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Sermon 10
Matthew 5:21-26

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Sermon 10: Matthew 5:21-26
Jesus Teaches How Murder Begins In The Heart
January 14, 2024

Hi, my name is Philip, a servant of God from Beggars Breaking Bread, and I will be reading, teaching and preaching from Matthew 5:21-26.

Scripture (Matthew 5:21-26, CSB)

[Jesus said] “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.

But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire. 

So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him to the court, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.

Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.”

This is the word of the Lord.

As I speak with you today, today is the day before Martin Luther King Day in America.

It is a holiday that we celebrate the man who risked his life for his fellow brothers and sisters during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to provide racial equality for African Americans to help make our union more perfect.

My fraternity brother, who was assassinated by a gunshot on April 4, 1968 in my hometown of Memphis, TN, was a preacher who loved God and His people.

He loved them enough to pursue equality for African Americans without resolving to violence against his enemies.

Despite being jailed, ridiculed, stabbed and later shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, he understood that violence between one community and another community would ultimately not get us closer to equality. If anything, such mob violence would likely strengthen the case that blacks and whites are not equal and should stay separate from one another.

I would venture to say that his commitment to nonviolence during the sermons, the bus boycotts, the marches, the sanitation strikes, and the community gatherings held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC where he delivered his famous and iconic “I Have A Dream” speech was not just strategic and influenced by Gandhi.

I would also say that such commitment to nonviolence was also biblical and honoring to God.

Though Dr. King was murdered, we, as Christians, know of the law given by Moses in the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, of which one of them is “Do not murder”.

In this passage, Jesus Christ shares how we, similar to what Dr. King had preached, should conduct ourselves to a better standard than our surroundings, including our surrounding culture today that often glorifies violence towards one another in our schools, streets, and homes.

In fact, Jesus calls us to go one step further to not only examine our outward actions but also the internal thoughts and feelings of our heart that lead to our actions in the first place.

When we think of a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting peace through his struggle to gain civil rights, we must also think of – and model ourselves after – the man who also influenced Dr. King who is known to us, among His many names, as the Prince of Peace.

And the Prince of Peace is calling us back then in the Book of Matthew and now to cleanse our hearts in reconciliation not only to our brothers and sisters but also to God, for such pure hearts do not hold the desire to harm someone, let alone murder another person.

Our main idea from this passage for us to marinate on is: to carry on the legacy of a beloved community among brothers and sisters of all races that Dr. King dreamed of, as well as the vision that Jesus had for the Kingdom of God that would encompass every nation, race, tribe, gender, and tongue, we must confront and uproot the root of our anger and regularly seek reconciliation with one another.

I will repeat myself: to carry on the legacy of a beloved community among brothers and sisters of all races that Dr. King dreamed of, as well as the vision that Jesus had for the Kingdom of God that would encompass every nation, race, tribe, gender, and tongue, we must confront and uproot the root of our anger and regularly seek reconciliation with one another.

As we explore this passage together, Jesus commands us to do three things towards building a beloved community:

  1. Jesus commands us to address the anger within our sinful hearts (Matthew 5:21-22)

  2. Jesus commands us to seek reconciliation with our fellow brothers and sisters (Matthew 5:23-24)

  3. Jesus commands us to settle disputes quickly, especially amongst believers, within each other (Matthew 5:25-26)

Let’s start with the first point: Jesus commands us to address the anger within our sinful hearts.

And the Bible says in verses 21 and 22: “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire.”

Many of us know the Ten Commandments by heart from growing up.

One of the easy ones for us to recall quickly is “Do not murder.” Oddly enough, this is also a commandment that we can quickly become self-righteous about, as well as negligent in acknowledging in our world today.

What do I mean?

Let me ask you a question: have you murdered anyone in your life thus far?

More than likely, the answer for each of you listening to this is No. And if I’m wrong, you don’t have to let me know of it.

Whenever we think of a sin that is easy for us to acknowledge we have not done, we can easily puff ourselves up and claim how great we are, because, at least for this one commandment, we got this one covered.

At the same time, we run the risk of quickly looking down on someone or condemning another person to Hell if that is not the case, whether the person murdered is an old man, a young adolescent girl, or even a 16-week-old baby still developing in her mother’s womb.

I may be conservative, when I say this, but I believe murder is murder.

 

Dating all the way back to Cain and Abel with the first homicide, within the family, murder is a sin however way you look at it in God’s eyes and deserves judgment from Him.

But Jesus takes murder one step further and says, “But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire.”

What does that mean?

Does that mean that I am already destined to Hell if I get angry at my family relative, my classmate, or my colleague at work who constantly gets on my nerves?

