"The Attitude of the Heart"
The Attitude of the Heart
The Attitude of the Heart
This far we’ve covered some pretty controversial, gut wrenching and often neglected character traits that we’re supposed to have as Christians.
Not only character traits but key lessons on how we should live our Christian life.
Last week we discussed divorce and this week we come to the topic of murder, anger and getting even.
In fact, the next two topics murder and loving our enemies might throw us for a loop in some ways because we may be familiar with the Jesus who was gentle, meek and mild and instead we get a picture of angry Jesus, zealous and wild.
I mean, if you painted His face blue and gave Him a Scottish accent, any one of us might be inspired to follow him into battle!
But before we get to Braveheart Jesus, we need to start back at Matthew 5:21, so grab your Bibles and turn with me there...
Read Matthew 5:21-26 and 38-42
“You shall not kill” is actually not a command found in the 10 commandments.
The command in Scripture, in the original language is “You shall not murder”.
(SLIDE) Exodus 20:13
“You shall not murder.
The Hebrew word for murder literally means “the intentional act, premeditated killing of another person with malice.
(Malice= The intention or desire to do evil.)
In CA the Penal Code provides the definition of murder:
187. (a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.
Malice is a form of evil intent that separates “murder” from “killing”.
There are forms of killing in the CA Penal Code that are not considered murder when one of the following conditions are met:
A person kills someone accidentally.
A person is trying to defend him or herself and prevent his or her own murder (self-defense).
A person is trying to prevent someone from entering his or her house to commit some violent felony.
A person is trying to prevent the murder of someone else (protecting the innocent).
In all of these situations, killing is actually legal and justifiable, and exceptions of this nature exist in the Penal Code of every state in the US.
Even those who don’t believe in God or the authority of the Bible recognize the necessity for laws like these to accomplish greater good.
So you’re asking, why is the pastor preaching on this stuff from the pulpit?
Well, the Bible is the source for all of these modern laws and the exceptions come directly from Scripture:
An accidental killing is murder:
“Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate.
“ ‘But if without enmity someone suddenly pushes another or throws something at them unintentionally or, without seeing them, drops on them a stone heavy enough to kill them, and they die, then since that other person was not an enemy and no harm was intended, the assembly must judge between the accused and the avenger of blood according to these regulations. The assembly must protect the one accused of murder from the avenger of blood and send the accused back to the city of refuge to which they fled. The accused must stay there until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the holy oil.
A killing performed in self-defense is not murder:
“If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed;
A killing performed in an attempt to save the life of an innocent person is not murder:
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.
See killing becomes murder when (and only when) it is not properly justified, and the justifications are completely clear.
The difference between legal and illegal use of deadly force is really a matter of motive, intent and justification- the differences come straight from Scripture.
To be clear also, because of the parameters we must also understand that this allows for the law enforcement, military and other agencies to protect our lives.
God does not condone complete pacifism in His laws, and nor does Jesus in His teachings.
One more thing worth mentioning is that different translations could possibly give into different meanings.
For example, according to the KJV the 6th commandment states “Thou shall not kill”.
This is inaccurate because this leads into so many misinterpretations.
If it was simply, “Thou shall not kill” then all of the killing throughout the nation of Israel that even at times God commanded (Deut. 20) would mean he broke His own commandments.
So clearly it does not refer to a complete halt on taking another human life and has to refer to murder itself.
Jesus brings up the 6th commandment of “Thou shall not murder”, because it was an offense that many of his audience were familiar with according to the laws- however as believers needed to see a new outlook on it.
He goes a step further into verse 22 and says “BUT I TELL YOU...”
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
As we talked about last week, the entrance of sin in Genesis 3, at the time of Adam and Eve, led to anger, jealousy, pride, hatred, selfishness, etc.
It led to the violent acts against one another and it started with the child of Adam and Eve. (Genesis 4:8)
However, to God, every human life is important, and since God knew that man was sinful and evil and had become “lawless”, He enacted guidelines that would seek to modify man’s behavior.
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
This is exactly Jesus’ point here in Matthew 5.
Because murder is an action that is first carried out from motive, intent and of course malice- it starts with the attitude of the heart.
