Matthew 5 gives 2 examples that I find very interesting – anger and lust – and they go into some detail about thinking as being the problem – not just the doing aspect. This usually gets justified as the reason to not do or watch a lot of things – lest one should think something wrongly. I want to go into these ideas and dissect them.
(1) Anger/Murder “You have heard that the ancients were told ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
To me, it seems like there is an amping of the court systems one will deal with in their belligerence or anger. We go from court – to Supreme Court (higher court) – to God’s court (not sure ‘fiery hell’ is the correct interpretation?). To me there are a few things being said:
(a) We have a few chances to reconcile with the ‘other person’ no matter the grievance before we come to God’s court – responsibility is always on us. However, at some point – we do move from anger to action (murder in this case) – and after that we have no recourse with the ‘other’ – we have literally handed the case to God to judge us.
(b) The passage also shows us that anger is something that builds from one extreme to another if it goes unchecked (not personally dealt with). A person starts with a feeling – then that emotion progresses to plans – and then plans become action – in this case anger (emotion) is the spring-board for murder (action). They are directly correlated and the key to not murdering is dealing with one’s anger (not letting ideas linger that can become hurtful to another person).
(c) What also might be happening in this passage is someone is thinking ideas then acting upon them – and they keep getting worse in degree – until they result in murder (anyone ever look into what stalkers do?).
“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 for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)
(a) How can one be judged for adultery (action) that they did not commit? You cannot be judged by law – this one is about judging yourself before you commit this act.
(b) The same argument for anger/murder is also valid here – it starts with feelings – then feelings lead to plans – eventually plans become a reality. You do not cheat on your wife/husband unless you somehow think about it first and then judicate the process in your thoughts whereby this becomes a possibility.
Thoughts, in and of themselves, are not bad but the cultivation of those thoughts – nor dealing with those thoughts – is. I can watch adultery/murder on a TV screen 1000 times in 10 years – but just having the thought pass my mind does not make it a ‘sin’.
What makes something dangerous is the thought being connected to someone else – then that being elaborated upon in my mind – until I have an action plan to commit (ie: meet her at the bar or meet him in the alley). I would say this doesn’t even need to be connected to someone and can exist separately from a specific person – just has to be someone’s basic rationale (ie: kill or be killed).
Moral of story – do not let your darkest thoughts build into actions – or else you are extremely liable for them.