“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. And whoever says to his brother,`Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, `You fool!’ shall be in danger of hellfire. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, “leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. “Assuredly, I say to you; you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (Mat 5:21-26 NKJ)
The key to the next six sections of the Sermon on the Mount is not about the Law of Moses versus the interpretation of Jesus, but the preceding verse where Jesus says, “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. (Mat 5:20 NKJ) Jesus required a higher standard of righteousness, the kind that can only come from God.
The Pharisees and scribes had taken the commandment “You shall not murder.” (Exo 20:13 NKJ) and added the text from Numbers 35:30, “Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses, but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty. By doing this, they had reduced the punishment to a civil judgment, rather than a divine judgment. Jesus, on the other hand, raised the standard, telling them that not only should we not physically murder a person, but we should avoid murdering a person with the words from our mouths. The Pharisees were so self-righteous, they would pass judgment on a person in conversation just by looking at a person.
Years ago they would say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” We all know that nothing could be further from the truth. We can destroy a reputation, and tear down a person’s confidence with words. Children can be bullied to the point of suicide. We should not judge a person by the color of their skin, the clothes they wear be it a hajib or turban. And no, not all immigrants from south of the border are ‘Mexicans,’ and they are not rapists or drug dealers. Neither are all refugees terrorists; they are just looking for a better life.
To the Pharisees, the letter of the Law was civil judgment. The spirit of the Law, however, was that the anger in a person’s heart could destroy two lives. Paul suggests in Romans 12 that we offer ourselves daily to God as a living sacrifice. Jesus is telling us to make sure our heart is right before we come to God with our offerings.