Monday, October 15, 2007

The Kingdom of the Heart

In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus deals with the kingdom of the heart. He comes, not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them (v. 17-81). Even the “least” of the commandments are important to God (v. 19) — I believe that is because they reveal the heart. The righteousness required by the kingdom of heaven is one that must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (v. 20). It is more than external acts; it requires the whole heart set on God.

In the balance of chapter 5, Jesus digs deeper and shows that mere outward obedience to the Law is not enough. The sections are introduced with this formula: “You have heard that it was said … But I say to you …” He applies it first to the Sixth Commandment.

Murder in the heart
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)
The Pharisees kept the Sixth Commandment by refraining from physically murdering others. But the purpose of God goes deeper, as Jesus shows: If one is angry with his brother without cause, he is leaving himself open to divine judgment; even more so when, in his anger, he calls his brother unjust names (words are very important in the economy of God, for He created the world by His words). It is good that the angry man does not actually kill his brother, but the root of the unjust anger in his heart must be dealt with.

Jesus presses the matter even further:
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:23-26)
Jesus is still dealing with the divine implications of the Sixth Commandment. His point is that harmonious relationships among brothers is more important even than acts of worship. It is better to first go and be reconciled with each other, and then bring our gifts to God. The adversarial relationship in a court case provides another example: It is better to settle disputes quickly, instead of “killing” each other in court.

Murder begins in the heart, and we have many ways we unjustly “kill” each other. These must all be resolved if we are going to experience the kingdom of heaven on earth, for at the deepest level, it is a kingdom of the heart.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.