ANGER/INSULT TO INJURY
So what about angry brave-heart Jesus?
Not the gentle Jesus, meek and mild but the angry, Jesus, zealous and wild?
So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
This is the Scripture you may have pictured in your heads, where the Pharisees were in the temple courts running a corrupt operation and He shut it down, colorfully.
But if Jesus did it, why can’t we? Or can we?
The bigger question is how can I know that my anger is righteous?
Here are some ways we can tell if we have righteous anger:
1) Your anger doesn’t produce righteousness.
because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Has your anger produced good things?
2) If it’s all about you.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
We may claim our anger is about righteousness but in reality it’s selfish.
When our anger is more concerned with preserving ourselves rather than upholding God’s glory it is not righteous anger.
Unrighteous anger is preserving our honor, righteous anger is preserving God’s honor.
Because we belong to Him, we are freed from the burden of self-preservation.
3) It cultivates a crop of bitterness.
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
When contain unrighteous anger we are so consumed with resentment, bitterness and rage that we can not see the purposes of God.
Only the purposes of our settling the anger, which comes from a seed of bitterness.
We do not care about the other person or people in our bitterness.
Righteous relationships severs anger at its roots and prevents bitterness and gives birth to peace.
4) Unrighteous anger takes justice into your own hands.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Unrighteous anger keeps records of wrongs and takes responsibility for revenge.
We put God to the side and become the judge and the jury- we play God and arrogantly take matters into our own hands.
To be straight- unrighteous anger is a brand of unbelief.
It is a failure to trust God to bring justice and restoration as promised.
But faith, exchanges trust and gives justice back to God where it belongs.
5) If we are consumed by our anger, it is not righteous.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Our anger becomes all consuming instead of us allowing the all consuming fire, who is God control our emotions, moods and attitudes.
To get practical- anger affects our physical health, our sleep, productivity, emotional and mental state.
It can become like a fire that lingers or rages out of control, it often burns so much of us and others while we allow it to consume us.
6) It’s certainly not righteous if we give it time to simmer.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
You’ve been waiting for that verse.
You might know it well or you might’ve just heard it for the first time but either way it now is stuck with you.
We are a fallen people because of sin.
In our flesh we tell ourselves to hold on to it.
Don’t let it go because of what’s been done to you.
Paul in Ephesians tells us to let it go.
Don’t let it simmer overnight, it will burn in the pot o to speak.
When we let our anger simmer and never seek reconciliation it is exactly the opposite place that we need to be and it is certainly not considered righteous.
7) If Satan benefits from our anger, then it’s unrighteous.
and do not give the devil a foothold.
Anger, especially when simmering gives the enemy a foothold into your life and others.
Anger plays into Satan’s agenda at distracting you from a life of freedom and not focused on the Lord.
8) Unrighteous anger will come back to bite you.
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
In our flesh, anger does not give an option of forgiveness.
Jesus’ words here in Matthew 6 are basically that forgiveness unextended equals forgiveness unaccepted.
“When you forgive, that means you absorb the loss or debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.” -Timothy Keller
In Christ, we always have access to forgiveness that takes on our debt.
On one hand my anger is for me but it is at everyone else’s expense.
In Christ’s love we are freed from the prison of our own anger and given freedom and resources to forgive.
I believe we can sum this all up by what James told us in his letter.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
There is one other word in Matthew 5:22 I would like to look at, ‘Raca’.
This word sums up all the points we just went over and is the one word to describe unrighteous anger.
Raca means “empty-headed”, calling someone stupid and inferior.
It was the one word that hinted to others that you were planning on harming the other person.
Jesus says that saying this word should make way for the severest of punishments.
Because it is seated in sin, right in the heart of man.
1) Jesus is saying that murder finds it’s roots in anger.
2) Jesus warns against name calling, such as Raca as it births greater problems down the line.
3) The third warning at the end of verse 22 is that you shouldn’t even call someone a fool.
His point is that murder was accepted as a sin and a punishable crime, however anger in the heart should be treated in the same way because that’s where it starts.
