therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything 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.
Matthew 5 [21.] “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’[g] 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 [h] will be in danger of the judgment; and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’[i] will be in danger of the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna. [j]
Matthew 5 [23.] “If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything 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 with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there, until you have paid the last penny.
- Offering Your Gift at the Altar:
The scenario presented in these verses involves a worshiper offering a gift at the altar. In the cultural and religious context of the time, this act symbolized one's devotion and commitment to God. It reflects a desire to draw near to the divine through worship and sacrificial offerings.
- Remembering a Broken Relationship:
The turning point in the narrative is when the worshiper remembers that their brother has something against them. This remembrance is not passive; it implies an active awareness of a broken relationship or unresolved conflict. It emphasizes the interconnectedness of our horizontal relationships with others and our vertical relationship with God.
- Leave Your Gift Before the Altar:
The instruction to leave the gift before the altar is a powerful gesture. It conveys the idea that, in the divine economy, reconciliation takes precedence over ritual. The physical act of leaving the gift symbolizes a willingness to interrupt the worship ritual in order to address the relational breach.
- Be Reconciled to Your Brother:
The heart of the matter lies in the call to reconciliation. The worshiper is instructed to prioritize reconciliation with their brother before continuing with the act of worship. This underscores the importance of interpersonal relationships in the eyes of God and the transformative power of reconciliation.
Priority of Reconciliation: Matthew 5:23-24 challenges the notion that ritualistic acts of worship can be divorced from the state of one's relationships. It highlights the priority of reconciliation, suggesting that a harmonious community is integral to authentic worship.
Active Engagement in Reconciliation: The use of the word "remember" suggests an active engagement with one's relationships. It's a call to self-awareness and a recognition of the responsibility to address conflicts, even when engaged in acts of worship.
Interrupting Religious Rituals: The act of leaving the gift before the altar is symbolic of the need to interrupt religious rituals when relationships are broken. It challenges the idea that religious practices can serve as a substitute for the hard work of reconciliation.
Transformation through Reconciliation: The implicit message is that true worship involves the transformation of the worshiper. The act of reconciliation is not just a means to an end but a transformative process that aligns the worshiper's heart with the divine.
Mark 11:25: "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your transgressions." This parallel passage in Mark emphasizes the connection between forgiveness and effective prayer, reinforcing the idea that reconciled relationships are central to spiritual life.
Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you." This verse echoes the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation, emphasizing the model of forgiveness set by God through Christ.
In Conclusion: Matthew 5:23-24 challenges us to recognize the inseparable link between worship and relationships. It calls for an active engagement with our own hearts and the pursuit of reconciliation as an integral part of our spiritual journey. In doing so, it presents a vision of worship that is not confined to rituals but encompasses the transformative power of reconciled and restored relationships.
PIB Scriptures are derived from the World English Bible