"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." (Matt. 5:22-24 NAS)
(This will conclude a series of 4 articles on this passage having already covered verse 22 in the prior 3 articles.)
Can a man be saved who has contempt for and mistreats his fellowman? John says no when he says, "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:10 NAS) Contempt for and mistreatment of a brother are the opposite of love and places one in the devil's camp. Four verses later John says, "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death." (1 John 3:14 NAS)
One is either a child of God or a child of the devil, there is no middle ground, and John declares that the man who does not love his brother is not of God. Such a man abides in death. Thus verse 23 of this passage begins with the words "if therefore" tying what is to come with what has just been said in verse 22 and verse 22 talks about different ways one can be unloving toward his brother.
One cannot on the one hand worship God and on the other hand mistreat his fellowman whom God created and gave a soul to and for whom Christ also died. God does not show partiality for "there is no partiality with God." (Rom. 2:11 NAS) "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23 NAS) "There is none righteous, not even one." (Rom. 3:10 NAS) The man whose vanity and pride has led him to see himself as being in a better position before God than others, say for example the Pharisee who went up to pray in Luke 18:10-14, fools only himself.
Christians need to be very aware of the great danger they are in at all times as regards this matter. They try their best to be faithful and obedient in all things. There is much evil they would not think of partaking in. We see sin and protest against it as we should. The Pharisee that went up to pray to God and went back unjustified in Luke 18 was not wrong in saying there were swindlers, unjust, and adulterous people in the world for that there were and always will be. The Pharisee saw that. He did not partake in those things. He seemed to be faithfully obeying the commands of God so what was his problem?
He had lost sight of the fact that he too was but a mere mortal, a man in need of God's grace and forgiveness. His obedience in commandment keeping had evidently been so great as to blind his eyes to his own sins. Pride had grown up in his heart and so much so that he was feeling sorry for other sinners who needed forgiveness unlike himself who he felt no longer needed it. He had become his own judge. He would judge not only himself but also his fellowman. How did he know this tax-gatherer who was also praying was a sinner extraordinaire? He was ready to take God's place as judge of all. His outward commandment keeping, the outward observances of such, had led him to judge himself a righteous man in need of no forgiveness.
God judges a man's heart. "But the LORD said to Samuel, '…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'" (1 Sam. 16:7 NAS) "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds." (Jer. 17:10 NAS) "My shield is with God, Who saves the upright in heart." (Psalms 7:10 NAS) It is the pure in heart that shall see God (Matt. 5:8). The Pharisee had a heart problem.
All Christians today who are trying to live faithful obedient lives need to beware of the tendency we all have to become like this Pharisee. We are faithful in the outward observances of Christianity, most concede we are, and the first thing we know we can find ourselves having trouble finding fault with ourselves. We can end up worshipping ourselves rather than God. The Bible says of that particular Pharisee that when he prayed he was "praying thus to himself." (Luke 18:11 NAS)
The man who would do such things as Jesus spoke of in our text in Matt. 5:22 seems to be a man much like the Pharisee of Luke 18 in his attitude toward his fellowman and towards himself. Jesus is telling us in verses 23 and 24 of our text if we have been this way toward our fellowman, have been disrespectful, hurtful, degraded him, or done him wrong in anyway go take care of that problem now. Go to him, own up to your sin, and be reconciled. That has top priority. Do not delay. What a wonderful world it would be if we would all obey God's golden rule—Matt. 7:12--(man gave it the name "golden" but the rule is God's).
"He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20 ESV) Let us all start loving our brother as we should.