Episode 6 - Anger and Murder - Part 1
November 11, 2022
Or listen here:
Before we began preparing for this podcast, I foolishly thought, “Oh, this should be an easier one.” Anger is bad, I get it. It’s not easy though. Anger permeates our society, our political discourse and many, many, many people feel justified in their anger. If someone wrongs me, it’s okay to be angry. Anger, if not rooted out of one’s heart, will grow into a variety of horrible things: rage, violence, and bitterness. So, this is a big one for our society and for our fellowship. We should be welcoming each other and loving each other. Anger though is at the heart of one of the first great sins: Cain and Abel. And, if we are not careful to root it out of our hearts, can infect our fellowship too.
Hey, I'm Matt Brownell.
And I'm Van Owens.
And I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes,
connections, and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the sermon on the mount and
discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today.
So before I began preparing for this podcast, I had the foolish thought, oh, this will be
an easy one.
I get it.
This isn't easy, though.
Anger permeates our society, our political discourse, and so many, many people feel justified
in their anger.
I know I did.
And I know preparing for this, it's like God was like, yeah, you think you got this?
Here, let me give you some opportunities to feel it now.
And I felt more angry in the week preparing for this than I have in a long time.
And I had to deal with that.
If someone wrongs me, it's not okay to just be angry about this and stew in that.
Anger, if it's not rooted out of our hearts, will grow into a variety of horrible things,
rage, violence, and bitterness.
So this is a huge one for our society and for our fellowship.
And Christ's church should be a welcoming place where we love each other.
And anger is at the heart of one of the first greatest sins, Cain and Abel.
And if we're not careful to root it out of our hearts, it will infect our fellowship,
So let's dive in.
You've heard it said to those of old, you shall not murder.
And whoever murders will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.
Whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council.
And whoever says you fool will be liable to the hell of fire.
So if you're offering your gift at the altar and they remember that your brother has something
against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.
First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.
Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you were going with him to court, lest your
accuser hand you over to the judge and the judge to the guard and you be put in prison.
Truly I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
This section of scripture is the first of six units now that we're about to dive into
that really expound on Jesus' meeting in the verse immediately preceding Matthew 5:
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
There's a refrain in each of these units.
You've heard it said, but I say, and then Jesus takes us to the heart behind the letter
of the law, how our righteousness is to surpass that of the Pharisees.
So first off, we've talked about how Jesus takes us to the heart of the law and he's
pretty dramatic here with the language he uses.
Why do you think he uses such stark language here?
Well, I think that the language is stark because the particular thing that he's talking about
anger is so prevalent and so virulent.
It's so dangerous and it's so abundant everywhere.
And I think you mentioned Cain and Abel and I think it's remarkable that the first story
about a horizontal relationship.
So you've got Adam and Eve and the sins that happened there were vertical.
They sinned against God.
The first story that we really have about a horizontal relationship, a brother to a
sister, it ends in murder.
And it tells us how poisonous a thing, anger is, how swiftly it takes root and how bitterly
it grows and how bad the consequences are when it's happened.
So I think it deserves the stark language that Jesus gives it here.
Yeah, I mean, I think when I consider anger here, Jesus is making this direct connection
But when he's talking about, he says, if anyone who says you fool be in danger of the fire
of hell, there's a feeling of contempt that you have for the other person.
There's bitterness, I think that you brought up can grow.
And so many of these sources of conflict are rooted in anger.
And I think that's, you know, we're supposed to be people of love and it's really like
oil and water, like these things don't mix.
And so if we've got anger in our hearts, then we can't be people who are loving God and
loving our neighbor.
And so I think that when Jesus is saying that, you know, anyone who says you fool be in danger
of the fire of hell, he's being really intense.
But I don't think he's really doing anything except for stating the reality of the situation.
You know, if we're consumed by anger, then we're, we can't be in God's presence.
That's, and you, I love how you bring out love.
You know, the anger and love, oftentimes I hear, you know, that apathy is the opposite
of love because you just can't care less at that point.
But anger, you have some relationship and this is, this is so fundamental to our relationships.
And I think stepping back for a minute, we were talking about this, you know, how, what's
the fulfillment of the law, it's love, right?
One of the main purposes of the law was to teach us to love others the way Jesus wants
us to love them, we, he demonstrated, right?
And I think that each of these sections speak to that some failing and some breakdown in,
in love in a way that is profound.
And I think that the, this, this piece here where we're looking at anger, it, it really
is such a huge thing because I, I think there are implications here for how we treat others
that have a bearing on our, our very soul.
You know, he's talking about that hellfire, right?
And it's, in other translations, they, they use the word raca, right?
Which, you know, has the, you're right.
