"Epiphany 06: You Have Heard That It Was Said..." - Tim Suttle

"Epiphany 06: You Have Heard That It Was Said..." 

by Tim Suttle


2017.02.12 – Epiphany 06
Matthew 5:21-37 – You’ve heard it said but I Say

Turn to Matthew 5 // continuing in the SOTM, starts like this: 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you …
JS begins w/a pedagogical formula used by the scribes.
When they were teaching in the synagogues this is how they’d teach.
They’d say, “You’ve heard it said,” & then quote a famous rabbi.
So when JS says, “You’ve heard that it was said,” they were all expecting him to quote another authority.
Instead he says, “But I say…” 
So, he’s claiming the right to interpret the law for people.
That’s a no-no… you can’t just reinterpret the law, it’s too important.

The law was the center of Jewish life. Concentric circles: 
Center of law: was shema: Hear O Israel… the Lord out God is one Lord … Love the Lord your God w/all your heart, soul, mind & strength, and love neighbor as yourself. 
Next circle: 10 Commandments… they were the ♥ of law.
Next circle: Torah, the 1st 5 books (Law of Moses), basic instructions..
Last circle: the Oral Law… these statutes, legal interpretations & customs on what it really means to keep the law… could get silly.
Tearing on Sabbath: can’t tear off corner of paper w/a phone & on it...
Sorting on Sabbath: can’t separate leftovers food you want to keep...

PT: You see the progression there? From love Lord w/all your heart, soul, mind & strength, to you can’t tear a piece of paper in half or you violate the law. Jesus is going to take aim at this whole thing, especially the Oral Laws.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; if you say to a brother or sister, “raca,” you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

This word angry: orgizo, isn’t about a momentary fit of anger; losing your temper. It’s talking about when deep seated anger becomes the source of life.
Even if you never get around to actually killing another person…
To live out of deep seated anger (about anything) … it’s toxic to your soul & it becomes toxic to those around you. 
To live w/a sense of anger as the source of your life… it will do the exact same thing to your soul as if you kill someone… then he says:

“If you say to a brother or sister, “raca,” you will be liable to the council;”
raca is an Aramaic expression meant to be the sound it makes when you clear your throat to spit in someone’s face… 
It’s a sign of utter contempt.

Then he says, “if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Greek word for fool is moros – where we get the word moron.
It’s the word used in Ps14: “the fool says in his heart there is no God.”
So it was like saying, “You have no capacity for God… you lack the basic faculties that make us human in the first place.”
To call some one moros… is to dehumanize them.

So in effect JS says, “the law says if you murder you’ll be subject to judgment. But I say, if you live in orgizo – deep seated anger… if you live with moros; contempt for other people, then you’re working on the same deal.”

PT: The problem for us as readers of this text, is that most of us carry around a ready supply of anger & contempt.

I have a theory that most people tend toward either anger / contempt; which is it for you? (hands)
And this is totally reinforced by our culture… seriously:
Our entire society is consumed with anger & contempt right now.
JS is warning: those things will eat you alive… they’ll destroy your relationships & actually put your soul in jeopardy… hell …

If anger & contempt live at the heart of a person, then they will constantly leak out into the world. You don’t even need to kill to have the same impact.

So, the way the Pharisees follow the law doesn’t transform the person… 
In fact: it produces a division between the outward & inward life.
They would disguise a heart that might not be in the right place at any given time… with all these outward acts of piety.
JS wants an UNDIVIDED SELF; … the outside matches the inside.
So always saying, look at the SOURCE of your actions. 
And he starts w/the command: “You’ve heard it said, don’t murder…”

Now, the Pharisee’s way of keeping the law – it only cares about that outward behavior… “You kill anyone? No? Okay, you’re good.”
Just appearing to keep it while violating it constantly on the inside. 
As long as I don’t kill anyone, then I can think & feel whatever I want about them … I can harbor hatred & contempt, just don’t act on it.
That’s what Jesus is confronting … 

In doing this Jesus is reminding them what the whole point of the law was in the first place… when God called Israel out from the other nations:
The goal was to shape them into a peculiar people… distinct people.
So the character of their nation would image the character of God.
That way, when other nations looked at Israel, they’d see the character of God on display in Israel’s life.

What JS says is: it won’t happen if all you care about is outward behavior.
You’re gonna have to deal with the SOURCE of your life.
If you don’t deal w/the source, then you’ll just get a bunch of people whose inside doesn’t match the outside. (pause)
This is why JS said you can’t just clean the outside of the cup.

