Raca, Thou Fool
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR: PART VIIIRACA, THOU FOOL!!
A. Introduction: When Jesus was on earth, He said the greatest commandments are love God and love your neighbor. Matt 22:36-40
1. God wants us to love others with the same love with which He loves us, and in the same way He loves us. John 13:34,35; Eph 5:2
2. This love is not a feeling (an emotional love), but rather an action based on a decision to treat people the way God tells us to, the way He has treated us.
3. God gives us two basic instructions about how to treat others.
a. One negative = Don't return evil for evil. I Thess 5:15
b. One positive = Treat people the way you want to be treated. Matt 7:12
4. In the last two lessons, we focused on dealing with hurt and anger in ways that will keep us from stepping out of love as well as help us feel better.
5. We want to deal with a passage of scripture on love that many find confusing.
B. We want to look again at the Sermon on the Mount.
1. We've noted that many of Jesus's comments about love here seem strange, but when you read them in context, they make perfect sense.
a. Matt 5:38-42 seems to set up strange rules and raise stranger questions.
1. Do I have to be a door mat? Should I let someone beat me up?
2. If someone asks me for $10.00, do I have to give him $20.00?
3. If someone sues me for $10,000, do I have to give him 20,000/
b. We discovered that Jesus is dealing with attitudes toward self to help us turn away from self toward God and others.
2. We want to deal with another section of the Sermon on the Mount on love which raises similar issues. Matt 5:21-26
a. Have you ever read these passages and wondered what Jesus meant?
b. Does He really mean you can go to hell for calling someone a fool? Or that God is going to throw you in jail?
3. Keep in mind, one of the main things Jesus is doing in this sermon is telling the people that their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. There must be an inward righteousness as well as an outward righteousness. Matt 5:20
a. So, His remarks must be read in that light -- the Pharisees and what they did and said contrasted with what God really wants from us.
b. One of the things Jesus does in this part of the sermon is illustrate how the Pharisees have misinterpreted and perverted the Law of Moses.
c. Five times in this chapter Jesus uses the phrase -- you have heard it said -- to point out what the Pharisees had said. v21,27,33,38,43
d. Each time Jesus corrected their misinterpretation of the Law of Moses by illustrating the spirit behind the Law = what God really wanted.
4. Jesus is not setting up a list of strange rules for Christians to follow.
a. It is not a list of dos and donts, but rather an illustration of the spirit behind the Law. Matt 5:18
b. The Pharisees had established rules, regulations and missed the point.
5. It has always been about love, a love expressed through mercy and grace.
a. God is love. Love is the reason for creation. Love is the reason for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. I John 4:8; Eph 1:4,5; John 3:16
b. The two greatest commandments in the Law are love God and love your neighbor. Deut 6:4,5; Lev 19:18
c. Yet the Pharisees missed it. They gave the proper tithe, but showed no mercy to those in need. Matt 9:13; 12:7; 23:23-28
d. Look at what the Law says: Micah 6:7,8; Hos 6:6; I Sam 15:22
6. The letter says, thou shalt not steal; the spirit behind it is, thou shalt not covet.
a. It's not only correct outer action, it's inward attitudes of the heart.
b. A rich young ruler came to Jesus with correct outer actions. Mark 10:17-22 c. Yet this outer righteousness wasn't enough. Jesus wanted his heart.
d. This man's heart trusted in his riches, not in God. v24; I Tim 6:17
C. Let's examine Matt 5. v21--You have heard it said, thou shalt not kill.
1. That is one of the ten commandments (Ex 20:13). But, the Pharisees had reduced it to: don't kill someone and you've fulfilled the Law.
a. That was the letter of the Law, but they missed the spirit behind the law.
b. I John 3:15 tells us that hatred for a brother is equal to murder.
c. The act of murder is the outward expression of an inner attitude, hate.
2. Secondly, the Pharisees had reduced thou shalt not kill to: you'll be in danger of judgment = legal trouble.
a. v21--Whoever kills shall be liable so that he cannot escape the punishment imposed by the court. (Amp)
b. Judgment = the local court = council of 23; judged cases of murder and capital crimes; could inflict punishment of strangling or beheading.
c. Pharisees made no mention of the fact that this an offense against God. Gen 9:6
3. Jesus then goes on to give the true interpretation -- the spirit behind the letter.
a. v22--The command Thou shalt not kill also includes causeless anger against a brother.
1. The phrase "without a cause" is not in all manuscripts. Scholars can't tell fully, conclusively, from the text if it should be there or not.
2. Without that phrase, Jesus sets an even higher standard of behavior.
b. v22--But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice [enmity of heart] against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court. (Amp)
c. According to Jesus, anger and ill will toward a brother would merit the same punishment as killing the man.
d. Keep in mind, Jesus is not setting up a new rule. If you hate your brother, you must be killed. He's pointing out the spirit, attitude behind the Law.
4. v22--Then Jesus makes what seems to be a very strange statement: Whosoever shall say to his brother Raca shall be in danger of the council.
a. The council = the Sanhedrin; could inflict punishment of stoning.
b. Raca = worthless fellow; worthless before God; vain, empty, worthless fellow; shallow brains. The statement shows great contempt.
c. Contempt = the act of despising; the state of mind of one who despises.
d. v22--And whosoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin. (Amp)
e. Jesus puts verbal attacks which reveal a heart of contempt on an even more serious level than killing or physical injury.
