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The works of the flesh are evident, which are..."
Murders
P.W. Martin


The heart of man is a strange and wild place. We are told by Christ in his word that on one hand, “...those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man” Matthew 15:18. But on the other hand “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Matthew 6:21-22. In seeking to understand the both the sin that is murder and the solution that can be offered, let us begin with a little history upon the subject.

Within the text of the Bible willful murder has been distinguished from accidental homicide. The consequence under the law of Moses was capital punishment “And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:17; cf. Numbers 35:16,18,21,31). This law in its principle is surely based upon that indelible fact of man's having been made in the likeness of God, “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:5,6; cf. John 8:44; 1 John 3:12,15). Under the Law of Moses there was a prohibition for any compensation for murder or the delay in the punishment of the murderer “But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die” (Exodus 21:12,14 cf. Deuteronomy 19:11,13; 2 Samuel 17:25; 20:10). To ensure the protection of the innocent, two witnesses were required in any capital case, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death...” (Deuteronomy 17:6ff; Numbers 35:19-30) If the murderer could not be discovered, the city nearest the scene of the murder was required to make amends for the crime that had been committed (Deuteronomy 21:1-9).

The core of the subject for those wishing to be faithful to Christ is found in Matthew 5:20-21, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, 'Thou shalt not kill'; and 'whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment': But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca', shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, 'Thou fool', shall be in danger of hell fire.” We know that Anger and Murder have always been closely related. In Genesis 4, Cain killed his brother in a jealous rage, In Exodus 2, Moses slew an Egyptian due to anger over Jewish mistreatment. Stephen was stoned in Acts 7 because Jews were upset by his preaching.

Jesus used three words in Matthew 5:22 to describe the murder within, and each is progressively worse

Anger

Will Rogers (American humorist and actor) wrote “People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing” This truism is further made clear by what John wrote in 1 John 3:15 “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” There are two Greek words translated anger, or wrath: thumos: one who blazes up quickly, and then as quickly vanishes (like a piece of straw) and orge: anger that broods, will not forgive, seeks revenge, smolders. Both of those will cause one to be cast to the lake the burns.

But, we know that there is an anger that is not sinful, “Be ye angry, and sin not&ldots;” (Ephesians 4:26; cf. Mark 3:5). So how can we tell the difference? Godly anger stems from love and righteousness and has in view the good of him against whom it is directed. In Mark 3:5, Jesus was grieved at the hardness of hearts. We can and should get angry at how people abuse God and His name. Unholy anger comes from pride and desires the injury of another.

Raca

This is difficult to define because it describes a tone of voice more than anything else. It is a tone of contempt, arising from anger. It comes from a root word “to spit out’ ...probably from spitting at heretics and it means “empty headed, stupid” utter contempt. The people of the world are often full of contempt, pride in birth, race, position, knowledge, money. But those in Christ are to treat even the most ignorant and degraded person with respect, Romans 12:16. Raca is worse than anger because it leads to contemptuous remarks.

Fool

The 3rd degree of murder is to call someone a fool out of anger and contempt, not the mere words spoken. We use the word fool differently today then how it was used within our bible translations. “fool”, as used by Christ, means not intellectually stupid, but morally worthless; a scoundrel; a man who lives an immoral life. Calling a person a “fool” is equal to destroying his reputation, character, name. The words raca and fool do not have any superstitiously damning power, but represent states of unrighteous anger and hostility for which an awful account must be given hereafter. This is the very idea that kept Moses out of promised land, Numbers 20:10.

In the judgment of God, within the eyes of Christ, long-lasting anger is bad; contemptuous speaking is worse, and the careless or malicious talk that destroys a man's good name is worst of all. The man who is the slave of anger, the man who speaks in the accents of contempt, who destroys another’s good name, may have never committed a murder in action, but he is a murderer at heart!