"But I tell you that anyone that is angry with his brother is subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You Fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." Matthew 5:22
Man.. I suck. I have completely and utterly failed at this. I’m a full on failure in this department.
I’m not sure there is a day that goes by in which I don’t call someone an “idiot” or a “fool” or something along those lines. Not usually to their face but in my head, for sure. There are days, probably most days, that I think more than a handful of people are literally dumb. Inside and out. Even though when I say it or think it, in my heart I know that they aren’t. In fact, I am the dumb one for thinking they are. But I do this all the time. I do this at work, with family, with friends and of course, with strangers. All the while I am doing this I am in danger of the fire of hell. That’s an intense thought. A humbling and convicting thought. The things I say matter? Why so intense?
As I’m sitting on my couch reading this scripture, I’m just overwhelmed by all the times I’ve called someone an “idiot”. Every scenario in which I’ve called someone a mean name. I know why I do it. I do it because I think I’m superior. It’s extremely annoying that a person apart from my brain thinks something different and in a different way than I do. It’s super annoying that “that person” thinks “that way” or that “that person” acts “that way”. Just shut up and think and act the way my brain wants you to. I’ll be satisfied by it and you’ll be smarter for it. I laugh typing that out because in my heart I know that it is wrong in so many ways. I’ve learned to laugh when I know I am so blatantly wrong (sometimes). It doesn’t work like that and it shouldn’t.
Being called a name is brutally humiliating. If you pretend like it doesn’t affect you in some way, then you’re just not telling the truth. You can be indifferent to it but absolutely no one genuinely likes being called an “idiot” or a “fool”. It doesn’t feel good. It’s frustrating. It’s belittling. For men, it can be emasculating. Jesus is saying that using that kind of language towards someone is equal to murder in your heart. Not only should you be held answerable to the Sanhedrin for it, the Jewish court of the day, but you will be in danger of the fire of hell. And after reflecting on it for a little bit, I totally understand why Jesus is saying this. Words are powerful.
In the verses before this in Matthew 5, Jesus is telling me how I am the city on a hill, the salt of the earth and the light in the darkness. He talks about how my deeds should make others want to praise my Father in Heaven. By calling someone a name it implies a person’s stupidity or inferiority, or the utter contempt that I may have for them. I am going directly head-on in the opposite direction of everything Jesus is telling me to do and to be. I’m not being a light and I’m definitely not giving anyone a reason to praise my Father in Heaven. I might as well be committing a horrendous act because in the eyes of Jesus I have completely slandered His name and everything He stands for. I have taken the light that He has given me and I have blown it out. When I use that kind of language, I not only decide to take residence in the darkness but I attempt to take someone else down with me.
The instances keep coming to mind in which I’ve done this. Countless times to countless people.
I don’t want to dip my toe into the fires of hell anymore. I don’t want to take any more lives. I want to keep that light ignited and give people a reason to praise!
I am the fool. Not you. You’re exactly how God created you to be.