“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.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, high priority is placed upon relationships and community amongst the followers of the Lord. The old Law prohibited murder; any Pharisee could have told you about that, but Jesus went far beyond the merely outward manifestation of contempt for others, zeroing in directly on the private thoughts and inner motivations of people, even though they might not act upon those thoughts. Yes, the sixth Commandment prohibited murder, but in the Kingdom harboring anger against a brother or sister is equally offensive to God. Calling a person a fool or saying “Raca” (empty headed, good for nothing; a fool) is equally egregious to God, for in doing such a thing, we are demeaning one of God’s sacred children.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
A person who is bringing a gift to the alter is a person looking for some form of reconciliation with God, depending upon the occasion. Jesus is telling the people that they must not do this when they are in need of reconciling with another person; they must reconcile with that person first, and then with God. I am often saddened when speaking with people whose relationship with God is suffering because it is being blocked by their relational problems within the community of believers. It could be unforgiveness, or it could be a guilty conscience for something the person has done; both are significant stumbling blocks to relationship with God.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Jesus uses a metaphor here to illustrate His point: Lawsuits. If we are involved in a dispute, particularly if we have a claim against us from someone, we must settle that claim to restore that relationship. The obvious parallel is our situation with God, in which we are sinners who have offended God and seek reconciliation with Him. Having received His grace, we cannot simply ignore our debts (financial and otherwise) with others in the community, for to do so is to disrespect and dishonor one of God’s sacred children; this is a very significant principle of walking with Christ. Each human being is one of God’s sacred children, so important to God that He sent His Son to die for them. To dishonor, disrespect or demean any one of these children of God is to dishonor, disrespect and demean God; this is the way of love.