This two-week sermon series dives into ethical issues in Matthew 5 as an expansion on what Valley Vista Christian Community was learning from their pastor Larry Burtoft.
If you will take your Bibles, please, and turn to Matthew 5, we are going to take a little side tour here while Larry is away. We are going to go more deeply into some of the things that he’s been talking about rather than attempting to move on down the road and so if you will just think that the train has stalled for a couple of weeks, and we are going to get off and tour the countryside around and look and see what we can find. [:27]
Larry has been speaking to you about The Beatitudes and the mal-attitudes—also the woes and the blesseds. I want to speak to you in these two times that I have with you on subjects which are a part of our ordinary lives and which cause us great trouble in entering into the life of the Kingdom of God and the full redemption which is present to us in Christ Jesus. These are anger, sex, and swearing—anger, sex, and swearing.
You can help me a lot, if this week you would take time to just read Matthew 5—if you have time to read it each day, that would be fine, but at least once, try to give it a thoughtful reading. And if you would, please concentrate on that part of the chapter which comes after verse 20. [1:24]
Now verse 20 is the turning point of the whole sermon. Up to verse 20, you have announcements—Kingdom announcements—and these announcements are in versions of the world’s order and the world’s attitudes and they are summed up in the word which Jesus repeatedly gives—“the first shall be last and the last shall be first” (Matthew 20:16, author’s paraphrase1).
Now, I am sure that I have said to you in times past when I have spoken to you that these words are not a little throwaway line which Jesus sort of threw off as he departed the scene, like saying, “Hi Ho, Silver, away or something.” I mean, these are words which capture the entire battle between good and evil in this world. The first in the human order may well be last in God’s order. Hmm? [2:23]
The first shall be last and the last in the human order may well be first in God’s order. As Larry has been presenting it, these statements of Jesus are an indication of the nature of the Kingdom of God. They are announcements. They don’t tell you to do anything. They say, “Here it is folks; do what you will. This is the way it is. Do what you will.” Here are some people who are depressed, and mourning and they are blessed and here are some people who are well off and laughing and they are miserable. Do what you will. This is the way it is. There is God’s Kingdom and there is man’s kingdom.
Now, when we come to verse 20, we see these stunning words, “Verily, I say to you,” Jesus said, “unless your righteousness shall surpass or exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). [3:38]
Now, it’s difficult to communicate what this says because we are trained, and in some degree rightly, to regard the scribes and the Pharisees as bad folks. You have to read it something like this to get it—unless your righteousness goes beyond the very best that the worldly order around you recognize, you can’t touch the Kingdom of God. You can’t plug into it. You can’t come into contact with that reality and be a part of it.
See, he’s been talking about, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit. . . . Blessed are they that mourn” (Matthew 5:3-4, KJV) and so forth; and now he is saying you’ve got to go beyond the kind of righteousness, which is acknowledged by, if you wish the most respectable and the very best people as being the right kind of thing. You’ve got to go beyond that before you can make the contact and enter into that reality which makes the poor, and the poor in spirit blessed, which makes those who are persecuted for righteousness and who hunger for it and cry out for it and long for it and wet their pillow with tears because they have not had justice. They have not had righteousness in themselves or in the world. Before that person can enter into the blessedness of the Kingdom of God they have to move down to a different level of righteousness. [5:07]
That level of righteousness can be characterized very simply as moving from the level of action—righteous action—to the pervasive rightness of heart. The righteousness of the scribe and the Pharisee is the righteousness which is tied to specific actions, and which allows us to make judgments about other people and ourselves and say, “Yes, this one’s right and yes, that one’s wrong.” It allows us to manipulate and manage both ourselves and others, but Jesus says, “No, you can’t understand and enter in to the reality of God’s Kingdom unless you have moved to where you understand that that righteousness is nothing.”
You see, that’s the righteousness of which Jeremiah said, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, KJV). It is that because the massive personality of the human being lies below that level. You see, what’s important about you is not what you do, but what you are ready to do. It’s what you would do if the circumstances were right that tells who you really are. [6:36]
And now this morning, I want to talk about anger, and I hope I don’t make you mad. But I’ll bet some of you have been mad this week. I’m going to talk about anger because it is by reference to anger that Jesus illustrates a deeper level of righteousness. Now, it is very difficult to approach this, you see, because anger is one of the most troublesome things in human life. We live our lives worrying about making people angry, worrying about having become angry, dealing with the effects of having been angry, trying to avoid the wrath of other people. Anger is as present as the oxygen you breath in normal human life. Anger.
