Here are a few questions to get us thinking today:
- How did your parents settle disputes between you and your siblings when you were a kid?
- What was the best advice you have been given on how to deal with anger?
In this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers that when someone is angry with his brother, saying “Raca,” he is answerable to the court, and one who calls him a “fool” will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matthew 5:21-22).
- What legal case has especially cause your attention?
- How are murder and anger related?
- What new standard of right and wrong is Jesus creating?
- Does Jesus say that anger leads to murder? NO, he says anger IS murder.
There is something called holy anger (Ephesians 4:26), but Jesus is talking about unholy anger.
Matthew 5:22 is the only passage in the Bible where the term raca is used. Raca comes from the Aramaic term reqa. It was a derogatory expression meaning “empty-headed,” insinuating a person’s stupidity or inferiority. It was an offensive term used to show complete contempt for another person. Jesus warned that the use of such a word to describe someone was deserving of the severest punishment, “the fire of hell.”
The term means “a settled anger, malice that is nursed inwardly.”Jesus describes a sinful experience that involves several stages: Causeless anger which then explodes into words (Raca, or Fool).
In Matthew 5:21, Jesus recalled the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). In characteristic fashion, Jesus took the old law one step further by explaining the TRUE significance of the law—a deeper, spiritual meaning they had never seen.
- First, Jesus warns that the very act of murder finds its roots in an angry, murderous spirit: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22a). God, who examines the thoughts and intentions of the heart, will issue judgment upon unrighteous anger.
- Next, Jesus warns against name-calling, using “raca” as an example (Matthew 5:22b).
- Then He issues a third warning against those who call someone a “fool” (Matthew 5:22c).
The first-century Jews recognized that “anyone who murders will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21), but Jesus warns that even calling another person insulting names such as “raca” is sinful. Murder begins in the heart, and using a phrase such as “raca” is a sign that there is hatred within the heart. The hatred that causes one person to hurl insults is the same hatred that causes another to commit murder. The attitude of the heart is the same, and it’s this attitude that makes a person morally guilty before God.
Jesus not only warns us against expressing unrighteous anger, which CAN lead to murder, but he clearly commands that name-calling must be avoided. Such abusive words reveal the true intents of one’s heart and mind for which we will be held accountable: “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10; cf. 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9).
Anger is such a foolish thing. It turns builders into destroyers. It robs of freedom and makes us prisoners. Sinful anger robs us of fellowship with God and with others. It must be faced honestly and confessed; we put ourselves into prison when we refuse to be reconciled.
The subtitle of this message is How to Avoid Being a Fool, which will become obvious as you read much further:
Proverbs 13:4 is my key passage, which helps us seek a remedy to foolishness.
Sometimes things just happen. They are called accidents when they are negative, like a car wreck or spilling Mountain Dew all over your computer keyboard. But when things happen that are positive, we might just call them a coincidence or a blessing, something happened that we did not expect but we’re happy it turned out that way.
A powerful theme throughout the book of Proverbs is, “How in the world can we be successful in life?” How do we stay on the right path? How can we avoid being foolish? Let’s look again at the verse for the morning…
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat. (NASB) New American Standard Bible
Lazy people want much but get little,
but those who work hard will prosper. (NLT) New Living Translation
The lazy will not get what they want,
but those who work hard will. (NCV) New Century Version
The appetite of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the appetite of the diligent is abundantly supplied. (Amplified)
No matter how much you want, laziness won’t help a bit, but hard work will reward you with more than enough. (CEV) Contemporary English Version
I believe THAT is what we all want out of life, to get what we want, to have more than enough, to have abundant supply, to have prosperity, and for our “soul to be made fat” (NASB)… (but not the rest of us to be made fat).
The point of this message is to wrap up the current series called, Wisdom From Above. Skip has guided us through the book of Proverbs with topics like: running a wise household, a priceless pursuit, speaking words wisely, the discipline dilemma, avoiding self-centeredness, being a wise guy, dealing with friends and enemies, anger, dishonesty, stewardship and how to guard your heart. The proverbs have so many words of wisdom, because “the wisdom found in Proverbs” is from above.
One thing that sticks out to me in the Proverbs is the obvious contrast between right and left, black and white, right and wrong, wisdom and foolishness, prosperity and ruin, laziness and productivity. There is also a fact to remember, that no one ever becomes wise by accident. We don’t wake up one morning only to discover that we have become wise, or righteous, or full of integrity, or that we are sinning less than we did last week. If we are not constantly and intentionally making progress in our spiritual growth, then we are on the road to becoming foolish. Just read the news and see what people are doing out in the real world, and for most people we meet on the street, there is only one word to describe the human race… foolish.
