What does Matthew 5:23 mean?
ESV: So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
NIV: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,
NASB: Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you,
CSB: So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,
NLT: So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you,
KJV: Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Shocking to those who thought of righteousness as only involving what a person does, Jesus has taught that avoiding physical murder is not enough to claim one keeps the sixth commandment (Matthew 5:21–22). Unrighteous anger opens a person up to God's judgment, as well. Insulting another may require an appearance before the council; calling another a "fool" could earn the angry person a place in hell. The point is not that anger is exactly the same thing as murder—rather, it's that anger is a sin, just as surely as murder is a sin.
God cares deeply about the hearts of His people. We should reject anger, insults, and name-calling for the same reason we reject murder: Every person is made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). Attitudes of hatred don't just lead to acts of violence (Genesis 4:6–7), they are sins in and of themselves.
A larger point, revealed through the context of Jesus' teaching ministry, is that nobody is righteous enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. Human behavior can never be "good enough." To be saved, a person must receive Jesus' own righteousness (Romans 3:23–24).
Having indicated how serious hatred and anger are, Jesus stresses the importance of seeking to resolve conflicts. His listeners would have been familiar with offering a gift at the altar as part of temple worship. It was one considered a sacred act. Jesus' point is that even pious actions should be set aside until reconciliation can be made between two people in angry conflict (Matthew 5:24).
It's worth noting that what Jesus speaks of here is realizing that one has offended some other person. When a true believer realizes they've done something to make another person angry, they ought to act quickly to make things right (Matthew 5:9).
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 2/21/2024 6:35:51 AM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.