I could take time to offer a cute little anecdote about how in a conscious effort to get even closer to my mom, I had us start this thing called Word Up Wednesday. I know the title isn’t very original, but the action of it is.
On Wednesdays, my mom and I simply send a scripture to each other and put #WordUp in front of it. Sometimes, it’s race to see which one of us sends the first #WordUp. After several weeks, I’ve noticed that this mom-son thing does three things: 1) it makes sure that, no matter what, on Wednesday my mom and I are going to be in touch, 2) it ensures that I continue to practice self-discipline by sticking with it, and 3) it also enriches my understanding of the bible in real time.
See, there’s no need to share that little anecdote because today is Monday and I had some down time. I ended up in Matthew 5 because I had a question about prayer and that question was: What did Jesus teach about prayer?
After a quick google search, I came across Matthew 5:23-24. To get a better understanding of the context, I went ahead and started at verse 1. Before we get to Matthew 5:23, Jesus begins teaching his disciples what we know as The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). Next, he uses the metaphors of salt and light to describe his disciples (Matthew 5:13-16). Then Jesus expounds upon the Law, that which the pharisees and other religious leaders all but claimed to practice to the letter (Matthew 5:17-20).
Now, in Matthew 5:21 (NIV), Jesus refers to what the Law said about murderers: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
Jesus’ mentioning of judgment resonated with me because my best friend and I had been discussing the oft quoted Matthew 7:1 (KJV), ” Judge not, that ye be not judged. We also discussed the less often quoted verse 2, which reads: For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
The King James Version can be a little confusing so the New International Version translates both verses to: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
So, back to Matthew 5:21. Jesus compares someone being judged (presumably by God) for murder to one who simply carries anger against a loved one (“brother or sister”). By extending judgment beyond the murderer, Jesus leveled the playing field, so to speak. Judgment doesn’t just belong to the murderer, judgement also belongs to anyone who holds anger in their heart towards another, notably a brother or sister. Does anger not ofttimes lead to murder? Hmmm…I’ll explore that thought another time.
Additionally, in Matthew 5:22 (NIV), Jesus goes on to say: Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Now, I am honestly unfamiliar with the term ‘Raca’, as I’m sure most people are as it is not a phrase native to our time period or culture. But I am familiar with ‘You fool!’ and even those who utter this phrase will “be in danger of the fire of hell”, according to Jesus. Again, Jesus levels the playing field in my opinion. Meaning none of us should be quick to exalt our ‘righteousness’ over another’s. Likewise, none of us should be quick to put another’s sins over ours. But that’s human nature isn’t it? Perhaps that’s why Jesus said: “Judge not, lest ye be judged”?
If you continue to read Matthew 5, Jesus continues teaching his disciples the fullness of the law similarly to how he taught them about murders and those who harbor anger. He dropped further divine knowledge about adultery, oath breakers, justice, and more. He also advised them on matters they would encounter going forward as his disciples.
Coming across this passage reassured me somehow. Perhaps I understand how Jesus was teaching his disciples that appearances don’t matter to God, that simply adhering to the dos and don’ts of the law does not guarantee righteousness. That though one may not be a murderer in the literal sense, hating your sister is not righteous either. Jesus taught them to be wary of deeming others fools, because by doing so we subject ourselves to judgment. In other words, we are all imperfect. We all have our faults, if we’re being honest. We’re all equal.
And to think, my initial question that led to all this was: “What did Jesus teach about prayer?”