Jesus Talks About Anger

David Bast

READ : Matthew 5:21-26

I can still remember hearing these verses in church when I was a boy and feeling nervous about them. I was pretty sure I had never called my brother Tom “Raca” (whatever that meant), but I knew I was in trouble on the anger issue. I also recall thinking how lucky it was for me Jesus hadn’t said, “Whoever says to his brother ‘you jerk’ will be in danger of hell!”

But, of course, that is exactly what he meant. It’s not the particular words we choose. It is talking this way at all that is wrong. And it is in entertaining the thoughts which give birth to the words that we actually begin to break the sixth commandment.

Jesus expands the Law’s commandments in two ways. First, he internalizes them. According to Jesus, God is interested in the attitudes which lie behind our sinful acts and lead up to them or actually trigger them. “Listen,” he says, “when the law forbids murder, it’s also condemning the ways we can kill people in our thoughts or with our words even if we never lay a hand on them.”

The other thing Jesus does is to point toward the positive steps the commandment requires us to take. God’s law isn’t just negative. Every commandment implies its opposite. Here in the command against verbal killing and inward hating, the positive duty Jesus talks about is keeping up good relationships.


Lord, help me with my anger, and help me to take the initiative in healing a broken relationship. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.