There are many illusions about peace and righteousness. For example, one of the main illusions about peace is that if you have justice, you will have peace. Uh, uh—oh, no! All you have to do is look and see the many people who have received justice, but they are mad, and you will see that there is no peace. Peace is not the result of justice. Peace is the result of a heart that is beyond anger. [7:57]
Now, anger itself is not a bad thing. God got angry. Jesus got angry, and we are told that we can be angry and sin not. But you see, not everything that is not bad is advantageous. There are a lot of things which are not bad, but you’d be better off without them. And that is why in Hebrews 12:1, we are told to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (KJV). There are a lot of wonderful people who have dealt with the sin question pretty well, but they are being crushed by weights and one of the greatest weights in this world is anger. One of the greatest weights in this world is anger!
Now, when Jesus begins to open up this topic of the righteousness of the Kingdom of God, the first thing he hits is anger. He contrasts the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees and the righteousness of the Kingdom in the following words in Matthew 5:21. “You have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill” (KJV). “Thou shalt not kill,” and many people regard not killing as righteous. You don’t kill anybody. Thou shalt not kill. The poet, Arthur Hugh Clough wrote, “Thou shalt not kill; but needs not strive/Officiously to keep alive.”2[9:51]
The question immediately comes up. You didn’t kill. What else happened? What else happened? You didn’t kill. What else happened?
And Jesus begins to move to the level of the heart. Listen to these words— “I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother . . .”—a few manuscripts read— “without cause” and the old authorized version takes advantage of that. Many of your newer versions don’t include that because the best manuscripts do not include “without a cause.” “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother—we don’t really have an equivalent in English for the Greek word—Raca . . .”
One of my colleagues recently said of another, “He’s a twit.” Now, if I had to define twit, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know a twit from a twerp. Right? A twit or a twerp? My God, do you know what that does to someone to receive that? “You are a twit. You are a twerp.” Raca is a lot like that. You insignificant—you nothing.
“. . . shall be in danger of the council”—the Sanhedrin Council—“but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22, KJV) [11:42]
So, immediately the Pharisee says, “Well, I’m never gonna say that.” Right? You see, that doesn’t get to what Jesus is dealing with. Jesus is not giving you some more things to do. A person who gets angry with his brother is condemned—shall be subject to condemnation, shall be subject to judgment. Who passes the judgment? Everyone around you. Everyone knows that there is something wrong with anger.
Now, I want to hasten on to say, that there is also something wrong at times if you don’t get angry, but I can’t say everything at once, okay? So, let me say this part first since Jesus said it first. He said, “Everyone who gets angry with his brother will be subject to judgment and subject to condemnation.” Where does it come from? It’s going to come from everyone around. It’s going to come from the person himself and above all, it’s going to come from the person at whom he is angry. It’s that old tit-for-tat game that we engage in. If I get angry with you, what is the first thing you are going to do with me? You are going to get angry with me. [13:01]
Now if I am some kind of dignitary or I have some sort of authority over you or I am your father or something like that, it may not manifest itself as anger, but I’ll tell you, it’s there. It’s there! And when Jesus said, you’ll be subject to condemnation if you get angry, he’s simply stating a fact of life. You turn anger loose; it will come right back at you. It’s one of the many dimensions of that law of life which Jesus said—when he said, “Give and it shall be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together, full measure shall men give unto your bosom” (Luke 6:38) and I’ll tell you, that’s right where they give it. You get angry, they’ll return that anger right back into your bosom.
You condemn; they will give it right back to you. Whatever you give, they will give it back to you. That’s the way life is. God made human beings and he made life generally, but he made human beings in human society in such a way that what we give is given back to us. And when we are angry, the condemnation comes rolling back in. You might as well get your broom or your bucket or whatever it is because it’s coming back to you and it’s going to make a mess and you’re going to have to clean it up. [14:14]
You know, I have never met a person who enjoys being angry. Now, I’ve met some people who have gotten so twisted around anger that they would tell you if you ask them, “Did you enjoy that?” “YEAH, I ENJOYED THAT!” [Shouting] They would say in tones or in attitudes which fully expressed they did not enjoy it.