I am also sad to say, that we find a lot of foolishness INSIDE the church. Much of what we might find deals with the masks that we wear. We hide our true selves, our struggles, our hurts and our habits. We hope that others will believe that we “have it all together,” that we are “holier than what we really are,” because we don’t want to be judged and probably more accurately, we don’t want to change. We think the life we are living will bring us happiness and wholeness, but at the end of a foolishly lived life is heartache, brokenness and death.
Proverbs 14:12 tells us that, there is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. This is such an important fact that Solomon repeats the phrase, word for word in Proverbs 16:25. We are blind to our own self-destructive tendencies. We are blind to the fact that we are fools professing to be wise.
While none of us is perfect, or has the right to judge others, it IS the responsibility of Christ followers to confront a professing believer who is wandering down the wide path of destruction. It is one thing to mistakenly start down the wrong path, but it is totally another thing to know the difference Christ makes, and willfully choose to walk in rebellion and self-deception. People in this category KNOW their true spiritual condition and sincerely believe that they are doing only what God requires of them… church attendance, a twenty in the plate every now and then, and a fish symbol on the back of my car.
The truth is that we ALL have a long way to go. I firmly believe that one reason we don’t progress toward spiritual maturity is because we believe it happens through osmosis, believing something like, “I’ll just come to worship, play the game, put on my mask, knowing the whole time my life stinks, is falling apart, and I don’t care who I hurt.”
Those who choose NOT to live with purpose, and are NOT diligent about living a life of honor to God, are frankly… foolish. Although Proverbs mentions a lot about foolishness, I thought I would expand our topic of foolishness to include much more of the Bible.
I hope that each of us today will ask ourselves a very disturbing question. Are we fools? If we don’t live a life of diligence, on purpose, we must admit to living life as a fool.
1. The Bible says that atheists are fools (Psalm 14:1, Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God”). While most people are smart enough to NOT call themselves atheists, but they can easily be called practical atheists because while they admit that God MAY exist, they live life as if there was no God. Hey, there are even Christian Atheists, those who are confident of God’s existence yet choose to live as if he doesn’t exist. (Romans 14:10-12, these people are sadly mistaken. Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.)
2. When we are filled with pride we are called fools (Romans 1:21-25, Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools… So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired… They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!)
A sure sign of a reprobate mind is that they call evil good, and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). This point is such an indictment on our modern society, just read a newspaper or watch the news on TV; many things that the Bible calls sin, is now acceptable, encouraged and politically correct.
3. When we walk in consistent disobedience we are called foolish (Matthew 7:21-27, Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”)
The rain and wind WILL come into your life, and into your family; and we must be ready to hear and obey God and his Word. It is foolish self-deception to hear God’s Word and not do it. (James 1:22, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.)
4. When we trust in the world’s riches we are called fools (Luke 12:15-20, Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’)
5. When we have a quick quarrelsome spirit we are called fools (Proverbs 20:3, It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. And then in Romans 14:19, Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.)
6. When we walk through life carelessly we are fools (Ephesians 5:15-17, Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.)
7. When we despise parental discipline, we are fools (Proverbs 15:5, A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.)
Not only is this an awesome responsibility for children to respect their parents and the godly discipline they provide, but it is an indictment on parents who fail to raise their children in the knowledge and ways of God. The Christian faith is caught more than it is taught. Parents need to live out what they profess to believe. I sense that nothing will bring on disrespect in a teenager more than seeing someone living a life of hypocrisy. But for the majority of us here, children will often rebel against their parents for nothing more than selfishness, independence issues and their not wanting anyone to have authority over them. For THAT, the Bible calls you a fool.
8. When we mock God we are fools (Exodus 5:2, Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”)
Pharaoh was in obvious mocking mode. He thumbed his nose at the creator of the universe and had open disrespect for God and his authority.
If we profess to know God yet don’t live for God, or live a life that is NOT pleasing or honoring to God, we mock him, and we are no better than Pharaoh.
At some point in our lives we will have regret over living a life of mocking God; and the sad truth is that we will not arrive at the end of life unharmed… (Galatians 6:7-8, Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.)
9. When we are unprepared to meet God, we are foolish (2 Peter 3:10, 14, But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare… So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.)
We CANNOT go through this life unprepared to meet God at the end. This life IS preparation for the next.
It was this truth that brought me into a relationship with God back in high school. I was saved not only because I had friends that encouraged me to get involved in church, but because I was haunted by the question regarding the purpose of life. “What was the point to live some 70-80 years on this planet only to die and decay in the ground?” Why are we here? What difference does it make? I realized that the point of this life is to prepare us for the NEXT life.
