In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus continues to raise the bar for human
behavior. He acknowledges to His audience the sixth commandment “Thou
shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13) that was familiar to them from olden
Then He goes on to say, in effect, that this commandment was no
longer sufficient: that under Divine law simply harboring anger and ill
will toward another, or derogatory name-calling, is enough to earn dire
consequences for the offender. In addition, Jesus took the Law (in its
purest form and extricated from self-serving Pharisaic interpretation)
of the Israelites and applied it to all people for all time.
The word “Raca” (5:22) is Aramaic for “You Fool!” and the expression
“hell fire” refers to “Gehenna,” the valley of Hinnom, a non-stop,
refuse-burning site southwest of Jerusalem at that time.
Jesus emphasizes the importance of prompt forgiveness and
reconciliation between individuals caught up in a disagreement.
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:
22 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.
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there
rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be
reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way
with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge,
and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence,
till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
~ King James Version
As we look around at the turmoil in the world today, we can see that
the need for actually applying Jesus’ teachings is of the utmost
importance. Simply reading and reciting His words is not what He has in
mind for us. We are to be doers of His Word. The above-quoted verses
from Matthew 5:21-26 are further emphasized by the Lord when He says
“…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew
Refusing to communicate with and to understand others, listening to
and spreading gossip, looking down on others, scapegoating someone
because they are “different” – such behavior is all too common. Two
thousand years ago, Jesus gave us the instructions for changing this sad
state of affairs; but it takes each individual to decide to take that
first step toward reconciliation and to become the peacemaker Jesus
calls us to be.