RESTORATION AND WORSHIP/SETTLING MATTERS
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Not only are we not to hold onto thoughts in our heart that are negative towards our brother or sister, but we are to take steps to make things right with them.
People go to church, take communion, go to Bible study, tithe, pray the right prayers, etc.
They feel they are doing all the right things on the outside and what God wants, all the while harboring anger or resentment towards a brother or a sister in Christ.
Do you know what Jesus says about that?
Stop what you are doing, even though it may be good things and GO!
GO and settle matters with that brother or sister you have issues with, don’t let it get even worse than it is now!
Jesus says it is a sin when we offer gifts to the Lord without restoring our relationships first.
King Saul in the OT set out to do what the Lord asked Him to do, to destroy an evil tribe… the Amalekites.
But Saul was to leave nothing behind.
He took stuff with him, specifically choice livestock to offer to the Lord and feast in celebration.
God did not want his disobedient offerings and because of it soon replaced Saul as king.
But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
We must always remember our relationship to God.
The attitude of our heart and obedience to God is what is important and it’s what God requires.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Jesus is giving a direct warning to His followers that they need to settle matters quickly before they get worse.
There are consequences to leaving things unresolved in our lives and if they linger those consequences pile up more and more.
EYE FOR AN EYE
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
The question that results from this passage is often, is Jesus teaching Christian pacifism?
Are we supposed to take verbal or physical abuse from people and be okay with it?
This can’t be what he means based on Matthew 23 where He denounced the Pharisees who attacked Him.
Or objected when he was struck by one of the officers of the high priest in John 18:22-23.
He also advised His disciples to take measures and be on their guard in Matthew 10:16.
He reassured that He would give His disciples the right words to defend themselves against their adversaries and they would be easily contradicted by them in Luke 21:14-15.
What Jesus is asking from His followers is not pacifism, but instead surrender to the right to personal revenge.
This is expounding on the attitude of anger in verse 22 of chapter 5.
Rather than getting even we should be willing to go to the opposite extreme.
We should be ready to humble ourselves for the kingdom of God.
We need to understand that it’s not our right to seek revenge, but it is the Lord’s.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Our nature and reaction to being insulted or harmed is ‘eye for an eye’ or getting even.
Our reaction is hatred and desire for nothing good, definitely no reconciliation.
Jesus is specifically telling His followers that not only outward murder is sin and subject to God’s judgement but so is our heart’s attitude!
The purpose for an ‘eye for an eye’ in the OT was strictly judicial, not physical.
The law wouldn’t permit taking a life in revenge for an insult or a minor injury.
The principle is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions.
In fact, there was never an example in the OT that ‘eye for an eye’ was taken literally.
In Exodus 18:13-26 God laid out the judicial system to hear cases and determine penalties.
Most all crimes were then repaid in goods, not physical punishment.
In the NT, especially during the time of this Sermon on the Mount, the Pharisees and Scribes would take the ‘eye for an eye’ concept out of context and seek their own vengeance in everyday relationships, and to God, Jesus says... this was a sin.
Jesus is countering the common teaching of the day.
He then proceeds to reveal God’s heart to the people by saying:
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Jesus is not throwing away the OT law- He is separating the responsibility of the government from the responsibility we all have on a personal level before God.
Christians should be more willing to give up material goods, time and labor than required, even if the demands are completely unjust.
We should loan to those who want to borrow, love the hard to love and pray for those who persecute us.
‘Eye for an eye’ is the judicial system’s job- forgiving and loving our enemies is our job.
To be clear, Jesus does not say to do these things at the cost of our lives or physical harm without defending ourselves or forceful protection.
His fundamental principle is that everything we say, do and think comes back to our heart’s attitude.
The Christian is radically different from those who follow the natural way of doing things in responding with love, forgiveness and kindness.
Ultimately every sin we commit should result in death because Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death.
BUT thankfully we read this:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Murder, anger, insults, our false offerings before the Lord, the way we settle matters, how we respond to being wronged… all these things come straight back to one thing.
(SLIDE) “The Attitude of the Heart.”
Only God can clean and take away impurities or evil motives in our hearts.
But it is first up to us to bring them before Him, only then can we love, serve and give to others as Jesus would have us.