Calling Someone a Fool

Here are a few questions to get us thinking today:

  1. How did your parents settle disputes between you and your siblings when you were a kid?
  2. 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).

  1. What legal case has especially cause your attention?
  2. How are murder and anger related?
  3. What new standard of right and wrong is Jesus creating?
  4. 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.

Passing the Baton

Every leader needs mentors and models – typically other leaders just ahead of where we are in our growth and our journey. Every leader also needs to be mentoring and modeling those just behind us. This is the only way for discipleship to take on the multi-generational nature described by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” (NLT)

In order to both mentor and be mentored effectively, it’s important to see how the relationship between Paul and Timothy developed over time. It unfolded in three phases.

Phase One: Parenthood – In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he addresses him as “my true son in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2) We first meet Timothy in Acts 16 when Paul is heading out on his second missionary journey. He stops in Lystra to pick up the young disciple who accompanies him, assists him, and serves as a sort of apprentice under him. Timothy’s biological father was Greek, but no evidence is ever given that he was a Christian. So Paul filled the shoes of a spiritual father to Timothy.

Phase Two: Pacesetting – The second phase of our ministry mentoring is pacesetting – being the example of what mature ministry looks like. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he points out that, “you know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance…” (2 Timothy 3:10-11 NLT) Paul sets the pace with his life and challenges Timothy to learn by keeping up and emulating his lifestyle.

No generation is exempt from the call to fulfill the Great Commission or to serve God’s purposes as fully as possible. The next generation is always watching, so we get to set the pace.

Phase Three: Partnering – In the book of Romans, there is a somewhat obscure reference that Paul makes to Timothy in Romans 16:21, “Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings.” Timothy has gone from being a son, to a student, and now to being a colleague and a co-laborer. We spend plenty of time desiring and praying for more laborers, but perhaps not enough time investing in those with the potential to become our partners in the mission.

We serve today because of the repetition of this three-phase process for centuries. It didn’t stop with Timothy. The baton has been passed to you who are reading this, and it is our responsibility to be parents, pacesetters, and partners with the next generation until Jesus comes!

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Three Fears of Leaders

For God to really use you in ministry, you have to be willing and able to get close to people and enjoy real relationships with them. But for most believers around the world, it’s pretty apparent that we’re dying of relational isolation.

Many of our relationship problems are not really relationship problems; they’re personal problems that spill over into relationships. Many of our relationship conflicts, including conflicts with people within the church, are really personal conflicts and internal battles. If you want to have great relationships and therefore be a better leader, you have to start with some changes in yourself first rather than expecting everyone around you to change and fix your internal issues for you.

The Bible says in Romans 12:9, “Love from the center of who you are. Don’t fake it” (MSG). Authenticity is when “what you see” is “what you get.” It’s when you don’t play a role, you don’t wear a mask. Most People are afraid to remove their masks. Here are three reasons why.

We Are Afraid of Being Exposed

The fear of exposure is the fear that people will find out that you’re not really who you say you are. It is the fear of exposure that keeps us from being authentic.

We don’t mind our strengths being exposed. We don’t mind our capabilities being exposed. We don’t mind all the good things about us being exposed. What we don’t want people to find out about us is our weaknesses. We don’t want our insecurities exposed. We don’t want our sense of inadequacy exposed (and all of us have that sense of inadequacy). It’s part of being a human and ministry leaders are not exempt. We don’t want people to know that we don’t have it all together.

The truth is nobody has it all together. So why do we pretend? Why do we fake it? Why do we wear masks? The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “No one really knows what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like except that person himself.” The reason it’s easy to wear a mask is because nobody really knows what you’re like on the inside. In the entire universe there is only one person who fully understands you. And, by the way, it’s not you. It’s God. You don’t even understand yourself.

If you really want to build deep, meaningful, satisfactory, intimate relationships you’re going to have to let people see your weaknesses. There is no other way. We can impress the people we lead from a distance but we can only influence people up close. And when we get up close, people see our warts and they see our mistakes and we don’t like that.