Remember the Bernie Madoff scandal? This guy was widely known as an amazing philanthropist, on boards of non-profits, big donor:
$6 million for lymphoma research here…
$19 million for Bone Marrow Foundation there...
All the while committing largest financial fraud in U.S. history.
Somewhere around 19 billion dollars he took from people.

PT: The outside of the Bernie Madoff cup looked great. But this guy spent 3 decades stealing almost $20 billion. His selfish choice then seeps out into the world & poisons it… some of the stories of the people he hurt, especially retirees – they’re heartbreaking. You can’t just clean the outside of the cup.

Another way Jesus talked about this reality is he said you can always tell a tree by its fruit – Apple tree’s don’t grow oranges. 
A heart filled with anger & contempt doesn’t grow roses, right?
There’s no way to fake this – not for any length of time.
A person’s actions – eventually – will usually tell you everything you need to know about their heart.
A heart consumed by anger, hatred, fear, shame… will become a life consumed by those things.

Now you can’t go to the other extreme & say the heart is the only thing that matters … That won’t work either… 
Like: If you get pulled over for doing 80 in a 55 & you say:
“Well, it’s not that big of a deal, I was doing 55 in my heart.”  ???

PT: JS is constantly pointing to the world changing potential of the undivided self. When the interior life is transformed by the love of God, then the actions that flow from that life will match. If the interior life is transformed, then we won’t have to worry about keeping the law outwardly. We’ll become the kind of people from whom the works of the law just naturally flow.
In fact, the way JS talks about outcomes is fascinating. He says:
In case of murder & anger: you’ll be liable to judgment
If you say ‘raca’ & spit in someone’s face: liable to the council.
If you say “you fool” you are liable to “the hell of fire”

Now, he’s not giving us a literal sentencing guide for prison terms:
this offense means you failed, 
this offense gets you called before the council, 
this one gets you sent to hell.”

He’s saying this anger, spitting in the face of people, the contempt – it will put you on a trajectory like an escalating crescendo of death. 
You become cut off from yourself… from your community.
Eventually you cut yourself off from God – which is hell.
And it all starts w/this bifurcation of the inner life & outer life.

So in equating something like murder, w/things like anger & contempt, 
He’s not saying “If you lose your temper you’re a murderer.”
He’s saying they’re all part of the same thing that’s killing all of us! 
He’s saying that a murder might kill someone immediately.
This other stuff kills you & everyone @ you – just more slowly.

PT: Unless we deal w/the SOURCE of our brokenness, that brokenness will continue to manifest itself in other ways – it’ll leak out into our lives & poison our relationships & all the things we care about & eventually it’ll poison the world. But if you deal w/the SOURCE, you’ll have no trouble keeping the law.

Then Jesus makes a really interesting move. Verse 23, he says: 
23 Therefore, when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

So… if you live out of this deep seated anger. After you’ve spit in someone’s face. After you called them a fool… 
Then you come to the place of worship…
And you want to make things right between you & God.
Jesus says, it’s never … going … to happen.
Don’t expect God to forgive you when you can’t forgive a neighbor.
Don’t expect peace w/God when you can’t live in peace w/others.
Drop the sacrifice & go make things right w/your neighbor.
So here in the first “you’ve heard it said but I say” Jesus sets the basic program he’ll follow for the rest of this chapter in Matthew.
… constantly trying to unify the heart & the life. 
… constantly pointing us toward an undivided self. 
… constantly warning, that if we don’t address the SOURCE of the behavior, the behavior will persist… 

PT: And a rotten source doesn’t have to always end in murder for it to be toxic to our own souls, and for our lives to poison the world @ us.

JS sets a rhythm here in the 1st “You’ve heard it said, but I say.” He presents:

Conventional wisdom: You’ve heard it said… shall not murder.
Mechanism of Bondage: way that C.W. is a trap. (it ≠ deal w/source)
Transforming Initiative: JS offers a way out / trap (be reconciled)

These 3 things serve as a pattern for all the “you’ve heard it said but I say’s” (repeat) … So let’s go to the next one: 

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. 

Ok, so Adultery should be cut & dried right?… it’s not up for debate.
It’s like murder – you did or you didn’t.
But JS says that to “look at” a woman w/lust is problematic.
At which point every male in the church avoids eye contact…
Word ‘look’ is blepo, “to catch a glimpse out of the corner of the eye”
Just a little glance… - so what’s he doing here?

Well for one thing the Pharisees were somewhat obsessed w/adultery; 
In JS’s day: actually a Jewish sect called the Bleeding Pharisees.
They got their name because they were so worried about adultery that they wore blindfolds everywhere they went (not see women).
They were constantly falling & running into things… bleeding.

