February 3

Text: Matthew 5:21-24

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.  If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (NASB)

Righteousness involves more than doing the minimum.  When the Ten Commandments were first given to Israel, the last six emphasized respect parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not commit purgery, and do not let greed rule your actions.  These might be simplified and summarized this way: “Be thoughtful and kind to people.”  Why command this?  These slaves did not know the necessity of being thoughtful and kind to people.

Thoughtfulness and kindness to other people is fundamental to godly righteousness!  Jesus said that it should be obvious that thoughtless unkindness results in trouble!  Certainly, thoughtfulness and kindness were in an Israelite’s best interest. 

However, more than self-centeredness was involved.  The failure to be thoughtful and kind to others offended God.  The thoughtful, kind God is offended by the thoughtless unkindness of people.  While there were undesirable social consequences, there were even more undesirable divine consequences.

“Lord, are you serious?”  “Yes! Try to reconcile with a known alienated brother (or sister) before you bring me a sacrifice.  Treating people properly makes worship acceptable and meaningful.  Remember, first things first!  Treating people correctly comes before acceptable worship!”

Suggestion for reflection: Consider how you treat others—at home, at work, among strangers.  (Read Isaiah 1:10-15.)

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