What about if I call someone outside of his or her name, whether calling someone a “fool” or another word that I would not want my daughters to say or hear me say back at home?

Well, if we are all going to Hell because we got upset at someone or called someone else a name outside of a child of God, we are all in deep trouble and there is no point in trying any further to do better.

What Jesus wants us to focus on is to go one step beyond the action of murdering someone or even the consideration in our mind to hurt someone. He wants to shine a spotlight in our thoughts and feelings within our sinful hearts towards one another – towards people who are sinful just like we are, broken just like we are, and who desperately need a savior like Jesus Christ just like we do.

Jesus Christ, God the Son, the God who sees everything – including our inner thoughts – wants us to be concerned just as much with our heart posture that no one but God sees as we are with our actions – or inactions – that God and the people around us see.

An action to murder or harm someone often comes after an angry thought or feeling towards that person.

We all have those thoughts and feelings of anger and frustration towards others. What are we doing to address such feelings and thoughts?

Do we keep them buried inside until we explode unexpectedly one day and lash out at our loved ones?

Do we go to God in prayer and be honest with Him with how we feel and ask Him not only for His forgiveness but also for His help to work within the mess in our hearts to make it clean and pure again?

Interestingly, while the Pharisees and the Jewish people did not physically kill Jesus Christ by nailing Him to the cross themselves, they were angry with Jesus enough and what He stood for in His ministry to plot for His death.

What they did not know was God’s purpose behind Jesus’ death and crucifixion for the benefit of you and me, as well as all of those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, so that they may have reconciled relationships with God again both now and in eternity.

God still had a purpose despite such anger from the Pharisees.

At the same time, God has a purpose for the anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness you harbor towards someone else in your hearts, and it is not to harm and murder your neighbor, who is also God’s creation just like you.

And Jesus speaks about it in our second point regarding what He wants from us: Jesus commands us to seek reconciliation with our fellow brothers and sisters.

The Bible says in verses 23 and 24: So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

It is without question that God is good and is worthy of our praise and of our gifts.

Whether it is our monetary gifts in tithes and offerings to our local church or our gifts internally that God has blessed us with that we dedicate towards using in loving gratitude of Him and in service to His Kingdom, we want to give to God.

Now, what these two verses say is interesting, because as much as we may want to give our gifts to God, Jesus commands us NOT to offer our gifts to God if we have something against our brother or sister.

To clarify, this is not just our brother or sister biologically within our family. This is in reference to our brothers and sisters united in Christ, as well as those who are our neighbors that may be unbelievers as well.

Why does God call us to reconcile with our brothers and sisters to the point of doing it before offering our gifts?

To love God is to love His people.

How can we love God and then also hate our neighbor who God had created like you and me?

If that is the case, we are no better than hypocrites, for our attitudes towards others reflects on our relationship with God.

Let that marinate for a second there: for us to have a healthy and intimate relationship with God vertically, we must also maintain a proper horizontal relationship with God’s creation and one another as our fellow neighbors – both believers and unbelievers.

Think about this.

If we truly value our relationship with God, how would we treat one another differently than we do now?

Not just the people we like, but also the ones who we don’t like. The people who get on our nerves at work, be rude to us on social media, or have done us wrong in the past. All those people count too.

If Jesus would call us to reconcile our relationships with those who we have something against, before we offer our gifts to God, who in your life do you need to reconcile yourself with today?

Remember: Jesus already did His part on the cross to provide the means for us to reconcile ourselves vertically with God.

Even when we repent of our sins and trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our same Lord and Savior is calling us to take action towards reconciling ourselves to one another in spite of the conflict between us.

What broken relationships is Jesus calling you to mend and reconcile?

The good news is that we do not have to mend and reconcile such broken relationships on our own.

 

Whether it is with our parents, our children, a significant other, friends, or our enemies, Jesus is here to help guide us through the process, even when it is hard for us to see us possibly forgiving or reconciling with the person who did us wrong.

This leads us to our final point: Jesus commands us to settle disputes quickly, especially amongst believers, within each other.

And Jesus said in verses 25 and 26: Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him to the court, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.

In those times, biblically, a person can go to court and later to prison for a debt left unpaid. That unpaid debt was a slight against the person who was owed that money. If the two people in conflict went to court and the judge ruled against the person owing the debt, that same person could be in prison until that debt was paid in full.

The challenge is: how can you pay a debt in full from prison if you do not have the ability to earn the money since you are held in prison?

Oftentimes, unless someone paid for that prisoner’s debt, that prisoner would die in jail.

I just have to take a moment and thank Jesus for the debt of sin that He paid for each of us, so that we do not have to die eternally separated from our God because of our sins.