Adultery was considered a capital offense – could be killed 4 it.
… Lots of Jews were uncomfortable w/the harsh approach to it.
… but the Pharisees loved to catch adulterers & punish them.

So, Jesus sort of leans on this whole situation; he says even a little blepo – just a little peek out of the corner of the blindfold is enough.
… to get your mind going down the road of the fantasy…
… and the fantasy is enough to change the heart.
… which is why this isn’t just about sex 

It’s funny when you talk about this verse, men always get a little squirmy & the women seem just a little smug… 
Men get squirmy because we know this is our struggle. 
This hits us right where we live.
But, women have their own form of a fantasy life that’s just as toxic.
It’s the man who seems to be a better husband than yours…
He’s more strong or successful or sensitive than your husband.
May not be sexual, but it's a fantasy just the same.

PT: JS says “If you get hooked on a fantasy… eventually it will leak out into your real life one way or another. Usually in the form of contempt and anger … lack of intimacy, or isolation, or outright infidelity.”

This is the killer part of pornography; as that inner fantasy life grows, the ability to maintain any kind of intimacy dies off.

Or, if the fantasy is the man at work… or your best friend’s husband… He’s so perfect, your husband will never measure up (even tho it’s not real). 

This isn’t just about sex it can be about almost anything.

As a pastor I see this a lot w/people’s approach to church. People who had a great church experience when they were in their 20s
They forget that they had 2 incomes & no kids
… so did all their friends… 
all that time, money, relationships… course it was awesome!
Then they grow up & have kids and come to Redemption …
… NO church can live up to that fantasy…

PT: The fantasy is unfair because it can pretend to be perfect. You never have to see the mistress stumble to the toilet & throw up; hair & makeup perfect. It’s how you know it isn’t real, there are no imperfections...

I try to warn married people as often as I can, that if they are having a fantasy about some other person besides their spouse… just once.
Have the fantasy all the way through.
After the sexual fantasy – go to the next scene.
The one where you get caught & break your spouse’s heart.
The one where you’re moving your stuff out of your house while the kids are sobbing, “Daddy don’t go!”
… have the fantasy all the way through.

PT: Which is what JS is trying to show us; it’s not about whether or not you are committing adultery. It’s about being learning to be real about the stuff going on inside you that’s maybe not so great; dealing w/source of our lives!

At RC we often call ourselves a ragamuffin church… this is why.
We want to say from the outset—we don’t have it all together.
That’s the truth about all of us.
So please, please, please… don’t pretend like you do.
We want to make it OK to say, “Actually I’m pretty jacked up in this...”
And exposing that inner brokenness to the light allows God’s grace to go to work on the source… & we can actually be healed.

SO:     Conventional wisdom: don’t commit adultery; 
Mechanism of Bondage: what about adultery of the heart? What about the whole fantasy life that kills the joy of the real life?
Transforming Initiative: What’s Jesus’s way out?

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out… better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell…. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off… better to lose a hand than your whole body.”

OK what is this all about? Does JS really want us to mutilate ourselves?
The way the language works here is the key…
Especially the detail of the “right” eye and “right” hand.
The difference between just saying “hand” & saying your “right hand” in this verse is actually incredibly important.
The right hand is the law keeping hand.
The right hand is ritually clean according to law.
The Left hand was reserved for unclean tasks (2)… the  unclean hand.
So when JS mentions the right hand… it would pop out to people.

PT: He’s saying: if your law keeping hand ends up taking you down, then you better cut off your law keeping hand!! (this is so radical). He seems to be saying, if the law ends up just making you into a pretender… a hypocrite … then the law has become the SOURCE of a fragmented life, and you need to either get rid of the law, or change the way you understand what it means to keep the law! … i.e. “you’ve heard it said; but I say…”

Then he quickly moves on to the teaching on divorce, which is the first one of these that is NOT one of 10 commandments: 31 “You have heard it said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; & whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Conventional Wisdom: In JS’s day women couldn’t sue for divorce at all. Men could divorce their wife at any time, for any reason… it was as easy as writing a note: bad hair do? Put on few lb’s? Write her a pink slip…
It was completely unfair & unjust.
And so Jesus moves against that.

Mechanism of Bondage: is, power should never be that concentrated on one side, it will always result in injustice.
When one side has all the power, they can completely ignore how their selfish actions hurt other people.
It should never be that easy to discard another human being.

