Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
The original commandment given to the hard-hearted and stiff-necked Israelites was very simple, very clear, and aimed at external actions. It simply prohibited murdering another person, for whatever reason. But the kingdom of God has much higher standards, because those who participate in the kingdom of God must yield not only their actions, but their hearts to God’s control.
For the people of the kingdom it is not enough to merely refrain from actually murdering someone. (Any thinking person knows that even worse damage can be done to a person than killing their body.) Instead, because all people are created in the image and likeness of God (c.f., Genesis 9:6), and because they have inherent worth to Him, they must be treated well for His sake. This is manifold times more true for brothers and sisters in the kingdom.
Anger toward a brother or sister that is allowed to simmer into hatred instead of being immediately covered by grace and counteracted by forgiveness shows a heart problem. (The justification “without cause” included in some versions never came from the lips of Jesus, but are a later addition to the text.) And it is that hardness of heart that will put a person in poor standing on the day of judgment.
Likewise, anyone who considers another person worthless (the Aramaic term “Raca” means empty or worthless) or who treats them as stupid or contemptable instead of as people having inestimable value to God, shows the same kind of heart hardness that will condemn them at the judgment.
In God’s kingdom, right actions on the outside that cover up a hard heart are simply not good enough. That rises merely to the level of the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 5:20). Instead, in God’s kingdom genuine heart transformation is available to all who seek it, so that right actions spring naturally from a right heart, and are completely acceptable in His sight.
Father, I never want to do the right thing on the outside while being wrong before You on the inside – the very definition of a hypocrite. Help me to have a heart that is always right before You, transformed by Your presence and Your power, so that I do right because I AM right. Amen.