It's a, it's like this disdain you have for someone.
And it literally, I think it could mean empty head or you could say airhead maybe like calling
someone an airhead, which just kind of sounds kind of funny.
But if you have, if you really mean that, if you, you really have that thing in your
heart towards someone else, that imperils your very soul.
You know, and I think that, I think what's key there is that it starts in your own heart.
If you go back to the story of Cain and Abel, I won't, I won't try to read it because it's
somewhat long, but they both prevent sacrifices to the Lord.
Cain's sacrifice is unacceptable to the Lord.
Abel's is acceptable.
We don't get a whole lot of information about what was wrong with what Cain did.
We don't have a lot of background for it.
All we know is that Cain, it says that he was, his face was downcast and he was angry.
And it came from a disappointment that he had in himself.
It had nothing to do.
Abel hadn't done anything to Cain.
Abel had just done something right that Cain didn't do right.
And so the anger just was there.
And the language that is used around that anger, even there in that sort of first passage
about it is very, it's intense.
God says to Cain, sin is crouching at your door.
It desires to have you.
He personifies the sin in a way that is, that's monster like, it's a monster that will destroy
you and implying it will destroy everything.
And that it didn't, I think a lot of times when we try to justify our anger, we find
some, we say, well, he deserved it.
They deserved it because of something they did to me or they deserved it because of something
that they represent or they deserve it because of something that happened to me in my past
that this is mirroring.
And it doesn't start, it doesn't start there though.
It starts from within.
That is such a deep point.
And I love you bringing it back to Cain and Abel.
And we're going to get to this, I think, the altar and the sacrifices that they made.
And it is, it's something that is in our hearts that we have to deal with.
And God sees that.
And the word of God convicts us, it judges us to our core.
Jesus does something really interesting though, halfway through here that I want to highlight.
He has this word so in other translations, it's therefore.
And anytime you see that word, therefore, you need to know what it's there for.
And there's an argument being made here, right?
Because having this in your heart, this hatred, this anger for someone else, imperils your
very soul then and then he does something that I don't expect because I would say, you
know, so if you're offering your gift at the altar and you remember you've got this bad
feeling in your heart, go deal with that.
You can't, he doesn't do that though, does he?
It's really interesting.
He says, leave your gift.
And you remember a brother had something against you.
So it's not, he's not saying anymore the thing that was in your heart.
He's talking now about this horizontal relationship.
Isn't that interesting?
And I think it raises that question of what if they're angry at me or they have something
against me and I didn't do anything wrong.
We should talk about that too.
But one of the things that I think Jesus cuts through there is typically when someone has
something against you, you have done something wrong.
And you might have not done most of the wrong, right?
There's probably been hurt on both sides, but there has been a disconnect and almost
always there's been some sin that you've caused and that is the breeding ground for
anger and for all of this tension that leads up from anger to murder and everything in between.
A lot of the scriptures that talk about Cain and Abel like in John, first John, they use
the word hate and I think of hatred as much, much stronger than anger.
But Jesus is acquitting anger with murder.
I'm trying to calibrate my brain there.
But yeah, so you've got, if you've done something wrong and even though that person has done
most of the wrong, Jesus is still saying you need to go and you need to be the one to reconcile.
And he doesn't really care what the other person has done in that context.
He says you need to get this out of your heart and so you need to do everything you can to
be right with this person.
Yeah, you know, I was in a meeting the other day at work and something had gone awry in
the schedule and I had chaired the meeting the week before and so people were caught
They didn't know they were supposed to present at this new meeting.
So I told the chair, I said, I'll fall on that one.
I didn't announce it in the last meeting.
So let everybody else off the hook.
It's on me.
And she said, well, no, it wasn't that clear.
It shouldn't have been your fault.
And I said, she said, thank you for saying that.
And I said, no problem.
The words, it's my fault have kept me married for 30 years.
And I was kind of joking, but I was also kind of not joking because I think, I think you're
I think that Jesus is saying he's not, he's not parsing who's more guilty, who's more
And in fact, he might even be going so far as to say, you may have done nothing wrong.
You might be completely innocent.
But if you remember that your brother has something against you, no, without parsing
fault or guilt or who's more responsible or who's more than you need to go and fix that
before offering your sacrifice.
And that is, and he says a lot of things like that in the course of this sermon that you
have to, you need to get under it.
You need to be willing to get under it because that anger in that brother's heart is so dangerous
to him, to you, to his family, to the fellowship.
You have to get under that.
You have to fix that.
It is more important than your worship.
It is more important than your act of sacrifice to deal with that.
And it does kind of thinking about Cain and Abel again.
It is being your brother's keeper because you don't want them to have something they're
And I think, so all of us are married here.
