The Danger of Adding to What God has Said
The Bible contain principles that we should apply to our own lives and situations. It is easy to misapply these principles. One of the ways we can do this is to add to what God has said. Throughout history, this has led to many problems, including oppressive religion, legalism and the abusive controlling of others.
Jesus addresses the issue of distorting God’s word in the message of the mount. The Pharisees teaching on murder gives us an example of what can go wrong when we carelessly apply God’s word. Jesus shows us the correct application of God’s word on this issue.
21 “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger of the judgment. Whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ will be in danger of the council. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.
23 “If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly while you are with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. 26 Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there until you have paid the last penny.Matthew 5:21-26
Jesus quotes what has been said by those of old times, the ancient ones (Matthew 5:21,27, 31, 33, 38, 43). He is citing examples of the false teaching on the Law, not the actual scripture. In this case, the scripture is (Exodus 20:13) 13“You shall not murder.” The Jewish teachers had added to the scripture by inserting the phrase, “whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgement.” God commands us not to add to what He has said (Deuteronomy 4:2) because invariable this distorts the truth. Two distortions came from this. Firstly, it gave the impression that there was a danger of judgement instead of certainty. The second error was to cause the hearers only to focus on the outward act of murder and not the inner workings of this sin.
The Nature of Sin
The nature of sin is that there is an outward fruit. This fruit comes from a process that has begun in the heart. Lust conceives and births sin, finishing with death (James 1:15).
The process that leads to murder is firstly unrighteous anger. It is possible to be angry in a good way when someone defends what is right out of an unselfish desire to follow God and protect those who are wronged (Ephesians 4:26). When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand in the Temple, He was angry with those who found fault because it was the Sabbath Day (Mark 3:5). Unrighteous anger is self-seeking and without good cause.
The next step in the process of murder involves speaking in a defamatory way. Usually, a conversation escalates the anger; this can be external or internalised within the angered person. The tongue is responsible for all manner of evil (James 3:5, 6).
The third precursor to murder involves a devaluing of the victim of this act. Saying Raca means calling someone worthless. A study of atrocities in history demonstrates that there is a process of devaluing people before the ill-treatment of others happens. As far as God is concerned, any part of this process is the sin of murder.
Many are trying to offer God something pleasing to Him, but they have bad relationships with others. There is much wrong speaking involving slandering and wrongly judging others. We cannot walk acceptably with God if we are wrong in our dealings with people (1 John 4:20, 21). God has promised blessing and anointing where brothers dwell together in unity (Psalm 133). Jesus gives clear teaching later in Matthew about conducting relationships within the church and even disciplining those who refuse to correct what is wrong (Matthew 18:15-17).
It is essential to consider what God is saying by going back to the source. In other words, we need to read the Bible for ourselves. We need to be careful to take the Bible in its context. The aim is to challenge our assumptions about an issue that have been learnt subconsciously through our culture. We need to examine what we are doing or not from a Biblical foundation and not a distorted religious tradition.