Anger is a painful emotion. Anger in a fact is the mental equiavalent of physical pain. It is put in our system of God because we need to know when something is injuring us. And the way we know that is by the anger which floods forth. But it’s like nearly everything that God has put in our economy—it has been twisted. And we all know what anger is. Anger is a feeling. Primarily, it is a feeling. It wells up in us. It comes to the fore and begins to shake us up, and that’s why we don’t like it. [15:25]
Anger is disturbing, and as it grows into wrath, it becomes an all-consuming thing which is as irrational as anything you will ever see. And that’s when Satan gets to mixing pride and arrogance and fear in with it. Then you’ve got something that is stronger than the devil himself. The devil couldn’t appeal to it; he couldn’t get anywhere with it. He couldn’t get anywhere with you. That’s the way Satan works, you see.
As the first chapter of James tells us, “He begins to work on what is inside us.” He finds those buttons and those strings, and he becomes to punch them and pull them and pretty soon, we are just flying in every direction. And he can just stand back and watch it cook. See? He doesn’t need to do anything more. All that bad stuff has been turned loose and it has a life of its own. And anger is one of the primary things that he uses. Anger! [16:24]
And Jesus said, “If you are angry, you’re going to be condemned.” And he says, “If you go further beyond anger now and you come to the place where you can look at a person and you say, ‘You are worthless,’ you are in a situation where the religious authorities, if they were doing their business, would call you up and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got something here that needs to be taken care of’—Sanhedrin Council—I have a feeling that Jesus was making a little fun here of the Sanhedrin Council because it would never deal with such a thing as this. It had to deal with bigger things like how to convict and kill innocent people such as himself.
But you see, what he is saying is if the religious powers and Councils and authorities paid attention to the things that are really fundamental, here is where they would step in and minster and help and straighten things out. But normally, they always have something bigger to do. He does not mince words when it comes to the person who is prepared to say, “You fool.” He says that person is in danger [He slams his hand down] of hell fire. Now, not because he said, “You fool.” [17:35]
One of the things my grandmother taught me, when I was a child—cause she had a lot of grandkids around her—and we were always calling one another a fool and she taught us we weren’t supposed to do that. So, we found lots of ways of doing it without saying it, see?
But you see, the person has the attitude towards another being, “you are a fool.” Now, a fool is not just a twit or a twerp or a nothing, okay—whatever that is. A fool is someone in whom there is a positive evil working. The fool is not just an empty-headed person. We tend to think of a fool as an empty-headed person today. When the Bible says, for example, the fool has said in his heart there is no God, the connotation there is something much more like, this person is a fool because he has the evil in him and expresses this evil of the rejection of God. [18:34]
Now, Jesus is not saying, there are no fools; unfortunately, there are fools. But he is trying to teach us something about the attitude of heart and he knows that when we use that term in ordinary human affairs, “thou fool, you fool, you idiot”—we are not normally making a descriptive appraisal of someone’s intellectual ability. We are making a very deep indictment of their very being. And you see, Jesus is playing out these dimensions of where we go beyond killing and not killing. And he’s going into the depths of the heart.
Now, I want—this is just one level—I want quickly to read the other two levels. I’m not going to comment on them at length, because I want to come back and spend some detailed time talking about anger. But look at the other two levels in verses 21–25 that he goes through in showing the righteousness of the Kingdom of God. Verse 23 starts with “therefore,”—wherefore the therefore? Why is therefore there? Therefore, always refers back to what went before, doesn’t it? Hmmm? [19:59]
If God is so serious about our attitudes towards others, our anger about calling them twits and twerps and fools—if God is so serious about that “Therefore, when you bring your gift to the altar and you remember that your brother has something against you” (Matthew 5:23)—see, he’s talking about a tender heart and that’s wherefore the therefore.
