focus their obedience to these commands. In this case, Jesus says that obedience to the commandment against murder begins with eliminating anger for one's brother. In context, one's brother would be a fellow believer, or a relative, or any close associate.
In the moment these words were spoken, they would have been shocking. Even today, they are deeply challenging. Jesus is saying that an improper attitude—to be unrighteously angry with another person—makes one subject to God's judgment. Who can honestly claim they have never been angry towards someone else? Or that every unhappy thought was perfectly justified? It's convicting and even frightening to think that level of perfection is God's standard for right and wrong.
Jesus acknowledges that someone who insults another risks judgment from other men. By this, Jesus may have meant that someone who is angry enough to insult another must answer not just to God, but to government, such as the council of Jewish religious leaders. Even in the ancient era, speaking unkind words could result in legal problems. The term Jesus uses here is rhaka, originally a Hebrew word which can mean "fool" or "empty head."
Next, though, Jesus escalates this teaching even further. The original phrasing of this verse uses the Greek term mōre, used as a slur like calling someone a "moron," or an "idiot." Whether Jesus means the same level of insult as the prior phrase, or something worse, the point is clear: being angry enough to insult another makes a person liable to the "hell of fire." The word "hell," in this case, is translated from the Greek word geenna, a reference to the ever-burning trash dump outside the city, used as a symbolic reference to eternal damnation.
Jesus is showing that God cares about actions, but He cares most about the heart. The reason for the command not to murder is given in Genesis 9:6, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." If being made in the image of God makes it wrong to murder, it also makes it wrong to call a person "worthless." Guarding the heart, and the mind, is just as much part of obedience to God as good behavior.
Only those with perfect righteousness will be welcomed into eternity with God based on their deeds; Jesus' examples are quickly demonstrating that no human person can claim perfection.
Matthew 5:21–26 begins to expand Jesus' comments about righteousness. The underlying theme is that sin involves more than just physical actions: it also includes thoughts and attitudes. It's relatively easy to say, ''I do not murder,'' but very difficult to say, ''I'm not unfairly angry towards other people.'' The point is not that anger is literally-and-exactly the same as murder. Rather, it's that unrighteous anger is undeniably a sin, in and of itself. True righteousness—the kind that would be needed to earn heaven—requires that level of perfection. Not only does this teaching counter superficial religious hypocrisy, it underscores the fact that salvation must be by grace through faith, and can never be earned by good works.
The Sermon on the Mount contains some of Jesus' most challenging teaching. It begins with the unlikely blessings of the Beatitudes. Jesus' disciples must do good works in order to be a powerful influence: as the salt of the earth and light of the world. The superficial righteousness of the Pharisees is not good enough to earn heaven. Sins of the heart, such as angry insults and intentional lust, are worthy of hell just as much as adultery and murder. Easy divorce and deceptive oaths are forbidden. Believers should not seek revenge. Instead, God intends us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. In short, we should strive to be perfect, as God is perfect.
Matthew 5 follows Matthew's description of the enormous crowds that were following Jesus (Matthew 4:25). One day, Jesus sits down on a hill to teach them, in an address we now call the Sermon on the Mount. He describes as blessed those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who are persecuted. Christ also explains how God's standards of righteousness go far beyond behaviors and speech; they also include our thoughts and attitudes. Meeting God's standards means perfection. Chapter 6 continues this sermon, with more examples of Jesus clarifying God's intent for godly living.
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
Accessed 12/6/2023 11:56:38 PM
© Copyright 2002-2023 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.