“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the alter and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come to offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown in prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your member than for your whole body to go into hell.”
These two passages, Concerning Anger and Concerning Adultery, really have the same message: You have been told a certain action is a sin, but I say it is the thought that leads to the action, the spirit in which the action is done that is sinful. Thus, murder is sin, but it is also a sin to be murderously angry, even if you don’t act upon it.
This is an important message for all Christians to hear. It is relatively easy to do what you are supposed to do, to live a life of righteousness, yet harbor in your heart hateful and evil feelings, lust, anger, jealousy, resentment. It is much more difficult to have a sin-free heart than sin-free actions.
Jesus’s advice is simple. Whatever is causing you to sin, remove it from your life. If your job is making you angry, find a new job. If your favorite TV show makes you lustful, stop watching it. And Jesus says to remedy these sins before you come to pray. If you are angry with someone, He says, go make up with them immediately, don’t wait for your heart to grow more poisoned.
You have to make sure you are applying this principle to every possible sin in your life. What is causing you to do something you shouldn’t? Search your heart, find the answer, and treat the cause, not the symptom. If you fix the bad feeling or thought, the action will go away as well.