And I think your example about being married and saying it's my fault has kept you together
for 30 years.
I can hear that and think, yeah, if I, and my problem is, and I can look back now and
think there have been so many times where I've just kind of, because I can be more reserved
and my wife is a little bit more out there.
I could just be in situations where she just tells all the stuff that she's actually thinking
and feeling and she will kind of be looked at as like, oh gee, what's wrong with you?
But inside, in my heart, and I've let that happen, I look like the good guy in the outside,
but on the inside, I'm dirty, I am, and God sees that.
And so there's this image here of someone going to do their religious duty, right?
They're going to an altar, right, to sacrifice something.
And I want to spend just a little bit of time here looking at the altar and to see how that
informs our discussion and what that might mean to us today.
Because it seems like there are things that God prioritizes in aspects of our relationship
And so let's spend a minute talking about this.
What do you guys think?
Well, I'd like to take it back to the first century to early Christian writing called
Didache, or Didache, depending on who's talking.
And it's basically a primer on what the church did in the first century.
And it doesn't cover everything, but it spends a fair amount of time talking about communion,
the Eucharist, Lord's supper, whatever you want to call it.
And in this little portion, it talks about how we should be thinking about conflict with
our brothers and sisters in the context of that.
And so it says, but every Lord's day, gather yourselves together and break bread and give
thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions that your sacrifice may be pure.
But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you until they be
reconciled that your sacrifice may not be profaned, which is really intense and is taking,
I think, what Jesus is saying really literally in the context of my sacrifice is my participation
in the Lord's supper with the brothers and sisters.
And that's often how I've thought about this in my own life.
But I'll confess that I'm not in the habit of, I think it's very difficult for me to
keep a catalog of is there a conflict in my life and to be really intentional about that.
And I don't, I can't think of a time where I've stopped taking communion because I had
conflict with someone.
But I think also it's because I try to avoid conflict wherever I can.
But going back to this point, I think that's one of the places where we are, this is our
altar, you know, it's the Lord's supper.
When we break bread together, this is one of the places where we're offering a sacrifice
And if we're in total conflict with one another, then we're losing the point of what we're
Yeah, I think that, you know, when I saw this question, I thought, yeah, what does that
What does it mean by altar?
I thought of Romans 12, Romans 12:1 where Paul says, offer your bodies as living sacrifices.
So your body is the sacrifice on the altar.
And then there's 1 Corinthians 6, where he says, your body is the temple.
So my body is both the sacrifice and kind of my body is the altar too.
What does all that mean?
Paul, what are you talking about?
And I think what he's saying is it is, it is you, it is in you.
It's the way that you, the way that you treat your life, you know, you treat your body,
if you've got a healthy relationship with your own body, you treat it as something sacred.
You keep it clean.
You clothe it.
You cut the hair off of it when it's too long.
You do, you, you treat your body as something sacred.
It is the most sacred thing that you have.
And so, and I think what he's saying, if you, if there's anger there, if there's anger,
and you know, when we, when you read that passage after the 'so' for so many years of
my life as a Christian, and I've been a Christian for a long time, I always read that passage
as so you have to make sure you're not angry with anybody when you go to church.
You have to make sure you're not angry.
Cause I just read it that way.
It said something completely different, but what I read into it was what I thought it
And it goes deeper than that.
And it says, so you need to deal with it, not even if you're just angry, you need to
deal with it.
If you know of somebody who might be angry with you.
That's how serious it is.
And it means that you, then it means that you have to neglect your sacrifice.
You have to neglect the altar.
You have to neglect all these things that you know are of utmost importance and deal with
That's how poisonous anger is.
And the challenge of that for, for me is, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm in the last little
breath of the baby boomers.
I was born in 1964 and I think that's the end of the baby boom.
And growing up, I was taught as a man, you have three acceptable emotions.
You can be content, which is baseline.
You should try to be that all the time.
You can be happy, but only sometimes because if you're happy too often, then you're a fool
and you can be angry.
Those are the three acceptable ones.
If you're sad, then make it look like angry.
That's what I was taught.
My father said those words to me.
And so it's, it's very, it was very difficult for me to think about how, how roundly Jesus
condemns anger, how solidly he says, no, it's poisonous.
It's bitter, it's so bad that if you are worshiping, if you are on your way to worship, then you
need to turn around and not attend worship.
Go and deal with the anger before it kills somebody.
It's, it's, it's really intense.
You both brought up really great verses to think about with respect to, or concepts to
The altar, the table that we have for communion, the body that we have.
These are things I want to pick up on because there's a lot more to mine here.
There's so much more.
So this has been great.
I think we definitely have to do a part two.