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Being Angry With Your Brother
By Kim Calvert
Matthew 5:22 states, "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." For years we have been taught the degree of each of these offenses is greater than the previous. I do not believe this is the case. I believe this simple research shows that Christ was illustrating that our attitude is more important to God than degrees of offense.
The first offense, "...angry with his brother without a cause..." The Greek word for "angry" is orgizo (or-gid'-zo) (Strong's 3710), meaning to provoke or enrage, i.e., (passive) become exasperated:- be angry (wroth). I find it interesting that the word can mean "become exasperated." This indicates losing patience with the person in question. As we know, patience is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is something that we cannot ignore as Christians (Galatians 5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith..." ). The indication here may be that we are not to become exasperated with a person for no reason. The phrase "...without a cause..." comes from the Greek word eike (i-kay') (Strong's 1500), probably from Greek 1502 (eiko) idly, i.e., without reason (or effect):- without a cause, (in) vain (-ly). The definition that caught my eye was "idly." This indicates no action on our part. In other words, how many times have we sat around and become angry with someone whom we may not have made an effort to get to know, about something which we really haven't gathered all the facts.
Now the consequence "...shall be in danger of the judgment..." The word "judgment" is the Greek krisis (kree'-sis) (Strong's 2920) - a decision (subject or object, for or against); by extension a tribunal; by implication justice (specially divine law):- accusation, condemnation, damnation, judgment. The tribunal definition indicates the type of judgment brought against such an offender. In the time of Christ, there was what was called a judgment seat, "...a portable tribunal (Gr. bema) which was placed according as the magistrate might direct, and from which judgment was pronounced" (Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary). This indicates that if one was found to be angry with his brother without a cause, he was in danger of having the magistrate bringing judgment against him.
The second offense, "...whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council..." Raca from the Greek definition is rhaka ( rhak-ah' ) (Strong's 4469), O empty one, i.e. thou worthless ( as a term of utter vilification). This was an expression used to indicate that someone was worthless an attitude that God does not approve. However, what does Christ say about the consequence? That person "...shall be in danger of the council..." What council is Christ talking about? The Greek word for council in this case is sunedrion (soon-ed'-ree-on) (Strong's 4892), a joint session, i.e., (special) the Jewish Sanhedrim; by analogy a subordinate tribunal. What Christ said was that they would be subject to the Jewish Sanhedrim.
Easton's Bible Dictionary goes into greater detail about the Sanhedrim as follows:
"SANHEDRIM more correctly Sanhedrin...meaning 'a sitting together,' or a 'council.' This word is frequently used in the New Testament (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 26:59; Mark 15:1, etc.) to denote the supreme judicial and administrative council of the Jews...
"The Sanhedrin is said to have consisted of seventy-one members, the high priest being president. They were of three classes (1) the chief priests, or heads of the twenty-four priestly courses (1 Chron. 24), (2) the scribes, and (3) the elders. As the highest court of judicature, 'in all causes and over all persons, ecclesiastical and civil, supreme,' its decrees were binding [emphasis mine], not only on the Jews in Palestine, but on all Jews wherever scattered abroad."
So a person who labeled someone as utterly worthless was in danger of having binding judgment place on him by the high council. A severe punishment for that time for an offense that seems to be pretty serious ("utter vilification").
God does not place label anyone as "worthless" and expects the same from us. He says in 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." If He does not want anyone to perish, it hardly seems that He thinks of any of us as worthless.
Now the third offense, "...whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." It "seems" that this offense is "less" than the others are. We are not angry with our brother for no reason and we have not told them they are worthless. We "just" called them "stupid." The Greek for fool is moros (mo-ros') (Strong's 3474), meaning dull or stupid, i.e., heedless, (moral) blockhead, (apparently) absurd. That does not seem so bad compared to the others, does it?
Proverbs 12:18 says, "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health." When we say hurtful things to someone, like calling him or her "stupid" or "blockhead", it is as if we have pierced them with a sword. It hurts! We all can identify with this because we have had it happen to us. Proverbs 15:4, "A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit."
Ephes. 4:2, "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love..." If we have the attitude of calling someone degrading names, then we are not forbearing one another. When that malicious attitude is not there, there is a wonderful peace and joy that comes from God's Holy Spirit.
I believe that this is the point Christ was making in Matt. 5:22, that the degree of offense is not ultimately as important as is the attitude that we have toward each other.
United Christian Ministries