Now, while a disagreement amongst each other does not always lend itself in front of a judge in court, Jesus is calling us to take action to settle the conflict before having to appear in court if at all possible. Especially amongst believers, we are called to do so, for such division and conflict publicly is not a good reflection of the body of Christ.

While we may not appear in front of an earthly judge to account for what we have done to one another while on Earth, all of us will though appear before a heavenly judge who is good and holy and most deserving to judge us on what we did do and what we did not do during our time here on Earth in respect to our relationship with God Himself as well as our relationship with our neighbors.

With that in mind, let us prioritize seeking reconciliation amongst each other where there is conflict between us over winning arguments or seeking vengeance against our opponents and enemies.

 

In the end, we will be judged more on whether we follow Jesus to settle matters quickly and privately, while forgiving one another gracefully as God has done for each of us when we ask Him to forgive us as well.

As you know from when I started this sermon, as I preach this today, it is the eve of Martin Luther King day.

At the same time, I also preach this message in the year of 2024.

Why is that significant?

2024 is widely known among millions of Americans as a presidential election year.

In less than 10 months from now, the United States will vote on its next President, as well as its congressmen and other elected officials across all fifty states of our union.

This is a time, politically, where many of us fear the continued division across political party lines within our communities, workplaces, and even families at home.

Certain political issues will rile up one side of the aisle, causing that side to yell out how wrong the other side is, often calling them names outside of “children of God”, and the other side will reciprocate in its yelling, demonizing, and name-calling.

Such stirring of anger can brew and grow to the point where some people may lash out at one another both verbally and physically that, God forbid, could lead to great harm and, dare I say, maybe even murder.

This year is especially a time where what Jesus preached in this passage about anger definitely is relevant to how we treat one another, whether believer or unbeliever, Democrat or Republican, regardless of our difference both on the outside and on the inside.

Let us serve as Christ’s ambassadors even amongst those who think, believe, and vote differently from us.

The question remains: how will you respond to what Jesus is teaching us in relation to how we treat one another?

My dear friends, as we reflect upon the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5:21-26, I call you to action today as we head into the Martin Luther King holiday. Whether you are a believer in Christ or someone seeking answers, hear this call to build the beloved community:

 

For Believers in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

  1. Examine Your Heart: Take a moment to reflect on your relationships. Are there unresolved conflicts, anger, or unforgiveness in your heart? It's time to address them with humility, seeking reconciliation and healing among ourselves and our neighbors.
     

  2. Initiate Reconciliation: Be the peacemaker aspiring to be more like the Prince of Peace. Take the first step towards reconciliation, even if you believe you are the aggrieved party. Follow Christ's example of grace and forgiveness to both his friends and to his enemies.
     

  3. Prioritize Unity: Understand that unity within the body of Christ is vital for God’s Kingdom to come to the ends of the earth. Our love for one another is a powerful witness to the world. Let us demonstrate the transformative power of Christ's love in our midst.

For Those Who Do Not Believe, I ask you to:

  1. Seek Peace: Even if you are not a follower of Christ, the principle of seeking peace and reconciliation applies to all. Embrace the power of forgiveness, and be a source of healing and unity in your relationships.
     

  2. Repent and Believe: If you have not yet placed your faith in Jesus Christ, consider the message of reconciliation He offers.
     

Jesus loves you, and He wants you to be reconciled to God and to one another.

If you’re not yet a believer, I believe that Jesus is calling you to Him right now. And He wants you to come as you are, flaws and all, and put your trust not in yourself but in Him. He will forgive all of your sins and help you live your life following after Him.

Of all the things I have done in my life, following Him is the best decision I ever made. And I want you to make the best decision in your life too.

All we have to do is ask Jesus into our hearts and make Him the Lord and Savior of our lives.

If you’re ready to take that step, would you pray this prayer with me: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe that you came from Heaven to Earth to live, die and rise again just for me, so that my sins may be forgiven. I trust you with my life. By faith, I make you my Lord and Savior. Thank you for your love and sacrifice. In Jesus name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, let me be the first to congratulate you on the best decision you could make in your life. Let me also welcome you to the family, as the angels in Heaven are rejoicing on you coming back home.

 

I encourage you to find a local, Bible-based church to connect with and to join its community as you walk out a life of love and reconciliation, while continuing the ministry of Jesus Christ together with other believers.

If you already are a believer, and you want to do your part to help others reconcile their relationship with God and with one another, please share this message with someone who does not yet know Jesus. God has a great plan for you, and it involves bringing the spiritually lost back to God through Jesus Christ.

Let us continue the good work ahead of us to globally spread the Good News about Jesus Christ and to welcome more into His family.

 

God bless you for watching, listening to or reading this sermon. Thank you and take care.

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