The Fool In The Bible
In Matthew 5:21 Jesus says: “You have heard it said to the people long ago ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” Then, in verse 22 Jesus takes the commandment a step further when he says, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, Raca (meaning a form of contempt, like calling your brother or sister in Christ a blockhead or nincompoop) is answerable to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court) and death. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” In other words, eternal death.
Apparently Jewish law had sanctions against the specific insult of “Raca,” but Jesus showed that verbal abuse of any kind to a brother or sister in Christ makes one liable to eternal damnation. The only way out of the judgment is for the abuser to go to the brother/sister and be reconciled, as Jesus spoke about in the subsequent verse.
Why do I write about this “fool” name-calling? Well, in chapter eight of The Rector (Surely you knew I’d want to bring my latest novel into this!) Martha, the protagonist, refers to someone calling her a fool, and says ” … he shouldn’t have called me a fool. Not if he knew the Bible.”
There are several Biblical doctrines and spiritual discussions in The Rector, and I felt this one needed a little special attention since it is seldom discussed, or taught from the pulpit on Sundays.
Years ago I purchased William Hendriken’s New Testament Commentaries (all eight volumes). His perspective below sheds more light on this abuse.
“He [Jesus] is saying that sinful anger—the kind that leads to bitter words—is in its very nature murder. It is murder committed in the heart. Unless he repents, the person with this kind of attitude faces everlasting punishment in hell. Jesus traced the deed to the underlying evil disposition of the heart.”
Hendriken’s exegesis of verse 21 is worth noting. He refers us back to Genesis 9:6. “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.…” (From that verse it also follows that the punishment was to be capital punishment.)
But, again, Jesus takes the Mosaic law to the heart of the matter. Our hearts. If we hate a brother or sister, it’s the same as murder. If we call a brother or sister a “fool” or and “idiot” it’s the same as if we’d murdered them in our heart.
I won’t be calling any of my brothers and sisters in Christ a “fool,” I can guarantee it.
Michael Hicks Thompson, author of Christian Fiction With Theology. The Rector is his first in the Solo Ladies Bible Study series. The Actress, a sequel, is due for release in late 2016.