Matthew 5:23-26 (ESV)
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
“Spirit of the Law”
In yesterday’s Daily Bible Journal post titled “You Have Heard That It Was Said,” I considered Jesus’ teachings from Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.'” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Everyone would naturally approach “You shall not murder” with confidence if they’ve never committed murder. But Jesus reveals that murder includes anger towards a brother, insulting a brother, and that saying “You fool” to someone makes you liable to “the hell of fire,” the sixth commandment should be a mountain too high for anyone to climb.
Jesus now turns from the “don’ts” of this command to the “do’s!”
In the first part of our text today, Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
For me, this really hits home, especially after considering Jesus’ teachings on the Beatitudes and all that has led up to this section of Scripture. How many unresolved conflicts have I had with a brother or sister in Christ without it even crossing my mind? Worse, how many times has it crossed my mind and I have ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit to be reconciled? Maybe I was “too busy” or didn’t have enough humility to take that first step. Either way, I should have. No excuses.
I’ve often hidden behind “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18), while I served God and “brought my gift to the altar.” But as I reflect on all the times I have failed miserably at this, God has reminded me of a blessing that I have never before considered.
There have been times when I have sensed I may have offended someone and I’ve gone to them to see if there were any issues between us. Maybe it was a difficult meeting at the church or maybe I confronted someone in a way that was more confrontational than filled with grace. Sometimes it has turned out that there were indeed still issues between us and I have been able to make things right with them or at the very least, live out my end of Romans 12:18. Most of the time, however, people have acted surprised when I’ve approached them and they told me everything was okay between us. Perhaps they were showing me grace!
Either way, we were brought closer together and more importantly, closer to the principles in Matthew 5:23-24 and into the heart of God and the Spirit of the Law. Things just got real up in here!
When we consider how easily we can compartmentalize things and how often we fail at obeying clear biblical teaching to be reconciled with one another, it should drive a dagger into the heart of anyone who values their relationship with God . . . that is, unless your heart is so hard it breaks the blade!
Seeking reconciliation takes humility and a willingness to obey God at the expense of personal comfort.
Imagine as the offering plate is passed around, God reminds you of an offense with a brother or sister in Christ. Everyone is sitting there, and the offering plate make its way towards you. You get up, approach the person who has something against you, and seek reconciliation right then and there. That gift means more to God than a large check with a hard heart. More good will come from reconciliation than any financial gift you or I bring, or any act of service we may do for Him. Once we are reconciled, we can bring our gift!
Our relationship with God cannot be right when our relationships with each other are broken.
Jesus turns our attention to reconciliation with those outside of the church – specifically someone making an accusation serious enough they are going to court. This time, instead of leaving you gift at the altar, Jesus says, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26).
While the offense is not revealed in the text, Jesus is referencing Roman law which allowed an accuser to bring someone before a judge. If you were guilty, it was in your best interest to settle up quickly before going to court where you could be thrown in prison until you paid full restitution.
Since we are all guilty before God, our sin debt needs to be paid in full before we stand before The Judge. Jesus said to come to terms quickly, before the day of judgment. If you take your chances in court, you will be thrown into “prison” and you will pay your sin debt forever. But if you put your faith in Jesus Christ, He will pay your debt and set you free. Will you do that today?
The day is coming when you will stand before The Judge. Come quickly, before it is too late!
Heavenly Father, giver of grace and mercy, I thank you for my salvation. Thank you for not giving me what I deserve but providing Jesus Christ to pay my debt and making me free. I pray for anyone reading this who has not received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior that they would do so today, even now as they are reading these words. For your glory and in Christ’s Name I pray, Amen.
Thank you for reading my Daily Bible Journal!
Reading, reflecting and writing from the Bible has so radically impacted my life in Christ, it’s as if I’ve been on auto-pilot when reading the Bible in the past. There’s something about “sitting with the text” and through prayerful reflection, sharing what comes to mind. Because I’m posting online for others to read, I consider my words carefully and try to be clear and accurate.
This daily process enhances my understanding of God’s Word and embeds it into my conscience. It literally gets “hidden in my heart!”
I hope this encourages others to be in God’s Word every day.
For God’s Glory,