In the light of the tenderness of heart that we are to have towards others, when there is someone that has something against us, “Leave there your gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled with thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matthew 5:24, KJV) [20:43]
And then the third level: Now, we’ve gone from brother to adversaries. Verse 25:“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. And verily I say unto you, you shall not come out until you have paid it all.” (Matthew 5:25–26)
And let me tell you that I know many, many people that, though they be walking around and looking like they are free, they are in debtor’s prison. They are locked into it with an adversary and they are paying the uttermost farthing in the most bitter terms because they simply did not release someone. They simply did not say, “Alright take it.” [Slams the podium!] They fought over it like two dogs fighting over a rotten bone in a back alley. They fought over it as if God were not alive, as if they were certainly not his children. They fought over it as if it were the most precious and last thing. Maybe it was some man, maybe it was some child, maybe it was some job or some opportunity. I know young people get in binds over mates. They many times will go through life paying the uttermost farthing because they were not able in faith and in love to say, “Well, have it. I’ll trust God. God has many wonderful things for me” and go on in that attitude. [22:28]
Now, these are dimensions, and I don’t want to get lost in these. I just want to say this one general thing. Don’t, please, turn these into more things to do. What you have to understand here is that Jesus is talking about a life in which many times these will be the reasonable and sweet things to do.
You see, if you come down and you’re locked in with an adversary. They want something and won’t give in and you want it—you need to be able to give it sweetly. You know what I mean? To give it sweetly. Not, BLAH, TAKE IT! Give it sweetly. It doesn’t matter if it’s your child or it’s your mate or it’s your boss or it’s a neighbor. You see, what Jesus is saying here is, “I’ve got plenty of provisions for you, so that you can give it sweetly”—plenty of provision. Sometimes you are going to have to push a little bit because your habits all go in the other direction. All I’m saying is don’t do it by what we used to call back in Missouri—main strength and awkwardness; just throw yourself into it and stumble and blunder through it and get it done. [23:48]
There are resources available. You see, that’s what Jesus is saying to you. No one likes to hate people. No one likes anger. No one wants wrath. Only if we have gotten all twisted up by it do we come to the point to where we enjoy people hating us. And we are prepared to live without reconciliation or we are prepared to devote our lives to paying or making someone else pay the uttermost farthing. No one likes that. Everyone knows that life wasn’t meant to be like that. Right? It’s bad for your stomach, bad for your brain, bad for everything. Your system was not built to have all that stuff pumping through it that comes from the emotions that go with it. God did not build you that way. And he’s made provision. [24:38]
Well, let’s talk in a little more detail now about anger itself. What is anger? It may help to think just a little bit about the word. It comes from the Latin term, , and it really has to do with being straightened or pinched. It means put in a bind or pinched. It’s associated with the German word ing—narrow—and that root is very instructive I think because you see the primary thing about anger is a sense of violation of our will or our self. We get angry when we feel like our self and our will has been somehow imposed upon. The primary sense of anger is, as we say sometimes, being “put upon.”
Our will is set aside. That’s why, by the way, that you see, your little child when it gets to be two or three, they normally manifest temper tantrums. Y’all know about temper tantrums? Some people keep manifesting them until they are a hundred. A little child, when they begin to develop a sense of their will and there is no longer this immediate union with mommy and daddy and whatever is around, they become capable of anger. They’ve been capable of pain ever since they’ve been here. You see, anger requires that we have a sense of self. This is awfully important and it’s a good thing. It is not a bad thing. And I want to personally say that I think many, many times the teaching that we used to hear about a breaking the will of a child is a terrible thing. [26:31]
Now, there was something important and right about it but generally speaking you must not break the will of the child. You’ll destroy the child’s sense of individuality. You will make them dependent. They will never be a whole person. They will never be able to function rightly on their own. They will never then be able to treat God as a person, treat others as a person, because they will be hurt so badly in themselves that they will be made dependent—they weren’t made to be that. God made them to be individuals. It’s a sense of individuality that is violated—the sense of will. You can see when you think about it in this way, the relationship of anger to love. When we come down to these basic things like love and anger and fear and so on, we need to think about them in relationship to one another, because love is precisely a sense of fulfillment, a sense of expansion of the self and of the will. [27:26]
When two people fall in love, it’s a beautiful thing to see because there is a sense of identity and will, a sense of feeling the same, of union, of expansion of the self. The same way with a child and the mother or a grandparent. Sometimes you think grandparents will blow away. They expand so much when they look at a little kid. But you see that union there, that feeling of sameness and expansion of themselves. That’s why they want grandchildren. That’s why they want children. A very deep kind of thing that rests in human beings is this ability to expand themselves into another, see? And love is like that. Love unifies. The two become what? One. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? Isn’t that a wonderful thing that people can be so united in love that when one acts, the other is acting? It’s not just in marriage. It’s meant to be all of humanity united in love and that’s what love does. Love brings together and it expands.
