Matthew 5:21-22

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” So we sang so foolishly as children on the playground. Little did we know just how damaging mere words could be…

I have found it personally painful to hear so many people nearly spit out the words “political correctness.” As if returning to some golden age of acceptable racial slurs, assigning some to the birth rite of second class citizenry, and verbal cruelty would actually improve our lives. Words matter. Words matter greatly.

Euphemisms often conceal. What is so often criticized as “politically correct speech” on the other hand, most often reveals what we would much rather leave concealed. Words matter.

At first blush we are taken back by the strength of Jesus’ words regarding anger and insults. “He can’t be serious here” we think. Maybe we focus in on the words “brother or sister” and minimize his meaning by saying “this only applies within our personal families or our closest community.” But I think we all know the universal character of Jesus’ use of familial terms like brother and sister. His words apply to everyone.

Words matter. Labels matter. Names matter. How we treat one another matters. It has far less to do with being nice than it does with being humane.

There WAS a time when public speech was courteous and respectful. It still happens. But we live in an age of shock jocks, un-reality TV, and the debasement of public discourse. In such a world, Jesus’ concern for the hurtful nature of anger and insult seems quaint and out of touch.

Consider this….

Imagine you are a parent and you are given secret access to the life of one of your children. You are able to read her thoughts, to see wherever she goes, to personally witness (without being seen yourself) all that happens to her through a day at school. You hear a teacher criticize her efforts as she struggles with a subject in class. You hear other little girls tease her about what she is wearing. You hear little boys tease her about her body, or her hair, or how she walks. You hear her tears, you hear her destructive self-talk. You feel her pain as her self-image erodes within her.

How would you feel?

Imagine now that your feelings have just drawn you all that much closer to your heavenly parent who loves you with the deepest love imaginable. Maybe that’s why Jesus teaches us that words can do just as much damage as sticks and stones.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, forgive us for the hateful and harmful words we have said along the way, the wounds we have inflicted on others, or they have inflicted on us. May the love of neighbor that you call us to guide us to consider deeply the impact of how we use our words, how we treat one another, and how we speak of others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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3 Responses to “Matthew 5:21-22”

  1. Georgene Says:

    Keep it up. Your words matter.

  2. Carolee Groux Says:

    We need to guard our tongue and use it for good instead of evil.
    Psalm 141:3 says, “O Lord set a guard over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips.”
    A harsh word cannot be taken back, no half-hearted apology
    can repair the damage it causes.
    James 3:6 says, “The tongue also is a fire, it can be a world of evil. It can corrupt the whole person, set the whole course of his life on fire.”
    The tongue can be used for good, and this should be our goal. Sometimes it is better to keep silent if our words will only make things worse.
    Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen.”
    May our words speak kindness to others and reflect a generous spirit.

  3. Chong Says:

    Would it be OK if I cross-posted this article to the Dailyst0rmer? It’s a website about having InterCourse with children, listening to Necr0Ped0Sad0Mas0 music and providing instructions on how to perform terrorism. I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. There is no fee; we are simply trying to add more terrorist content for our community and I enjoyed reading your work. If “OK” please let me know via email oii. Aaron Goldberg, Necr0Ped0Sad0Mas0 producer, member of the Jews Against Fascism Committee, email: AutumnCote@WriterBeat.com

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