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Your Anger Can Destroy You (Matthew 5:21-22)

by Dr. Eitan Bar
3 minutes read

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.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. 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 [Gehenna].

Matthew 5:21-22

“Hell,” in English, “Gehenna” in Greek, or “Gehinnom” in Hebrew, refers to the valley of Gey Ben Hinom outside Jerusalem, where flames constantly burned the city’s garbage. This place was inhabited by society’s outcasts, those who lost everything; they would scavenge for food and leftovers in “hell.” In this first-century context, the fire of hell wasn’t referring to an afterlife of torment but rather to finding oneself in the lowest place in life after being rejected by society, particularly in the context of Yeshua’s time, a highly religious and legalistic society. Yeshua is warning his followers against becoming bitter, angry people who are constantly in conflict with others, which could lead, in some situations, to societal rejection and their becoming outcasts.

Your anger might never manifest externally, but it can still become hell within your thoughts, conquering your happiness and destroying your joy, allowing anxiety and depression to take over. In other words, Rabbi Yeshua emphasizes the need for inner transformation to accompany outer conformity to spiritual laws.

In the era of the Old Testament, societal norms and moral values were in a relatively primitive stage of development. Consequently, God’s commandments during that period were focused primarily on prohibiting overt actions such as stealing and murder. These commandments were vital in guiding a society that was just beginning to form its ethical and moral foundations. However, Yeshua introduces a more profound step: it’s not enough to simply refrain from harmful actions; one must also purify the heart and mind from harmful thoughts and feelings.

Yeshua illustrates this by transforming the Old Testament Law’s commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” to a deeper understanding that even harboring anger or contempt equates to a spiritual violation. It’s a call to master not just physical impulses but also emotional and mental inclinations. Overcoming anger and resentment by controlling your thoughts and thinking patterns is essential for any meaningful experience of God and for exercising spiritual power.

Yeshua stresses the importance of love and forgiveness, teaching that these qualities are essential for spiritual progress and power. These qualities are what the Kingdom of God is based upon. Holding onto negative emotions like indignation, resentment, and the desire for retribution forms an insurmountable barrier to spiritual development. Yeshua vividly illustrates this with the analogy of bringing a gift to the altar. In the context of the New Testament’s Law, our body is the temple, the altar is our consciousness, and our offerings are our loving deeds toward others. Instead of sacrificing valuable animals we own, we now sacrifice our time, energy, skills, and resources for the sake of others. We must not approach God with negative thoughts toward others, or else our spiritual offerings might be rendered less effective.

Rabbi Yeshua, understanding the progression of human consciousness and morality, elevated these teachings to a more advanced level. He emphasized that morality extends beyond mere actions to encompass thoughts and intentions. According to Yeshua, even contemplating wrongful acts is in itself a moral misstep. This teaching reflects a deep understanding of human nature, recognizing that actions originate in the mind and heart before manifesting in the physical world.

Yeshua’s approach signifies a significant shift from external adherence to rules towards cultivating internal moral integrity. He taught that true righteousness involves purifying not just one’s actions but also one’s thoughts and intentions. This holistic approach to morality and ethics reflects a more evolved understanding of spirituality, where the focus is on the totality of the human experience – thoughts, emotions, and actions. Yeshua calls for a deeper, more intrinsic form of moral and spiritual accountability by teaching that even harboring thoughts of wrongdoing is sinful.

Yeshua builds this lesson using a progression of consequences for harboring negative feelings toward others. He warns that being angry places one in danger, serious hostility leads to graver risk, and considering another person as irredeemably ‘foolish’ or unworthy cuts us off from spiritual growth. It’s a powerful message about the importance of viewing every person with understanding and potential for good.

Yeshua corrects a common misinterpretation, clarifying that uncontrolled anger is spiritually dangerous even when justified (Ephesians 4:26), as it opens a door for evil to come in. This distinction is crucial as it underlines the unconditional nature of spiritual forbearance and love.

In conclusion, Rabbi Yeshua’s teachings invite us to a higher level of spiritual living, where our internal state – our thoughts, emotions, and attitudes – aligns with our external actions. This alignment is not just a moral imperative but a foundational principle for spiritual growth and enlightenment, transforming us into true agents of light and goodness in the world.

This article is part of the book, “The Kingdom of Yeshua: Christ’s Timeless Wisdom to Revive Your Spiritual Life.”

Jewish Gospel

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist