“You gob of spit!” Ever call someone that? They did in Jesus’ day – the Hebrew word for it was “Raca,” which, if you pronounced it with a sloppy, wet “hhhhchhhr” sound at the front end, sounded about like hawking up a Louie (is that how you spell Louie? Lewie? Don’t know…).
Anyhow, if you did that, Jesus says, you are just as far out of bounds with the Law of God as you would be if you murdered him! It wasn’t the word, spit, that was so bad. He said,
“Anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.”. (Matthew 5:22b).
Well, He certainly had the Pharisees attention, because they badmouthed people all the time. He’s got my attention, too. There have been times… probably for you, too. Can Jesus be serious?
Jesus had just said, “For I tell you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20). Jesus is serious, but He is also radically redefining what it means to be righteous.
Here is the deal. The common religious idea is that righteousness is a matter of not doing bad things. What are bad things? The religion makes a rule, draws a line, and says, “Anyone who steps over that line is unrighteous.” Jesus, however, says righteousness is more about what you do than what you do not do. It’s not about not stepping over the line but rather, turning around and going as far as you can in the opposite direction.
In the case of murder, it’s not about stopping short of shooting someone, but turning around and repairing anything that has caused separation between the two of you. Even your own caustic mutterings.
Jesus says, (No matter what seems more important – even taking a gift to church) …” go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew First 5:24 – with my paraphrase of 23)
See the idea of this? the righteous person does not stay angry with his brother, but does whatever is necessary to repair the broken relationship.