I would like to invite you to open your bibles to Matthew 5:21-26. The title of my sermon today is: “Heart of anger, life of misery”
As the title suggests, I would like to treat the subject of anger.
Anger is one of the strongest emotions that we can feel from time to time.
Jesus knew it and that is why he taught about it on his sermon on the mount.
When speaking to the crowds that day, he said in verse 21: “….”
It is important to remember the context of this verse while we consider his words.
He just declared that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it meant that the righteousness of the crowd had to surpass that of the Pharisees.
Let me remind you that the Pharisees were very religious people. They seemed incredibly good from the outside. They respected the laws of the Old Testament to the letter but even they didn’t go far enough.
The problem was that they had forgotten the spirit of the law and the attitudes at the heart of the law. The law didn’t have the capacity to treat all things large and small (as you can imagine, it would have taken an enormous number of books to do that). God apparently thought that man could draw sufficient conclusions from what he had given. But the Jews had to be good students. They stopped at appearances, at the strict minimum.
And now Jesus has come to correct these things. First he will be covering the subject of anger. To begin, he sites the 6th commandment where it is written on stone tablets (in Exodus 21:12-14 for us): “You shall not kill! He who kills faces judgment…”
You can imagine the crowds at this point as they were saying: “Yes,…amen….preach it Jesus! You are right! Bravo!”
The Jewish chiefs were probably puffing out their chests in pride and saying: “Personally, we have never killed anyone!”
Sometimes we are a little like them aren’t we?
We evaluate our level of goodness by saying: “We are maybe not perfect, but at least we aren’t killers!” And the majority of people that surround us, because of this reasoning, feel as though they have the right to say that they have a good heart. This is also the view of the world. In essence, this is what the Pharisees and the people of that time did. They thought that they were good people simply because they hadn’t killed anyone.
But Jesus brings them back to reality when he says in verse 22: “…”
I can imagine at this point the amens have all of a sudden stopped, because who isn’t guilty of being angry once in awhile for bad reasons?
Before God, we are all guilty from this sin from time to time. But he lifted the bar and we are challenged to go farther, he reminds us, those that want to be part of the Kingdom of God to be better than that.
Before going further, I would like to precise that to be angry isn’t necessarily a sin. The anger that Jesus is talking about here, the one that condemns us, is a certain type of anger.
Anger is one of our human emotions that were given to us by God, like sadness or joy, and it is necessary for us to have a healthy and equilibrated life. It all depends on how we show it and on what occasions we allow it to surface.
Jesus felt anger when he came upon the dishonest merchants in the temple (John 2). The Bible tells us that he chased them from the temple.
Jonathon is angry when he saw the way his father, Saul, treated David in 1 Samuel 20:34.
Moses is angry when he comes down from Mount Sinai and sees the people worshipping a golden calf.
Notice that in these three examples, for whom and why these men felt anger. It was not because someone had wronged them personally. God did not reprove their emotions. We we can read in Ephesians 4:26 “…”
Certain types of anger are justifiable. If we have viable reasons to become angry in the eyes of God, then we are not immoral, we do not commit a sin, as long as we don’t give way to the devil.
Where in the Bible can we find an example of a man who gave access to the devil through his anger? In Genesis 4:5. The bible tells us that Cain was very irritated with his brother and God.
Already, he was angry about something that shouldn’t have made him angry. If you notice, he was frustrated because he felt lesser. He wasn’t angry about the sin in himself, because someone was being treated unjustly, he was angry because he felt personally attacked – a bad reason.
Secondly, in his anger he allowed Satan to enter into his heart and he committed a bad action. His anger was destructive!
Jesus reminds us today to consider the reasons of our anger and the way that we react when we feel it.
Are we generally angry for good reasons? Are we people that are easily irritated? Maybe Jesus is calling us to fight against this.
Here is a little test to help us evaluate our level of irritability. Take a pencil and a piece of paper and prepare to evaluate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10.
What is your level of irritability? Look out those of you who totaled more than 30 points. You might need to memorize James 1:19 “….That all men be slow to listen…”
The words of Jesus are particularly for us today.
Let me tell you that problems in life are inevitable, conflicts as well. It is important in the eyes of God that know how to handle these frictions without giving over to unjustifiable anger.
Because in anger, things are easily broken.
Have you ever noticed how many things get broken we become angry?
When I was a teenager, one time my cousin was so angry that he broke a window when slamming the door.
When I was young, I broke expensive articles belonging to my parents.
When a young girl is angry with her boyfriend, she breaks the frame that holds his picture.
Someone throws a punch and breaks a nose.
Angry words are pronounced and a heart is broken, the unity of the church is broken, or the ties of friendship and family are fractured.
Anger ruins relationships. Proverbs 14:17 says “…” Anger is a dangerous emotion. Another problem is that it takes root very easily in our hearts. It is like a serpent that grows in the obscurity waiting for its chance to spring.
