Tough Stuff
by Ashton Emanuel

Matthew 5:21–26 ‘But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.’ (v22)

The Sermon on the Mount (Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 5–7) is variously understood. Some see the commands as ‘impossible’, but valuable as a benchmark.

Other see them as indicating what will happen in heaven when we are all perfect. But it seems reasonable to assume that Jesus was addressing His disciples (5:1) and the crowds (7:28) and expecting the words to have meaning for here and now.

Those finding the teaching impossible are at least realistic about their own hearts. ‘OK, so you haven’t killed anyone, but have you ever wished anyone wasn’t around?

If so, you are “‘subject to judgment”.’ If you read these as straight commands, then this ‘new law’ seems twice as hard as the law of Moses. It’s the inner world that matters.

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We can all put on a good face, but if we are harbouring evil in our hearts there’s a problem. A clue to how we interpret is found in 5:20: ‘For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were OK at the ‘not murdering bit’, but the implication is that the ‘angry at people and wishing them dead’ was a problem.

Jesus is promising a change in heart so we become the kind of people who will not wish ill of others even if they drive poorly, swear at us, or fail to clear up after their dog…

Part of the role of this teaching is to bring us up short so we say, ‘I am not as I should be; Lord, change my heart.’ The follower of Jesus is learning over time how to co-operate with God as He gives us a new heart to follow His ways.


A Prayer To Make:
Thank You, Lord, for calling me to a high standard. I welcome You to do a new thing in my heart. Amen.

An Action To Take:
Next time you get angry, pray silently that God would help you love and turn away from wrath.

Scripture To Consider:
Jer. 31:31–34; Ezek. 36:24–32; Eph. 4:25–32; Jas 1:19–21

Micha Jazz is Director of Resources at Waverley Abbey, UK.