Next, Jesus turns his attention to the subject of anger:
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 hell fire (Gehenna). (Matthew 4:21, 22)
Can you really see both sides of an issue if you are angry? Angry people don’t think well. Some wise man once said that anger is “brief insanity.”
Jesus gives us an example of His new standard for life. Yes, He says: “Do not murder,” but He goes on to say you should not even want to murder or hurt the other person’s reputation. At the first blush of our anger, we should spell out the “D” word: D-A-N-G-E-R! And we should end it with an exclamation point. If anger isn’t stopped at the very beginning by you, it will escalate almost without your knowing it. It is serious to hurt another’s reputation once, then again and then again! A lifetime habit! It can ruin your life! Gehenna!
Can you fairly discuss an issue and reach a just decision when you are angry? The thoughts you put into words are as important as your deeds. What you say probably affects more people than any other action you take. Words can do unforgettable damage. You can’t seek the good of the other person while challenging his good name and character in anger.
Look at your life and the lives of those you love. How much unnecessary trouble and heartache has resulted from anger? Cultivate and practice self-control. Be mild-tempered. Be a peacemaker. Live the Golden Rule. Think of what good you can do for others by your good example in controlling anger.
I know I am about to repeat myself, but, please, I want you never to forget this. In verses 23 and 24, Jesus teaches a lesson so profound that, as for me, I scarce can take it in:
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. (Matthew 5:23–24)
Please let me ask you one more time. Just how important is it to God that you work at having a good relationship with others? In these verses, Jesus is imagining that you are about to offer God a special gift at His temple—for a special occasion. Then you remember that someone has a troublesome issue with you. What do you do? Remember, this is not some big problem you have with that other person but one that the person has with you. That would make it his or her problem and not yours—right? No! Stop, before you go to God. First seek to be reconciled with that person. First! What a story! What a message for you and me! You take the initiative. To your brother you say, “I am concerned: have I offended you in some way? Let’s talk about it.”
You are the Christian living by the Golden Rule. Think of the problems in your life that would have been solved if you had followed the Golden Rule and this example by Jesus! Consider verses 25 and 26:
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. (Matthew 5:25, 26)
Again, Jesus in essence says, “Look at the other person’s point of view. Really listen! Negotiate fairly and justly while the problem is still in your hands. When it can be settled between just the two of you, take the initiative! Do it now. Before it gets out of your hands and into the judge’s hands.” What a lesson for us! Prevent problems.
How many ugly divorces with endless bitterness could have been avoided? How many lawsuits could have been averted? How many friendships could have been saved by controlling anger, taking the initiative, even if it seemed the other person was to blame? Negotiate with the person in the spirit of the Golden Rule. Then experience that wonderful feeling of peace when would-be enemies are reconciled and love is restored. The Golden Rule. What a satisfying, meaningful way to live!