The Urgency of Reconciliation (Matthew 5:25-26)

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In the days Jesus walked, many judges and officers of the court were corrupt.  In fact, in the land of Israel, it had been so for a long time. Over time, God had sent prophet after prophet to tell Israel that such was incompatible with His kingdom. Isaiah had cried, “Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”  Jeremiah had levelled God’s charge, “Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor.”  Micah also, “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money.”  In fact, most every prophet of God said something to Israel along these lines. It is literally an understatement to say that the judges and rulers of Israel did not have a consistent track record of honesty and righteousness in passing sentence. Moreover, in Christ’s day the government officials consisted largely of Roman aggressors and Jewish conspirators. It was poisoned through and through with corruption for personal gain. 

In such an environment, someone who was being dragged to court had much to fear. For it was at least a significant probability if not a certainty that the judge and the court officials (who were appointed by the government) were dishonest. That meant that even if you were clearly in the right, if your adversary had means to bribe them, you were going to loose – and losing often meant financial bankruptcy and debtor’s prison.

It was in that environment that Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount. 

In expanding our understanding of murder, Jesus preached a dramatic escalation of the 6th commandment. He told us that while the act of murder is  subject to human judgment, the unrighteous anger that leads to the act to start with is so offensive to God that even flippant comments made because of it put us in danger of the fire of hell. The Lord would rather that we delay worship than come before Him with such unrighteousness in our hearts.

So speaking of two of God’s people who do not get along, Jesus says: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” 

Jesus deliberately uses an example that avoids mentioning why the two parties are at odds. It is almost as through exactly why someone has something against you is irrelevant. The offended party will still cry out to God for justice, and we who have offended them will be named in God’s court. Except in God’s court we cannot bribe our way out of a legal claim against us, and the outcome of God’s court is far more predictable than any human court. If the other party has a case against us that has any merit at all, He will surely rule according to what is right. That is a foregone conclusion – you can know it long before you get to the courtroom. He who is righteousness will not rule for us who are holding onto unrighteous anger. Consequently, the priority for God’s people must always be on making it right, and doing so quickly. For what does it take for one of God’s people to call to the judge? Just a moment of prayer!

God’s people must never tarry to make amends to those we have offended. Moreover, the example Jesus uses with a corrupt human court is a comparative one. And what is the comparison between us and Him? Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If God would die for us while we were His enemies so that we might inherit eternal life, how much more should we be willing to make a sacrifice for the betterment our fellow man in this life? That is a question well worth considering every time we baulk of the cost of making it right. Amen. 

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The Apostle Paul (speaking in Ephesians 5:1-2)

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

Do you have anything against a fellow believer? If so, how can you make it right? 

If not, how can you bless someone today?

How to Worship (Matthew 5:23-24)

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Jesus has been teaching about the need to have a clear conscience when we come   before God in worship. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”  

We’ve already looked at His main point. Worshippers of God must not even have something between each other – let alone something between them and God – when they come to the altar in worship. But in saying that, Jesus is making a very important observation. It’s not His main point, but it cannot be missed in His example.

Giving is worship. 

After all, Jesus could have said, “When you are on your way to the temple and remember…” or, “When you first walk into the temple and remember…” or, “When you are singing songs of praise in the temple and remember…” or, “If you are listening to a sermon and remember…” or, “If you are ministering to another and remember.” He could have used any number of illustrations about worship. For all that we do when we go to the temple (church) is an act of worship – how much more so what many believers call ‘worship’ – the singing of praise to God. But the example Jesus uses is “offering your gift at the altar”. Not singing – even though singing is worship (Ps 68:4), or playing instruments – even though making music is worship (Ps 33:2) or testifying – even though that is worship (Ps 145:21) or listening to the message – even though that is also worship (Deut 31:12).

Long ago, God commanded the Israelites, “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.”  Giving to God was never an optional part of worship. After all, we give to that which we love, and the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Even small children demonstrate their love by drawing a picture for their parents (the gift of time). How could anyone love our heavenly Father and not seek to give Him that which costs time, talent or treasure? 

The idea of making a sacrifice – of giving to God that which costs us – must be embedded into the life of every believer. The offering of a gift is worship. Pure, unadulterated worship, and therefore of significant value to God. So much so, that it’s something He actively wants to receive from us. Something He looks to receive from us, and something He wants to see us offer to Him without stain

Just as a parent would not receive their child’s drawing with gladness knowing that the same child just punched their sibling and refuses to say sorry, so also the Lord does not receive that which we offer Him if it is stained with unrepentance. Moreover, just as a child can only give a parent that which they made with a piece of paper and crayons their parent gave them, all we could ever give God is what He gave us to start with. The real value of the gift then, is not intrinsic to what we physically offer. The real value of the gift we give Him is a reflection of our hearts. If we give with clean hearts, even if we have little to offer – it means much. If we give with unclean hearts, even if we have much to offer, it means little. For this reason the Lord looked on a widow giving her last two cents and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”


God is not holding out or holding back. It’s not in His nature to withhold any good thing from us. He most certainly won’t bless disobedience, but He most certainly will bless obedience. And His capacity to give is far greater than your capacity to receive.

Mark Batterson

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

Listen to what is in your heart this week as you give.

The Priority Above Worship (Matthew 5:23-24)

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In every beatitude He gave to the crowd, Jesus expanded our understanding  of the value of godly emotion. Humilty, godly sorrow, mercy and longing for righteousness and purity are not mere emotion, but indications of God’s present blessing. As such they should be sought. Not just for our benefit, but so that the light of God’s blessing can be clearly seen in our lives and all about us can ‘taste’ His presence. Jesus then expanded our understanding of the purpose and value of Scripture; to demonstrate the way to God through repentance and obedience, that we might live in righteousness far exceeding that gained through legalism. In everything He’s taught the crowd, Jesus has taken an old subject and given it fresh and expanded meaning. 

Jesus then taught that slander is not a core problem, but a drastic symptom of unrighteous anger. Now He moves to the best application of that very truth, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” For any disciple of God, worship is a priority. Jesus makes two observations about worship in the that statement that ought to have a drastic impact on us as worshippers. 

His main point is that worship – which is crucial to our lives as His followers – must be secondary to purity. God does not want us to worship Him with guilty consciences. Remember Richard Roberts’ famous observation – “Repentance is the first word of the Gospel.” Repentance always comes first. Not even worship can take its place. So if one is about to engage in worship and the Holy Spirit brings to mind something that we need to deal with, we need to deal with that before we continue in worship. 

Unrighteous anger has no place in sacrifice to God. It did not when Cain got angry with Abel, and it still doesn’t. Moreover some have noted, “Has something against you” probably implies a “just claim.”  So Jesus is speaking of something we are guilty of. Something that someone else is holding against us, but we have not yet dealt with. To have something against a brother or sister means there is unforgiveness and/or unrepentance in our hearts. How can that be? Surely God’s people know that unforgiveness and unrepentance are spiritual millstones around the neck of any worshipper of God Most High. 

Even brand new believers can understand that to worship God as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, past wrongs need to be set right. In Luke 19 we read of Jesus walking through Jericho. A short man named Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Him. “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.”

Bitterness is nothing more than old unforgiveness. Bitterness is what grows from a seed of injustice, planted and watered in the garden of what-might-have-been.

David Chotka

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

Is there a wrong you need to put right? Someone you need to speak to before your next worship gathering?