Anger is the feeling of response to being violated. It may be real or imagined. Imagined violations make you just as angry as real ones, sometimes more so. Because, after all, our imagination can blow it up wonderfully. It’s usually what happens there that gets us in more trouble than anything else. It’s interesting to watch people when they are angry. [28:55]
The other day I was at a store. Someone had left their Doberman Pincher in a truck, and left the window down. Someone walked by whistling, and the Doberman stuck his head out the window, barked at him, and bumped him on the shoulder. You should have seen that man. It was amusing to see. This is a case where the man was not really hurt, but he was injured. In fact, he said in no uncertain terms that he was going to kill the person that owned that dog. It’s interesting!
Fear is one of the things we get angry about. I remember, occasionally out in the bush somewhere when I was a child, I would almost step on a snake. We had copperheads back in Missouri. They are easy to step on, and the fear that would surge up would evoke anger. I mean, what does this snake mean being here where I am? Right? And then I would find myself very busily engaged in killing that poor snake with a great sense of self-righteousness, I mean. This evil thing that has imposed upon me. [30:22]
So anger is a sense of a violation. It’s a feeling of the self being violated, and it is a good thing for its purpose. It is through the sense of self that we individuate that we become a person. God has placed it in us so that it will, in an untaught way, come forth and we will have that feeling. It’s primarily a negative feeling in a sense that it pushes you away, so that you won’t even be around here anymore. And you won’t be able to come back. Right?
Anger is the ultimate form of rejection. And when it we have this feeling surge up in us, it—because it is tied to the sense itself—very soon becomes involved with pride. It’s very important to understand and that while anger is not in itself sinful, it is a great threat, a great burden, and as soon as it becomes involved with pride, it does become a sinful thing. It does become something that is wrong. [31:38]
Paul said, “Be anger and sin not,” in Ephesians 4:26— “Be angry and sin not.” And one of the ways that you can be angry and not sin is by not letting the sun go down on your wrath. You remember, that’s what he said.
Now, not letting the sun go down on your wrath is not the same thing as not being angry and not sinning. In fact, wrath and anger are not the same. Wrath is a higher degree, a more complicated concept than anger. Wrath is, I think, all is wrong and the best we can say about it is that we should reserve it to God. [32:36]
Paul does say. “for this reason, the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6). But wrath is something—I have never seen anyone who was able to be wrathful and stay right. It’s too much. We can’t stand it. God may be big enough for it, but we are not. Our little vessel just can’t hang it, you know? And when we move into wrath, it’s consuming, and people all around us start getting hurt because it’s just too much for us to handle. [33:07]
So, Paul says, “Be angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26). There are ways of being angry and not sinning. On the other hand, Paul does not recommend anger to us. I believe the only time in the Gospels that we are told that Jesus got angry is in Mark. I believe it’s Mark 3:5, where he is about to heal the man with the withered hand, and he asks the people who are there, “What should I do? Should I heal this man or not?” (See verse 4) And they make the mistake of having to stop and think about it. You see? And it says Jesus was angered. It doesn’t even say he was angry when he drove the people out of the temple. You and I probably would have to get angry before we do that, but he perhaps didn’t have to.
See, many of the things we need to do in dealing with other people, we can only do if we get angry. That’s the way our lives are shaped. We are not brave enough to do it just because of truth and because it’s right and because it’s good. We have to wait until we get angry and then we blow up. And then of course we can sort of say, “Well, I wasn’t responsible. I lost my temper.” Hmmm? I lost my temper. [34:31]
It’s like the fall of man, you know? He didn’t fall; he jumped, right? We use these words which help us sort of get off the spot. We don’t lose our temper. Losing your temper is like falling in love. There’s an act of will involved. It isn’t something that just jumps on you. So Jesus didn’t lose his temper—or have to lose his temper—to cleanse the temple. Right? He knew it needed cleansing and so he cleaned it out. He said the right things about it. He did the right things and taught the lesson that he taught in that context and moved on. But in this case, it’s interesting. He saw the hardness of their hearts. You see, what he was really troubled about there was that these people could believe these bad things about God. We ought not to believe bad things about God. That’s a kind of fundamental rule. Don’t believe anything bad about God. That’s why so many people are mad at God. They believe bad things about him.