Wives who were divorced by their husbands had very few options.
Their family could take them back…(poor families couldn’t swing it).
She could remarry… she’d be “damaged goods” (usually abused).
If not she could end up being a concubine or prostitute.
That’s why she needed the note – wouldn’t be stoned…

Transforming Initiative: Jesus says, face up to your responsibility. You want to send your wife off? Then you are the cause of the adultery here.
You can’t imagine you guys, what a revolutionary teaching this was.
JS = telling bunch of men who have had this right for centuries, that if you are the cause for the split… the guilt is on you.
And the implication is, your responsibility ≠ just give her a note.
Your responsibility is to stick around and work it out.
(Now: we can’t use this passage to classifying divorce as an irredeemable act of wickedness … sometimes it’s the right thing.)
But we always have to tell the truth about the pain it will cause.
And we can’t export that pain to the woman & call it good.
We’ve got to stick around and try to work things out.

Okay, last passage: 33 “…You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Conventional Wisdom: So in the Torah, there were three main verses about swearing or taking oaths or vows… 
The first two said: if you swear to something, then do it. 
But the third one gives some wiggle room … a way out of an oath.
What happened was that people started played games w/binding & non-binding oaths & this was really childish stuff – like when kids say
“You promised,” & the other says, “I had my finger’s crossed.”
It’s silliness, that unfortunately had real consequences.
Because nobody wanted to trust these folks anymore.
And even worse, playing games with an oath cast doubt on the name of that authority to which they had appealed.
So basically, God was being implicated in their schemes.

Mechanism of Bondage: When your oaths multiply & you guys play games with them, your word means less & less & less.
It’s like when you buy a house & you go to close / 50 signatures.
Each signature feels less & less like a significant thing.
When you have to pinky swear on everything, it becomes constant evidence that nobody has any integrity… their word means nothing!
And eventually this lack of integrity seeps out into society.
…can just see this in our culture; people’s word ≠worth much.

I heard a story about an American visiting a museum in Japan; they said he couldn’t take a camera inside. Host said just leave in on the sidewalk – nobody will take it. 3rd floor an hour later, look down / there.
Try that in NYC, right? 
And so in the U.S., we have 281 lawyers for every 100k people.
In Japan? It’s 11 to every 100k people.

PT: We have to have lawyers & judges to force us to uphold our word because our word no longer means anything.

Transforming Initiative: let your yes be yes & your no be no.
Again, let the interior life match up to the exterior life.
Don’t be duplicitous… say what you mean…
Do what you say you’ll do…
Don’t play games & scheme or cheat to get ahead…

Okay so what do we do with Jesus’s teaching here?
How do we avoid the mistake of the Pharisees?
Well, many of us we’re raised to think xianity is about knowing right things; or doing the right things…
Jesus is pointing past knowing & doing & trying to help us see that the faith of Jesus is all about BEING.
Jesus really wants us to transform from the inside out.

PT: The problem is that we have these mechanisms of bondage that keep us from seeing who we really are, and what we are really doing in our own lives. JS is offering a way out… a way to really transform.

When we start to make these messes in our lives:
the anger rears its ugly head.
We feel contempt & the arrogance & vanity that goes along w/it
When we start in on another escapist fantasy.
The lover we long for.
The perfect husband who meets all our needs.
When we play games of power – exporting all of the pain to other people – especially the weak or a spouse.
When we lie & manipulate to get ahead…

At some point we have to learn how to track it back to the SOURCE.

I heard a story about a man; he was a go getter, extremely driven and as a result was very successful in business.
But he had a pretty crazy pace of life.
He got dragged by a friend to a retreat w/a Jesuit monk
Monk said, “let’s not do anything let’s just sit here.”
Guy was like, “I don’t even know what those words mean…”
The monk said, “just sit here & I want you to just think about your breathing.”
Guy was thinking, “This is crazy I have so much to do. I cannot believe I’m sitting here being told by a monk 2 breath.”
Finally he sort of surrendered to it & started to engage.
First he became aware of his breathing.
Then he became aware of how little he is aware of anything…
Never just mindful of his own life, his breath, his being.
A short while into this he started to become aware of a dull ache in his back.
As he started to slow down, he became aware of his body; 
He let the adrenaline subside & became aware of this pain in his back that was excruciating.
When the retreat was over he went immediately to a doctor.
Dr. told him he had a seriously herniated disk!
It had been this way for a long time, needed immediate surgery.
But his body was so full of adrenaline and he was so focused on his work that his body had found a way to numb the pain of a herniated disk…. That’s the power of chronic Anx. adrenaline.

PT: That’s an extreme case, but to some extent this is the way most of us are living, you guys… this is the normal experience of our lives! The invitation today is to transform; to get past the outward surface of life, and to begin to deal with the SOURCE of our problems… often pain, fear, & shame.

