Lesson 79—August 23, 2015
Audio Commentary by David Daniel
The Danger of Anger
Scripture: Matthew 5:22
Lesson Goal: To understand the danger of anger in the hearts of Jesus’ followers.
Introduction: In the early hours of the day, as I settled into the privacy of my writing closet to work on this lesson, I paused to pop a quick breakfast into the microwave. Instead of my usual breakfast bowl, the only thing I could find in the freezer was a Hot Pocket®. Not the ideal breakfast, but I have never been picky when it comes to eating. I notice this is a “Limited Edition Chipotle Beef” Hot Pocket. Sounds pretty good. Carefully placed in the microwave, it cooks the recommended two minutes. After the allotted time, I bring my meal to my study table for a little morning nourishment. With the first bite, it has my taste buds dancing. It is really good! Very quickly, I devour all of it in six or seven bites, all 200 calories. What happens next is what got my attention. Only after eating the entire thing, did I slowly begin to feel the heat. Not the heat from cooking, but the heat from the peppers and spices. Now, those peppers were letting my tongue and throat know that they were very present inside the Hot Pocket. I was not really aware of their presence until I finished eating and paused. The progression of the heat from the peppers and spices went from unnoticed, to recognition of their presence, to total reality of the awareness of their presence. After gulping several swallows of cold Sprite Zero®, the heat began to subside.
Why write so much in a Life Focus lesson about a “Limited Edition Chipotle Beef” Hot Pocket? Because in my own walk with Jesus, He teaches me so much in the practical little moments of life. In this
moment today, He taught me, “Is this not the way anger can work in our lives?”
Last week we looked at simmering, smoldering anger. Anger can be so very much like my breakfast Hot Pocket. At first you really don’t even notice it; if it is noticed, it is seen as no big deal. But as anger has time to take hold in our lives, we feel the effects of it. Anger causes pain; anger hurts! Anger can be a killer to our testimony. Anger can prevent us from being the true “light” and “salt” to the world. Anger can be a thief that steals away our godly influence with others. Anger can hinder and harm our witness as followers of Jesus Christ.
• Does the Holy Spirit prick, stir, or just plain ole convict your heart concerning anger in your life?
• Have you taken the attitude that anger is really no big deal? Have you dismissed your anger with “That’s just the way I am”?
As Jesus speaks to His followers concerning anger, we can rest assured He does not take anger lightly, nor does He just excuse us (His followers).
The Life Application Bible Commentary says, “[Anger] is a dangerous emotion that always threatens to leap out of control, leading to violence, emotional hurt, increased mental stress, spiritual damage, and yes, even murder. Anger keeps us from developing a spirit pleasing to God.”
(V22b) “And whoever says to his brother ‘Raca’ shall be in danger of the council.”
“Jesus warns us against calling our brother ‘Raca’ (probably equivalent to an Aramaic word meaning ‘empty.’) This was to insult a person. To insult their intelligence” (Stott). The term “Raca” was “the type of word that would have been used by the soldiers who mocked Jesus as they placed the crown of thorns on His head and led Him out to be crucified (Matthew 27:29-31)” (MacArthur).
Those guilty of such anger will face the danger of the council. “The council” was a reference to the highest court of the day, the Sanhedrin. Jesus wants His followers to understand that although someone may not stand before the highest court of the day guilty of murder, the judgement for “Raca” anger will be just as severe.
My friends, may I simply help us to understand the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ words in verse 22b. None of us wants to stand before a court of law guilty of murder, and none of us wants to stand before God guilty of unrighteous anger in our hearts.
David Platt writes:
Of course, it’s all too easy to pile on the Pharisees, as if we don’t also struggle with this kind of duplicity. For example, I can maintain hatred toward my wife, bitterness toward my children, and jealousy toward my neighbor, all while technically never killing them or harming them in any physical way. But self-justification and good appearances are not what Jesus came to do for us and in us; that is not saving people from their sins. He came to give us a righteousness that works its way all the way down to the heart and then ushers forth in love, purity, and holiness. These are the attitudes that Jesus is producing in His people by His Spirit.
To understand the kind of attitude Jesus wishes to see in the lives of His followers, please read Matthew 5:3-12. We must not separate these verses from all that Jesus teaches. These verses must be foremost in our minds and hearts.
• Are you beginning to see and understand how Jesus did not lower the bar, or standard of conduct, but indeed He takes it to a higher and greater meaning. Please explain.
• Based upon our very limited study of verses 21 and 22, are you beginning to understand what Jesus meant in verse 20? Please explain.
• How do verses 21 and 22 support, with evidence, the truth of verse 20? Please answer after prayerfully asking for godly wisdom.
Jesus continues the progression of the anger in verse 22c: “But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” He is showing us the progression of the sin of anger and the consequential severity of the judgement.
The reference to “hell fire” was literally a reference understood by His listeners. This was the valley of “Hinnom” from which comes the word “Geenna” (hell). This place was a valley just southwest of Jerusalem where all the garbage, trash, and refuge was dumped. It continually burned. The fire and smoke never ceased. The stench never removed. The valley is used as an illustration for the place of eternal torment. “It was so used by Jesus eleven times” (MacArthur). To have an anger that calls someone fool was seen by Jesus as the same thing as cursing him and having an anger that could manifest itself in murder. To have this kind of anger brings the greatest kind of judgement.
• How many acts of murder began with a simmering, smoldering kind of anger?
We must remember that verses 21 and 22 speak of murder, but their primary focus is anger in the heart of the individual.
• Please answer honestly and prayerfully as you list some times in your life when your anger hindered your testimony.
In a Christ-like way, have you resolved the times of anger listed above?
I close today’s lesson with a Jewish legend told by John MacArthur:
A Jewish legend tells of a young rabbi named Simon Ben Eleazar who had just come from a session with his famous teacher. The young man felt especially proud about how he handled himself before the teacher. As he basked in his feelings of erudition (impressive knowledge), wisdom and holiness, he passed an old man who was especially unattractive. When [the old man] greeted young rabbi Simon, the rabbi responded, “You rascal! How ugly you are. Are all men of your town as ugly as you?” “That I do not know,” answered the old man, “but go and tell the Maker who created me how ugly is the creature He has made.
To slander God’s creation is to slander God. Let us remember this important truth in 2015.
• How are the truths of the beatitudes being lived out in your life during these days of the 2015 Supreme Court rulings?
True mourning for sin does not give us the right to be angry with or hate the sinner.