And these people that Jesus was talking to there in Mark believed bad things about God. They believed that God would be upset if you helped someone on the Sabbath. And that made Jesus mad at them because they had hard hearts. If they didn’t have hard hearts, they’d look at this man with the withered hand, and they would have God’s vision that this had gone on long enough. We are not going to wait till Sunday, the next day to do it. We are going to do it today because this man needs it—and their hearts would have been moved. [36:09]
Jesus got angry, and we don’t want to think that anger is always wrong. We want to put it in the right perspective. We want to see it for what it is and one of the important things there is to realize it is not in itself wrong. It is a healthy sign of individuality. It is a healthy sign that there is a will there. This person is not brain dead or something of that sort because they are able to respond with a sense of self and realize that they are here to be an individual. They are here to occupy their place. That’s what God made them for. They are there to shine, and while being sat upon as Larry says, is still not to exclude the possibility of blessing. God didn’t make us to be sat upon. He made us to shine and to live and to rule and to serve and to be a part of his family. So, it’s good! [37:12]
Anger—the capability of anger—is a good thing, but what happens is that we begin in our lack of faith—our lack of trusting—to take the thing in our own hands. And the anger becomes associated with our pride in a wrong way, and then the trouble begins. Then the real breech enters in as our anger gets tied upon with our pride in the wrong way.
See, there is a right pride. There is a good pride, and the good pride is something that we have to foster. We should never harm the child’s sense of individuality. Paul warns us fathers about that when he says in Ephesians, we should “provoke not [our] children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, KJV). Bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. [38:17]
Now, one of the things we do as parents is, we try on too many things for too long to run our children’s lives, and we lose our children that way. If we bring them up in the fear and—the Jerusalem Bible I was reading the other day has an interesting way of translating that. It said, “Bring them up in the way the Lord would have done it.” Do it in the manner of the Lord. Do it in the way he would do it. We are as fathers and certainly as mothers and as those responsible for children to deal with them in the manner that the Lord dealt with people. We are to nurture them, feed them on that, and we are to admonish them in terms of it.
But once we take care of the proper pride that every person must have and we begin to see the other side, we have to be weary of certain kinds of proudful anger. One is the anger of the elder brother. You remember that in Luke 15:11–32, when the young brother comes home—and he comes home with everything wrong imaginable—his Father goes to embrace him, and they have a huge celebration. You see there the generosity of the Father’s heart and the generosity of God in that and the unwillingness to withhold anything. But you remember, we are told that the older brother heard the celebration and asked the servant, “What is this?” And the servant said, “Well, your brother has come home.” You remember him huffing around outside and the Scripture says, “he was angered and would not come in and join the party” (Luke 15:28) [40:07]
You see, that‘s the kind of anger that is based upon a sense of our accomplishments in relationship to other people, and it came out very fast, didn’t it? Because when the Father came out and tried to gather in this huffy older brother and bring him in and give him something to eat and let him rejoice with his younger brother, this spilled right out:
“HERE I’VE BEEN ALL THESE YEARS WORKING MY HANDS TO THE BONE, AND I’VE BEEN FAITHFUL TO YOU. AND I’VE SCRIMPED AND SAVED. I’VE INNOVATED ALL THESE THINGS ON THE FARM HERE. I’VE TAKEN CARE OF THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER. AND YOU NEVER THREW A PARTY FOR ME, AND I AM MAD. (Dallas shouted these words.)
