Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

Do Not Kill

Matt 5:21-26: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.”

Everyone has heard that kill doesn’t mean kill, it means murder. Murder was a personal act, one-on-one. Murder occurred for a number of reasons in the ancient world: as part of a criminal act; as an act of revenge for a wrong done against one’s tribe; out of anger, in ire, or out of passion. This was not done as part of a judgement (trial or as required by the Law) or in war.

Angry is another one of those misunderstood words, it is not the anger you feel for someone who has taken your favorite book, or stolen a few dollars from you. This is the type of anger whereby you are seriously considering doing harm to the other person: physical, financial, or emotional harm (bullying). Something that might lead to enough hatred where you might even consider murder.

This is the same with the words “insult” and “fool”, there are no good translations into modern English. Insult (pακά) is a very specific word, not a general type of insult, it is on the level of calling someone retarded, but fully meaning it. It was considered a very vile insult to be used against another person. It is the same with fool (μωρέ), it’s not a passing comment, but a serious charge against a person.

In all of these cases Jesus is making very specific charges against personal one-on-one attacks. Not your everyday type of actions between people, but strong, very pointed acts between people. Actions that most of us would never seriously undertake.

This is the same with the other examples he is dealing with here. When he is speaking of brothers (not relatives) having something against each other he is not speaking of the usual squabbles that occur between people, rather things that might escalate to violence or punitive actions. Not the anger that occurs because the sports teams you like are about to meet on the field of battle, or that mom always like Dick best. He is talking serious conflicts, ones that might lead to physical conflicts.

In each case Jesus tells us to try and settle things between ourselves, amicably. Don’t let it get to the point where you have to get others involved to settle your differences, it never works out well for one of the parties, and that may well be you. Settle your differences personally, don’t take them to Judge Judy, not only may she rule against you, but millions of people will see you in a bad light…even if you are the winner.

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Comments on: "Do Not Kill" (7)

  1. Southern Baptist in Seattle said:

    you have argued this passage from the secular world view. However, Jesus’ point is that out of the heart comes all manner of sinfulness. We stand guilty before God by the feelings of our heart even if we do not make any actions. It is by this standard that we can prove that all people are in the state of sin, because not one of us can prevent that sharp instinctual flare of emotion before the lagging conscious mind cools us down. You could make your point as an eisegetical topic using Paul’s letters mixed with this passage; but as an exegetical examination, you are entirely wrong in your usage of this passage.

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    • Obviously, I have to disagree. Jesus’ choice of words, words quite well known to the people of his time, combined with his examples shows that he is not talking about simple anger. If he were, then he would be as guilty of his charges as he too felt anger towards others, witness the events in the temple court with the money changers. Witness also his words of anger against the Pharisees in many places. Clearly he is not speaking of the simple anger that we are all subject to. If he were to use the more general terms for anger and fool then I would agree with you, but the words he used are very specific, in fact the work poka appears only in this one teaching, nowhere else in the Bible (old or new), it was a curse word in use at the time, one that upset Jesus enough to use it to make his point.

      I also disagree with your statement about the flare of emotions. I have felt angry many times without it escalating to higher levels, then cooling down. My kids, when they were young, upset me many times, but it rarely rose to anything above being simply upset, even momentarily.

      God gave us the Passions, what you in the West refer to as the “Seven Deadly Sins”, to each there is a sinful as well as a beneficial side. How we handle them determines whether the passion is sinful or of merit. Anger against sin, as Jesus used, is beneficial; anger that drives us to harm another person is sinful.

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      • Southern Baptist in Seattle said:

        I stopped at the first paragraph. Jesus’ anger is not like ours, or at least we rarely demonstrate the kind of anger Jesus did. Jesus has no sin and cannot sin. Jesus anger with the pharisees was righteous anger at the sin they doing and teaching others to do.
        For us, we can share this kind of anger, but it is not the kind of anger in question. The kind of anger is that which is not based on the Law. As Jesus points out in this passage (letting alone the support I alluded to), it is the state of our heart which makes us sinful in God’s eyes; and God is so Holy that even the merest suggestion of sin is worthy of the condemnation to hell (James 2:10.) It is for this reason, that when our anger is not based on the Law (likely still when it is) we become guilty in the eyes of God as though we had murdered the one we were angry with.
        However, there is good news. Sinners who turn humbly and faithfully to Christ to ask for His forgiveness are promised to receive it. The other good news, which Paul tells us in Romans, is that for a true believer (as opposed to false converts), nothing can separate us from the love of God.
        Again, the issue isn’t what you do with your emotions, it is the state of your heart in even the most infinitesimal moment which God judges because. Don’t confuse Paul’s words in Ephesians as saying to encourage anger, as it restricts its focus to righteous anger at the source of sin.

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    • So you are arguing about a post… without having read the whole post? That is very Baptist of you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What if we already got invited to Judge Judy…

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