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For Bible Study Nerds

In Matthew 5:22, Jesus is quoted as saying that anyone who is “angry with his brother” has committed a sin that’s equivalent to murder.

Bible scholar and teacher, Warren Wiersbe, offers this insight on that teaching: “There is a holy anger against sin (Ephesians 4:26), but Jesus talked about an unholy anger against people. The word He used in Matthew 5:22 means ‘a settled anger, malice that is nursed inwardly.’”

Other theologians see Jesus making a reference here to humanity’s first murder—Cain’s killing of his brother, Abel, as recorded in Genesis 4. Cain’s criminal actions were not simply preceded by his jealous anger toward his brother—that is to say, his anger didn’t simply lead to the act of murder. Rather, the act of murder was actually begun in Cain’s sin of “malice that is nursed inwardly.” The killing of Abel itself was the final, outward expression of the murderous sin that Cain had already been nurturing within himself, out of public view.

It is in this sense that anger, unchecked, becomes equivalent to murder. Just as the seed of a rose contains all the DNA of a full-grown rose, unholy anger is the sinful seed that contains all the DNA of murder. Jesus thus strongly encourages his hearers to deal immediately with anger toward others—pursuing reconciliation and forgiveness without delay. In this peaceful pursuit, the sinful seeds of anger are rooted out and rendered ineffective in a person’s life.

Taken in the context of today’s often-divisive political atmosphere, we followers of Christ would do well to heed Jesus’ warning about anger when pursuing our otherwise admirable goals.

Works Cited:

[BEC, 23; BKB, 115]

 

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