So how do you overcome the fear of exposure? You decide to walk in the light. The Bible says in 1 John 1:7 “If we live in the light as God is in the light then we can share fellowship with each other.” Fellowship is soul-to-soul interaction, heart-to-heart. The key to genuine fellowship in a marriage, in a friendship or any other relationship, is to live in the light.

We Are Afraid of Being Rejected

We don’t want to let people see what we’re really like because we fear disapproval. We fear rejection. Proverbs 29:25 says this “The fear of human opinion disables.” You spend much of your life trying to earn the acceptance of other people. The way you dress, the way you talk, the kind of car you drive and the house you live in. The fear of human opinion disables. But trusting in God protects you from that.

Why do we fear the opinions of other people, often people we don’t even know? Because we all have a deep desire to be loved. In fact, you don’t just have the desire. You need to be loved. You were created by God to be loved by God and by other people It’s one of the basic needs of your life – to be loved. So we spend our entire lives making sure we’re not unloved. And we’ll do anything to make sure we’re not unloved. It drives us to great extremes many, many times.

The antidote to a fear of rejection is to trust in God’s love. Don’t build your self-worth on another person who loves you conditionally. The Bible says in Daniel 10:19, “Don’t be afraid for you are deeply loved by God. Be at peace, take heart and be strong.” And Psalm 56:11 says, “I trust in God so I will not be afraid. What can people do to me?

We Are Afraid of Being Hurt Again

The truth is you will be hurt in life many, many times. This is not heaven. This is earth where people get hurt. And you’re going to be hurt over and over and over. The important issue is what you do with that hurt. If you hold on to that hurt, it’s going to strangle the love out of your life. It’ll all go away. If you hold on to your hurt it will shrink your heart, harden it, and eventually turn it to stone. You’ve got to deal with the hurt so you can get on with your life.

There’s a sad process that goes like this:

  1. The more you have been hurt, the more you become afraid of being hurt again.
  2. The more you’re afraid of being hurt again the more defensive you become and protective.
  3. The more defensive and protective you become the more inauthentic a person you become.

We develop self-protective habits and build defensive walls around our hearts that nobody can get through. We actually push people away by all kinds of behaviors.

What happens to people who give in to the hurt and hold on to it? What happens to the people who don’t know how to let the hurt go? The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:17, “All they get are days full of sadness and sorrow and they end up sick, defeated and angry.”

The antidote to the fear of being hurt again is to let God give you a new heart. God is in the heart transplant business. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit in you. I will remove your heart of stone.” Have you been on the defense because you have been hurt? Jesus Christ can give you a fresh start. He can move you from phony inauthenticity back into authentic relationships.

If you want to be a more effective leader and shepherd, it means being close to people. Being close to people means taking the risk of being exposed, rejected, and hurt. In the end, it’s a risk well worth taking. Jesus opened Himself up to people and He was rejected and crucified; but He also launched a world-changing movement and became the Way for people to know God and go to heaven.

If you want to lead, you’re going to get hurt, but you just might change the world in the process.

From: 3 Fears That Prevent Leaders from Being Authentic and Influencing People
By Rick Warren

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Taking Action Against Anger

So, what can be done right now to help me with me anger? Ask, “Can I change this situation?” (If the door squeaks, oil it!)

  • — If you can, change it.
  • — If you can’t, release it.

PRAY … “Lord, You are sovereign over my life. Sine You know everything, You know I feel a strong sense of (hurt, injustice, fear, or frustration) about (name the person or the situation). I release this situation into Your hands. I trust You with my future and with me.
In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8)

“Anger is one letter short of danger.” This saying is more than a catchy phrase; these words reflect the painful truth. Too many times the tongue has not been tamed and conversations have escalated out of control.

