Verse 21 begins with Jesus referencing the commandment against murder, which is one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13). He acknowledges the traditional understanding of this commandment: "You shall not murder; and whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment." However, Jesus proceeds to reveal a more profound insight into the nature of human relationships and the commandment itself.
- Beyond the Act of Murder:
In verse 22, Jesus goes beyond the literal act of murder and addresses the underlying attitudes and emotions that can lead to harm and broken relationships. He highlights that harboring anger toward a brother (fellow human) without a justifiable cause is morally perilous. The term "brother" here refers not only to biological siblings but to all members of the human family.
- The Danger of Words:
Jesus emphasizes the danger of harmful speech as well. He introduces two Aramaic terms: "Raca" and "fool." "Raca" carries a sense of contempt or insult, while "fool" implies moral foolishness. Jesus warns that using such derogatory language to belittle or demean someone is akin to endangering oneself before the council (an authoritative body) and even the fire of Gehenna—a metaphor for severe judgment.
- Resolving Conflict and Reconciliation:
These verses underscore the importance of resolving conflicts and fostering reconciliation in relationships. Jesus urges his listeners to address conflicts promptly and constructively. By warning against anger and derogatory speech, He promotes the values of empathy, understanding, and forgiveness.
- A Heart-Centered Approach:
Matthew 5:21-22 represents Jesus' call for an inward transformation—a change of heart and attitude. He emphasizes that adhering to the letter of the law is insufficient; the state of one's heart matters deeply. These verses reflect a consistent theme in Jesus' teachings—the importance of genuine, sincere righteousness that goes beyond outward actions.
- Significance for Today:
These verses challenge us to reflect on the quality of our relationships and the ways in which we handle conflicts. They call us to assess our attitudes, thoughts, and words. The message goes beyond mere avoidance of anger; it invites us to cultivate a spirit of love, empathy, and reconciliation in our interactions.
As we contemplate Matthew 5:21-22, let us recognize the significance of the heart in our moral and ethical choices. These verses encourage us to strive for harmony, compassion, and forgiveness in our relationships. Ultimately, they prompt us to embrace a transformation that reflects the character of Christ, embracing a love that extends beyond mere compliance with rules to genuine care for one another.
Matthew 5:21-22. “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger of the judgment.”