5. v22--Next Jesus makes what is to us an even more astounding statement: And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
a. Thou fool = MOREH (Heb: MARAH) = rebel against God; an apostate from all good. Has the idea of hatred, enmity (ill will, hatred).
b. "This term implied, among the Jews, the highest enormity, and most aggravated guilt." Adam Clarke.
c. W.E. Vine = "Thou fool" (Gr: MOROS); here the word means morally worthless, a scoundrel, a more serious reproach than "Raca"; the latter scorns a man's mind and calls him stupid; MOROS scorns his heart and character; hence the Lord's more serious condemnation.
d. v22--And whosoever says, you cursed fool! --You empty-headed idiot! shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (GEHENNA) of fire. (Amp)
6. Hell fire = represents GE-HINNOM = the valley of the son of Hinnom.
a. It was a place near Jerusalem where the Jews had burned their babies to the god Molech. Because of what happened there, the Jews of Jesus time used the word for hell, the place of the damned. Bodies thrown there and burned.
b. The sentence for a man found guilty of rebellion against God was to be burned alive in the Valley of the son of Hinnom.
c. Jesus was saying if one made such a charge falsely, he was in danger of being burned alive. (lit = the hell of fire)
7. Just because someone has not committed murder does not mean someone has kept this commandment.
a. Jesus lists three acts all of which violate the spirit of this commandment: anger accompanied by an act of harm; contempt expressed by calling someone Raca; hatred and ill will expressed by calling someone "fool" or apostate. The punishments for all are severe.
b. Do you rage when people wrong you? Do you get angry over nothing? Do you speak evil of those who've angered you?
c. Even though you haven't murdered them, you've missed the spirit or intent behind the Law. You've broken the Law in spirit.
D. In v21,22 Jesus gives us the negative -- what not to do in anger. In v23-26 He gives us the positive side -- the spirit behind the Law; seek to be reconciled.
1. If there is a problem between you and your brother, if you have wronged him in some way, go and make it right. v23,24
2. Once again, Jesus is not setting up a list of rules and regulations -- before you go to church, call up everyone you've ever offended, etc.
a. He's giving us the spirit behind the Law. Don't lash out in anger at someone; don't speak about them with contempt and ill will. Seek to be reconciled if possible.
b. The Holy Spirit will help you with specifics in individual situations.
3. In v25 Jesus emphasizes the importance of, the seriousness of, making peace.
a. v25--Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are in the way travelling with him, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison (Amp)
b. Adversary = plaintiff in law; the judge = civil magistrate, not God.
c. Get it settled before you go to court. If it goes to court, you're on your own. If the other fellow wins, you'll pay the full fines.
d. Prov 25:8--Rush not forth soon to quarrel [before magistrates or elsewhere], lest you know not what to do in the end, when your neighbor has put you to shame. (Amp)
e. Prov 17:14--The beginning of strife is as when water first trickles from a crack in a dam]; therefore stop contention before it becomes worse and quarreling breaks out. (Amp) That's the spirit of the Law.
E. All of this brings us back to a major point we have been making in this series of studies. Human beings are self-focused. God desires that we turn from self and put our focus on Him and others. Isa 53:6; II Cor 5:15; Matt 16:24
1. Holiness is more than an action. It is an attitude toward self.
a. Matt 16:24--Then said Jesus to His disciples, if anyone desires to be my disciple, let him deny himself -- that is, disregard, lose sight of and forget himself, and his own interests -- and take up his cross and follow me [cleave steadily to me, conform wholly to my example in living and if need be in dying, also]. (Amp)
b. Why do you do what you do? your good, the good of others, God's glory?
2. In I Sam 25:10,11;17,19 we see the example of Nabal who was focused on self.
a. When David made an offer of friendship and asked for provisions, Nabal exalted self over David and God who told him to love his neighbors.
b. How does this relate to us? Consider these points:
1. v8--Do you take time to get the facts before you respond negatively to someone. David's story was easy to verify.
2. v10--Do you make excuses when it isn't convenient to obey God's word? Nabal wouldn't take the time to verify David's story.
3. v10--Do you speak ill of other people? Nabal implied that David was a runaway slave or robber.
4. v10--Do you exalt yourself? David didn't approach me properly!
5. v11--Are you possessive of your time, money, etc. without acknowledging that all you have is from God? My food!!
6. Do you ever think about the effect your behavior has on others?
c. None of these actions are murder, yet all could show contempt for others.
3. The seemingly strange verses in the Sermon on the Mount are not so strange when you understand that Jesus is going after our hearts, our inner attitudes to expose them so they can be changed.
4. The love of God is in us now because we are branches of the Vine.
a. As we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit, including love. John 15:5
b. We abide in Christ by abiding in His word. Feed on love scriptures. Keep your eye on Jesus, our example, and He'll expose areas of selfishness.
c. Exercise the love of God in you. Forgive people. Pray for them.
5. Remember, the Greater One is in you and me! Love is in you and me, and Love is greater than our selfishness! I John 4:4