Now, there is a combination of things there. One is that old sense of self-righteousness which is always tied up with the wrong sense of pride—the wrong sense of pride. This brother was really big on the good things he had done. He was impressed with himself and he thought that his Father was not adequately impressed with him. [41:26]
Now, you know, we need to say a good word for the older brother once in a while because he had one of the better life plans. You mustn’t get too far gone on him and say, “Well, whoopee, it’s wonderful to go and wallow around in the pig pen and come back and have a big party.” Well, but the older fellow never bore the marks for that time. He never suffered with the results of his behavior and the Father said to his son, “Thou art ever with me, and all I have is thine” (Luke 15:31, KJV). Let’s remember, there are some wonderful things associated with staying on what people often jestingly call— “the straight and narrow.” It’s the best way to live. [42:10]
And the older brother had the best of it. The problem was he did not understand that his relationship to his Father and his brother was not based on that. And many times, our pride enters in that way and our anger is wrong. There is an anger of unforgiveness, and it also is often tied up with self-righteousness. There is an anger which says, “what you’ve done to me is so important. I am hurt so deeply and so badly I will never forget it. I will continue to punish you as long as you live. And one of the ways I am going to punish you is to tell you sweetly that I forgive you. I’m going to show you how really good I am.” There’s the anger of unforgiveness.
There’s the anger of self-justification where it turns in upon ourselves. Many times, we can give our whole life to proving that we were right because our anger is gnawing away at us and will not let us go. [43:25]
Many are wholly devoted to their anger in this world. I trust there is no one here. I believe that all of you, because you are here, are close enough to the Lord that you wouldn’t fall into this category. But you can find many people in the world who are wholly devoted to their anger. At times these people are very nice people—painfully nice sometimes—but when you begin to get angry, and you find that the thing that is all consuming is their anger, many times that anger is focused in the place where anger primarily resides in this world, and that is in the family.
Many times, our anger is most explosive and most damaging there because, of course, those relations are deepest, aren’t they? It’s no accident that the very last words of the Old Testament are, “And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their father, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6, KJV). You see, the curse that is upon the earth is primarily tied to the bitterness that is in the family. if it weren’t for the sores that are running there, there would be a great strength to deal with the life generally. [44:43]
It is from the family that we gain our basic attitudes, our basic wounds. We may go on and nourish those because of the sense of self-righteousness—a feeling that somehow what was done to us is so great that we could never say, “It doesn’t matter.” We do say that and it’s a wonderful little phrase—someone says, “It doesn’t matter. Oh, it doesn’t matter.” Now, it’s really the most wonderful thing in the world when the bad things come, when you are put upon, you are hurt, when your sense of self is violated and injured, if you can, in the strength of God say, “It doesn’t matter.” [He whispers] “It doesn’t matter.” You can’t make it so by saying it. Your faith has to bring you there.
You and I can have a life without anger. We can enter into a kind of relationship to God which enables us truly “to do justice, to love mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). We can never do that if we are subject to anger. [45:51]
If anger is not something that may come to warn us that something needs to be done, that’s all there is to it, because that’s what God intended. From day to day, Lord help me not to hurt anyone today. Help me to be kind. Help me to listen to people. Help me to look at them. Help me to look at my wife and my children and the people that are dependent upon me—my colleagues and my students. Help me to be in such a position that I will not be angry at them because I am tied into you and so filled with your love and goodness that I am free from anger.
In Psalm 119:165—this is a word which you might want to put on your mirror—it says, “Great peace have they which love thy law; and nothing shall offend them.” Nothing shall offend (KJV). [47:03].
O dear friend, you see, you can’t come to the place, I can’t come to the place where I am not offended by trying not to be offended. I can’t think how wonderful it would be, how righteous I would be, if I could just not be offended by it. No, no, no; that isn’t the way. The way is by loving the law. By loving the law! Great peace! You see, the law was a setting forth of the very nature of God. [47:27]
See, when you looked into the law, you saw God. You saw what he meant for you; you saw the goodness of it. “Great peace have they who love thy law, nothing shall offend.” It is in our being caught up in the love of God that we are set free from anger, because we know that in Him it’s made perfect provision for everything we need. We can trust him completely. We can trust him wholly—the one who died on the cross to redeem us from our sin is sufficient to every threat, every injury, every failure, every shortcoming, every fear and in that peace, we are free from anger. [48:142]
Let’s pray together.
“Lord Jesus, open the door through these words that we may see what life was meant to be. Guide us as we train ourselves by following you to receive that life. Speak to everyone here today in the power of your word that they may know its reality and its strength and its sufficiency. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.” [48:44]