PRAY: So Jesus sits there on the mountain teaching, & he says:
“You’ve heard it said” – description of the world that is.
“But I say…” – and gives his vision for the world that can be.

You’ve heard it said…
…don’t murder; but I say:
…don’t let anger & contempt be the foundation of your life.

You’ve heard it said…
…don’t commit adultery; but I say:
…don't live in a fantasy, it fragments your consciousness & it will end up ruining our relationships. You have to cut the fantasy off…

You’ve heard it said…
…divorce is as easy as writing a note; but I say:
…if you play that game it’s on you – you may have the power to do what you are doing, but that doesn’t make it right.
Don’t discard a human being like they are nothing.
Stick around & live in mutuality & love.

You’ve heard it said…
…don’t swear falsely… but I say:
…don’t swear at all – just let your yes be yes, & no be no.
The more you swear, the less your word means.
Just say what you mean & then live up to it.

PT: And Jesus seemed to believe that if his listeners could grasp what he was saying, & organize their common life around his agenda for living, then they would actually become good news to the world. They would bear the image of God – our loving father – and their community would speak the deeper reality that we are not alone in the darkness… God has come for us… 

STORY: Infant nursing, on the breast of another mom… admitted.

PT: That’s how early on we can pick up signals that the world might not be a safe place… That’s how long – at least on subconscious level – we’ve been dealing with emotional pain.

We have these basic emotional needs & when they aren’t met we’ll start playing these games.
Anger will well up inside us.
Contempt – laced w/self-righteousness…
Or the fantasy
Or the power trip
Or manipulating & making promises to get our way.

PT: In the moment, the Jesus move is to learn how to just stop – and recognize what’s happening & then track it back to the source.


Whenever we feel like those things are threatened, we try to fix the problem. We play some game (prob. same game we’ve always played).
Power up – don't have to feel weak
Make peace – don't to experience conflict.
Do it perfect – so we don’t have to experience criticism
Serve everyone else – don’t have to think about our own needs.
Achieve everything – don’t have to feel worthless
Draw & pain & sing – so we don’t have to feel so ordinary
We learn & investigate – so we don’t feel so helpless.
Toe the party line – so we can feel more secure
We leave for another adventure – stay 1 step ahead of our pain. 

When those don’t work, we’ll experience some sort of emotional pain.
Usually comes in the form of Anger / Fear / Shame.
When than happens – we feel anger / fear / shame wash ovr us.
We have a choice in that moment…
We can stay on the surface & manipulate exterior life.
We can stop & make the move Jesus is teaching us to make.
It’s really simple: feel the emotion & name it:
I’m angry, I’m afraid, I’m feeling shame… just feel it.
Then, let it go… feel it for a moment, then release it.
Then – and here’s the Jesus move – track it back one step.
What’s the game I’m playing here that didn’t work?
How am I trying to clean the outside of the cup?
Was I trying to control? Manipulate? Charm? Power up?

PT: That’s all you’ve got to do is expose it to the light. (In none of these teachings does JS try to make anyone pay) Don’t have to do penance, you just have to see it & expose it to the light & it loses all its power.

So when we see something creep up on the exterior of our lives & it causes in us this visceral response – usually anger / fear / or shame.
Just let it happen for a moment… take a breath, let it go.
Then track it back… what’s the game I’m playing?
How am I trying to clean the outside of the cup?


“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

“Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.

“You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.

“Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.

“Remember the Scripture that says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights’? Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.


1. In this week’s message, Tim highlighted Jesus’ call for us to leave anger and contempt behind – to become people who refuse to indulge our tendencies to berate or devalue others.  Later in the chapter, Jesus will take it even further and tell us to “love your enemies.”   How would our world (think community, church, state and nation) be different if we took that teaching seriously.  What can we do to cultivate the kind of heart that longs to reconcile with others rather than dismiss them or worse?   

2. In other settings, Jesus taught in parables, promoting a deeper, thoughtful meaning to his subject.  In today’s text (Matthew 5:21-37), Jesus starts with a familiar, seemingly simple and straightforward saying, and again promotes a deeper, thoughtful meaning.  Is it difficult to understand, please and follow God?

3. When Tim mentioned that Jesus was addressing the anger or contempt that we all have under the surface were you able to identify those feelings in yourself? What person or people group do you carry the most anger or contempt toward at this stage in your life?  Who is a safe person in your life that you can process these thoughts and feelings with? 

4. In what situations in our own life do we have power, and either knowingly or unknowingly ignore how our actions hurt other people?  In what ways do we do this and yet still call it good?