If we fail to get prepared to meet God (and bring as many people with us), there is only one place where God will not be present, in hell, which is total and eternal separation from God, and all he represents… which is love, hope, peace, pleasure, comfort, safety, security and Joy. A place without these qualities is by definition, hell. Don’t let this earthly life and our common enemy (the devil) distract you from your purpose in life.
So, if we want to be on the positive side of the Proverbs “wise/foolish” equation, we MUST be diligent. It’s hard work to follow after God and do the right thing. Prosperity, wisdom, doing what’s right does NOT happen by accident. The word diligence means to work hard, attentiveness, thoroughness, carefulness, and persistence. Can you use ANY of these words to describe your spiritual pursuit of God and his will? Or do you use words like, casual, comfortable, convenient, or inconsistent?
So how can we be diligent in our sanctification? Sanctification is a fancy church word for becoming more like Jesus Christ, to become holy, set apart for a purpose. When we first come to Christ and we receive him as Savior and Lord, he forgives us from all that we have done in the past, all the mistakes, all the sin. We are declared righteous before God the Father. This is what we call justification. Think of it this way, when we come to Christ, he sees us just-as-if-I’d never sinned.
Coming to Christ is the easy part, now comes the harder part, sanctification. This is the life-long process of conforming to the image of Christ. Hopefully, we strive to live according to the principles we read in the Bible, but it takes diligence to allow God to transform our lives from our path of self-destruction to his pathway of life, meaning and purpose.
So, I thought it would be good to literally spell it out for us this morning, you see “diligence” spelled out as an acrostic in your outline:
D – Discipleship over Drifting: the point is that we enter into this new relationship with Christ, and we learn from him what it means to be a follower or disciple of Jesus, and THEN we apply his teaching to our lives. To be a disciple is to be a learner, so we must learn from Christ, through his Word given to us, the Bible. The alternative is to drift through life just hoping for the best. When we have no focus, we WILL drift in any direction, tossed by the waves of society, pop psychology or wind of doctrine.
I – Intentionality over Ambiguity: When we are focused, we will also become intentional in our transformation. I suggest you look for someone around you who exhibits the moral character and spiritual qualities and disciplines that you want to develop in your own life.
L – Love in Word and Deed: Let’s be diligent in love. Love is not simply an emotion, but it is an act of the will. It shows itself through not only the words we say but the deeds we accomplish for other people. Love is NOT love unless it is demonstrated to the object of our love.
I – Integrity with Self and Others: The Christian life is to be lived honorably, in truth, in authenticity, without the mask we so often put on when we come to church. The mask must be removed if we are to walk with integrity. We don’t impress anyone with the fake-face of pretending to have it all together. People are drawn to Christ when they see honesty and integrity as they watch believers live out what they say they believe.
G – Godliness as a Goal: This is nothing more than living according to the life principles given by God. The Bible not only teaches us what to believe, but it teaches us how we are to live for God in the real world. The Bible is not learned until it is applied. Application of spiritual truth is a sign of a disciplined life. I am convinced that we in the American church are educated far beyond our obedience.
E – Eternity in Mind: We know that this life is NOT all that there is. We live in the light of eternity. As Maximus, in the Gladiator once said, “What we do here echoes in eternity.” What we do here is preparation for the next life. Life is to be lived for the glory and honor of God. We are to please him in everything we say and do because we ALL of us will one day give an account for what we do in this life.
N – Newness of Life: Paul writes to the Corinthians, that anyone who is in Christ has become a new creation, a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! We are able to be set free from the sin, hurts, abuses, addictions, habits and hang-ups of our past. Perhaps THIS is what you are seeking this morning, and today is the day that you say you have had enough of living life on your own, and will surrender your life to Christ. In a moment, I will ask you to pray about the decision you need to make.
C – Character Development: God doesn’t want to just change our behavior; he wants to change our character. Character is what we are when no one is looking. When your character is under the lordship of Jesus Christ, your behavior will follow. The real you needs to be under the control of the Holy Spirit, not that “fake you” wearing a mask. Your transformation begins when you admit that you have a need, a problem, a sin, and then begin to follow the one who can literally change your life.
E – Enemies into Friends: This phrase comes from the message Skip gave the other week on friends and enemies. Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. But this is NOT something we can do in our own strength. This point regarding diligence is that THIS element is the foundational teaching of Jesus; that we were once enemies of God but those who are in Christ are brought near to God as friends (John 15:14), those who were once dead are brought back to life (Ephesians 2:1-5). If you desire to live a life of prosperity, virtue, success, health, peace, meaning and purpose, you CANNOT leave out this part of the equation. Be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is time to AVOID living as a fool.
Conclusion: the time to decide on how you will live is now. Are you up for the challenge to live your life on purpose, in all diligence? Is it time to get serious about your relationship to Christ? Is it time to join this church in membership or through baptism?