“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” —Matthew 5:21-22 NLT
So, did you really read what Jesus just said in the scripture above? Whoa. He’s downright fierce with us about our treatment of our fellow human beings, isn’t he? Name-calling is a serious offense in His book. Super serious. Two mornings ago, I read this passage and can’t get it out of my mind. God cares about our speech and our attitudes toward others. Big time.
Notice the repeated word “someone” in the sentences above. Someone means … anyone. I don’t have permission to treat any person with disdain and disregard. You know what? That’s hard. That means when the customer service representative reads to me from a script and seems to care not at all about the words I’m actually saying, I still need to treat her with courtesy. And when a driver cuts me off in traffic, almost causing an accident? If I call him an idiot, I’m dead wrong.
Why is Jesus so passionate about this? Could it be that He truly does love all of us? Could it be that when He sees a damaged, hurting person being treated dismissively it also hurts Him? Perhaps the same disregard for human dignity and life that causes murder is equally wrong even when it doesn’t lead to murder. The devaluing of a human being is at the root of the sin of murder, and it evidently puts us in danger of “the fires of hell.” So. This is serious.
Imagine with me that the customer service representative who’s reading from a script and making me furious, is a woman from a third world country who finally has a job and no longer has to consider prostitution as her only option. Her English is barely “good enough,” and it’s her second day on the job. She literally doesn’t understand me, and here I am scorning her. See? Do I know her story? Do I even care enough to imagine it, or am I so wrapped up in my own self-centeredness that I dismiss her and her story in favor of my own perceived needs? Ouch. And the person cutting me off in traffic? Maybe he is being careless—or maybe he was just laid off from work and is driving in a total daze. Who knows? God knows. And He expects us to treat all His creation with respect. Always. I don’t see an exception clause here.
This fierce, hard-hitting passage of Scripture slams against our self-absorption, doesn’t it? Jesus speaks like this because we need it. Instead of running from these verses because they are difficult, what if we let them marinate in our minds? In her book God So Loved the World, Elizabeth Goudge says this about Jesus’ use of words: “[He] could use words as a surgeon uses a knife, painful, sharp words that cut away deception from men’s minds as a poisonous growth in a body is cut away.” What if we dare to ask … who am I treating poorly, Lord? Where have I allowed deception to keep me comfortable with my unkind words and unkind treatment of others—politicians, criminals, random strangers, even those in my own family? What if we asked for His help as we seek to change?
Lord, these words sting. I confess I need them in order to hear Your full outrage when I treat anyone made in Your image with contempt. Forgive me when desire for my own comfort and privilege results in disregard for others. All “someone’s” are important to You, Lord Jesus. I’m very thankful they are. Help me, please, to use language that is respectful, cultivate an attitude that offers grace, and lean hard on You to love as You so passionately love all of us. In Your Name I pray, Amen.
You are loved,
Sweet Selah Ministries
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.