Jesus spoke of this progression in Matthew 5:22
He said that first we become angry against our brother, then we begin to say insults.
Who here knows what Raca means?
It is difficult to translate the word Raca literally. Raca is an Aramean term that means “idiot without a brain, retard”. This is a word that used when we look down on someone else.
The first step of anger is silent but little by little it manifests in degrading and mean words.
Notice in the text how unhappy God is when anger progresses in this way. The person who gets angry deserves to be punished by the judges, but he who says Raca, deserves judgment by the Sanhedrin (the high court of the Jewish justice). And then, there is those who deserve the fire of Gehena. That is the one that progresses to the third stage, the one who says to the other: “You fool!”
It is difficult to translate this word and still give justice to the Greek text. Literally the term “Morros” means someone without morality. When we speak of a man as “morros” we aren’t criticizing his mental capacity, but throwing stones at his integrity and character. We are staining his good name, his reputation.
Jesus says here that this is one of the worst things we could do, to destroy the reputation of a man in our anger. The one who does this deserves damnation.
So, once anger progresses and stays in the heart, we end up with the thoughts of a murderer as we search to destroy the one who hurt us.
Anger changes life into something terrible. It creates the desire to do harm to others whether that be physically, verbally, or emotionally.
A very prestigious lawyer named Clarence Darrow once said, “ The large majority of people are murderers at their core. They may have never killed someone physically, but you can see the unhealthy pleasure that is evident when we read the names of those they don’t love in the mortuary column of the newspaper.”
Consider also the words of Paul in Eph. 4:31
If there is anger living in our hearts, then the sin is in our spirits. And daily we have to remember that these angry eruptions that cause destruction must be forever banned from our lives.
Remember also the psychological destruction that we can bring upon others if we aren’t careful. In our anger, not only do we break relationships or digress to a point of becoming horrible in our words or behavior, but we can do a lot of damage to sensitive souls.
In his book, the Zone of Power, Dr. Larry Calvin wrote a chapter to explain how words can damage the people around us.
He spoke in this chapter about a young girl, 25 years old, that came to him one day for consultation. This young woman was 1 meter 65 and weighed 80 pounds. When he asked her to describe herself, this is what she said, “ I know that I am fat.”
While the doctor thought to give her tubal feedings and IV fluids to give her the strength that she needed to nourish herself correctly, she thought she was obese. Her daily diet consisted of three grapes, and a teaspoon of nuts. Even after eating so litte, she felt that her stomach was heavy.
She told the man treating her that she had endured verbal abuse as a child. She remembered one incident in particular when she was 11 years old. She was walking hand in hand with another boy and unfortunately, her brother, having seen her, toldher father. When she came home that night, her father started to reprimand her in saying: “Anyway, I don’t see what this boy sees in you, you are so fat…”
Everytime she looked at herself in the mirror, she heard these words in her head and she saw herself as a worthless fat slob.
My friends, in the heat of an argument, we must absolutely avoid saying things that can damage a person’s perception of themselves.
As parents we need to be careful with our words when we discipline our children.
Husbands and wives, be careful when you fight to not do verbal harm.
Christians, show wisdom in your words with your brothers and sisters. The words said in anger can damage relationships and cause certain people to abandon the faith. See James 1:26
Ask yourself before seeing red, if we really have a reason to get angry. If not, then let it go. (see Proverbs 17:14 and 19:11)
Someone could argue, “Do you really think that I can go to hell if I tell someone they are an idiot?” But to speak this way is missing the point Jesus is trying to say. Jesus is showing that the heart of his Kingdom is one of sincerity and love. Following God means having a heart that places great importance on human relationships and their affective ties. Following God is so much more than living by the letter of the law and saying, “I have never killed someone or insulted them.” That is good but do you love your neighbor? Do you see others as being important?
Learn to forgive (Mark 11:25) We will speak about this forgiveness again soon. But the real way to get over when someone hurts me, is to give it all to God in prayer. He is the only one that can erase the bad thoughts and feelings in our hearts.
There are so many more things that I could say but we have run out of time.
I will finish with one statement that was made on television a long time ago.
It was during a show called “Survivors” (20 people were placed on an island without provisions and they had to organize a team to survive. Each week one candidate was chosen to eliminate one of the participants. The last one there was the winner.)
During the show, a woman that was very fit and capable was eliminated. It was surprising because she knew a lot of things that would have contributed to their survival.
But, this week, her team decided to have her leave and they all voted against her. Why? Because she couldn’t get along with others. She was arrogant, irritable, and bitter.
In her interview before the departure she said, “I am confused. It seems that all of my capacities and knowledge didn’t matter much to these people.”
She was absolutely right. Knowledge and capacity doesn’t mean much in the real world if we cannot get along with those around us.
So, Jesus calls us to an abundant life. And in this abundant life, he tells us to start with really loving our neighbor and controlling our anger. Are we angry today? Anger is maybe the signal of something in our hearts that deserves our attention.