But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, You good-for-nothing, shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, “you fool,” shall be guilty to go into the fiery hell. Matthew 5:22
All of the first consequences of the sins mentioned here are civil penalties, for anger you go before the court, (as equivalent to murder) for saying “Raca” (good-for nothing) to someone you should be punished in a civil court for slander. But Jesus said that to call someone a fool deserves fiery hell. Let’s look at “fiery hell.”
The word that has been translated, in most modern Bible translations, as hell is the word Gehenna. Understanding why the Bible translators decided to translate Gehenna into the word hell takes a lengthy Biblical and historical exegesis that other people have done and I’m not going to spend time on here (I have put some references at the bottom) please do your own study. But my conclusion and humble opinion from having done that study, is that Gehenna was a specific location that was well know to Jesus’ Jewish audience. Gehenna was the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem through the dung gate. To translate Gehenna into hell makes no sense. Why would they do that any more than they would translate Galilee or Samaria or Jerusalem into some other word. They must have had an agenda. (I digress)
Gehenna was a literal location and if we are going to take the Bible literally we need to keep it literal. So my conclusion is that Jesus was literally saying if you call someone a fool you belong in Gehenna.
As I have said, Gehenna was a location outside the city of Jerusalem known in the Old Testament as the Valley of Hinnom (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Chronicles 33:6, Jeremiah 7:31.) It was the location where idols to the Baals and a furnace or human sacrifice were set up. King Ahaz burned his own sons and daughters on the fire to the false gods in this location. In Jesus day Gehenna was the city dump where trash and bodies of criminals were taken to be burned. Today Gehenna has been transformed into a beautiful city park.
So why did Jesus say that if you call someone a fool you shall be guilty to go into the fire of Gehenna. In my last blog I concluded that by calling someone a fool you have put yourself into the self righteous position of being the judge. You have committed idolatry by making yourself equal to God. I think that what Jesus is saying is this. “If you want to commit idolatry by placing yourself in the position of God, then you are no better than your ancestors, who also committed idolatry in the Valley of Hinnom. If you want to be an idolator, then go join the other idolators in the in the fires of Gehenna.” He was telling them that the same guilt that rested on their ancestors for idolatry also rested on them.
By saying this to His audience, Jesus was reiterating what he said many other places to the Pharisees, “you are white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones” “you brood of vipers.” Remember Jesus audience here was not only the common folks but also the self righteous pharisees who were great at condemning others. The valley of Hinnom was a black mark on Jewish culture, children woke up having night mares from the stories of children being burned to death as sacrifices to the Baals. Jesus used this statement not as a statement of future eternal punishment but to show the folks right here and now that the judgmental attitude of self righteousness wasn’t any better than the old testament practices of idolatry.
|Ancient Altar for Sacrifice to Idols in Northern Israel
This applies to us today as sure as it applied to the Pharisee of Jesus day. We are to love not hate, we are to bless not condemn.
“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2.
When we allow hatred, anger, and judgment in our heart not only does it come out our mouths but it also poisons our inner being. We become what we have judged in others.
At the conclusion of this section of the Words of the Master I really want to go back to how I started this series. I don’t want to just search for information but I want to apply what I learn. I want to ask the Lord right now to show me the areas where I have allowed anger, hatred, or judgment to take root in my heart. I want to weed out all that idolatry and have it forgiven and removed from my heart. I hope you will pray the same prayer.
Grace and Peace
References for further study on Gehenna
“Dropping Hell and Embracing Grace” by Ivan A. Rogers, Available on Amazon.com