Acknowledge Your Anger:

  • Be willing to admit you do have anger.
  • Be aware of when you feel anger.
  • Become aware of suppressing or repressing your anger because of fear.
  • Be willing to take responsibility for any inappropriate anger.
  • He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

Analyze Your Style:

  • How often do you feel angry? (Often? Sometimes? Never?)
  • How do you know when you are angry?
  • How do others know when you are angry?
  • How do you release your anger?
  • Do you explode? Do you become teary-eyed? Do you joke or tease? Do you become sarcastic? Do you criticize? Do you become defensive?
  • Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” (Psalm 26:2)

Assess the Source:

  • Hurt: Is the source of your anger hurt feelings from the words or actions of others?
  • Injustice: Is the source of your anger an emotional response to the unjust actions of someone toward another person?
  • Fear: Is the source of your anger a feeling of loss or fear?
  • Frustration: Is the source of your anger frustration because something didn’t go as you planned?
  • I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (1 Chronicles 29:17)

Appraise Your Thinking:

  • Are you expecting others to meet your standards?
    • “She should take better care of her children.”
    • “He ought to notice what I do for him.”
    • “He must be here before 7:00 p.m.”
    • “She’d better not call during dinner!”
  • Are you guilty of distorted thinking?
    • Exaggerating the situation
    • Assuming the worst
    • Labeling one action based on other actions
    • Generalizing by saying, “you never” or “you always”
  • A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.” (Proverbs 21:29)

Admit Your Needs:

  • Anger is often used as a tactic to get inner needs met.
    • Do you use anger as a manipulative ploy to demand certain “musts” in an attempt to feel loved?
    • Do you use explosive anger to get your way in an attempt to feel significant?
    • Do you use controlling anger, insisting on certain conditions in order to feel secure?
    • Do you know that only Christ can ultimately meet all these needs?
  • My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Abandon Your Demands:

Instead of demanding that others meet your inner needs for love, for significance, and for security, learn to look to the Lord to meet your needs.

  • “Lord, though I would like to feel more love from others, I know that You love me unconditionally.” “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • “Lord, though I would like to feel more significant to those around me, I know that I am significant in Your eyes.” “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • “Lord, though I wish I felt more secure in my relationships, I know I am secure in my relationship with You.” “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)
  • “Lord, though I wish others would be more responsive to my needs, I know that You have promised to meet all my needs.” “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

Alter Your Attitudes:

Take the following steps as outlined in Philippians 2:2–8.

Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:2–8)

  • Have the goal to be like-minded with Christ. Philippians 2:2
  • Do not think of yourself first. Philippians 2:3
  • Give the other person preferential treatment. Philippians 2:3
  • Consider the other person’s interests. Philippians 2:4
  • Have the attitude of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:5
  • Do not emphasize your position or rights. Philippians 2:6
  • Look for ways to serve with a servant’s heart. Philippians 2:7
  • Speak and act with a humble spirit. Philippians 2:8
  • Be willing to die to your own desires. Philippians 2:8

Address Your Anger:

Determine whether your anger is really justified. “A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.” (Proverbs 21:29)

Decide on the appropriate response. “[There is] a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

a. How important is the issue?
b. Would a good purpose be served if I mention it?
c. Should I acknowledge my anger only to the Lord?

Depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance. “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)

Develop constructive dialogue when you confront. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

Don’t speak from a heart of unforgiveness.
Do … Think before you speak.

Don’t use phrases such as: “How could you?” or “Why can’t you?”
Do … Use personal statements such as “I feel.…”

Don’t bring up past grievances.
Do … Stay focused on the present issue.

Don’t assume that the other person is wrong.
Do … Listen for feedback from another point of view.

Don’t expect instant understanding.
Do … Be patient and keep responding with gentleness.

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)

Demonstrate the grace of God, by saying to yourself:

“I placed my anger on the cross with Christ.”
“I am no longer controlled by anger.”
“I am alive with Christ living inside me.”
“I will let Christ forgive through me.”
“I will let Christ love through me.”
“I will let Christ reveal truth through me.”

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.