Murder Begins in the Heart
21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 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. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him to the court, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.
Everything we are going to say in the next few weeks springs from Matthew 5:20… For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. Today’s message is a homiletic nightmare but bear with me.
I. JESUS AND AUTHORITY ON THE LAW
Fast forward to Matthew 7:28-29
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Jesus is not changing the LAW, the LAW is perfect. Nothing wrong with the Law, it was man’s perversion of the LAW. The Jews never really practiced the LAW, they looked for loopholes so they could say they were obeying the law when in reality, they were not.
The scribes and Pharisees did not love God with all their heart or their neighbor as much as they loved themselves. The Pharisees loved money and the praise of men.
You have heard that it was said to our ancestors…Jesus did not say, “It is written.” If what the Scribes and Pharisees had been teaching was purely scripture, Jesus would have used His normal phrase, “It is written.” Jesus is not refuting the LAW, He is simply clearing up some misunderstandings about the law. The Jewish religious leaders had misinterpreted the LAW and therefore had misrepresented the Law. Jesus is setting the record straight.
II. THE LAW HAS TWO SIDES/ASPECTS
The law has two aspects: like a coin, it has two sides. On one side, we have the LETTER of the Law and on the other side, we have the SPIRIT or INTENT. The Pharisees and Scribes focused on the LETTER and completely missed the SPIRIT.
Let me illustrate: Jesus said, You have been taught that MURDER is wrong and will be punished but there is more; you will also be judged for ANGER. Murder is the legal aspect but Anger is the spiritual aspect.
This is illustrated in the story of Cain and Abel…
Adam and Eve had a son. Then Eve said, “I’ll name him Cain because I got him with the help of the Lord.” 2 Later she had another son and named him Abel. Abel became a sheep farmer, but Cain farmed the land. 3 One day, Cain gave part of his harvest to the Lord, 4 and Abel also gave an offering to the Lord. He killed the first-born lamb from one of his sheep and gave the Lord the best parts of it. The Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, 5 but not with Cain and his offering. This made Cain so angry that he could not hide his feelings.6 The Lord said to Cain: What’s wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? 7 If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don’t let it! 8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go for a walk.” And when they were out in a field, Cain killed him. [this is the first murder]
Where did Cain’s sin originate? In his heart, in his attitude. His anger and jealously turned to hate and he murdered his own brother.
The Pharisees and Scribes didn’t worry about the heart [they could conceal the heart], they were only concerned with the externals, the LETTER of the LAW but Jesus reminded us that God is concerned with the heart and will hold us accountable for bad attitudes whether we act on them or not.
III. SIN ALSO HAS TWO SIDES OR ASPECTS
Just as the LAW has two aspects, so does sin. If you think people are confused about the LAW, just wait till you hear about SIN. Sins two aspects are SOCIAL and SPIRITUAL. These are my terms but I think you will understand them. The first two of six examples that Jesus will use are MURDER and ADULTERY. Just as murder originates in the heart with anger and jealously, adultery originates with lust.
The SPIRITUAL aspect of Sin is ANGER and LUST. This is what God sees and we are held accountable. This is where we get the proverbs like “Sin is a sin,” and technically speaking, lust is equal to adultery. The fact that you don’t act out your lust does not mean that God will let you off the hook. In His eyes, lust and anger are the problems and we will be judged accordingly.
The SOCIAL aspect deals with the actual act of either murder or adultery. From the social standpoint, I can honestly say, murder is worse than anger and adultery is worse than lust.
Anger and lust hurt us and they are offensive to God but they do not hurt others until we act them out. Trust me, I have been hated but never murdered and I am thankful. I can live with your anger but murder is a different subject.
Do you see what I’m talking about? Do you see the difference? Spiritually, all sin, in attitude or action, is sin and it hurts God but until we act out our sin, man is spared of pain.