“Anger and the Altar” (Ready to Worship S4E4)

Ready to Worship Season 4, Episode 4 for Friday, September 16, 2016

In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus corrected misunderstandings regarding alms, anger, adultery, and many other things. The discussion of each of these things begins with the words, “Ye have heard…” and continues with the words, “But I say…” In His discussion of anger, Jesus touched on the subject of worship. He mentioned anger in connection with the altar (Mt. 5:21-26). Let’s read His words, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Mt. 5:23-24). Clearly, God is concerned with the relationship that we have with our brother. We cannot worship God properly while treating our brother improperly. As we get ready to worship this weekend, we want to examine the relationships that we have with brethren.

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In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus corrected misunderstandings regarding alms, anger, adultery, and many other things. The discussion of each of these things begins with the words, “Ye have heard…” and continues with the words, “But I say…” In His discussion of anger, Jesus touched on the subject of worship. He mentioned anger in connection with the altar. Let’s read the full context of his words:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 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. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing” (Mt. 5:21-26).

Clearly, God is concerned with the relationship that we have with our brother. He sees how we treat him. He hears how we talk to him. He even knows how we think about him. All things are naked and open to the eyes of the God that we worship (Heb. 4:13). He sees our thoughts afar off (Psa. 139:2). We cannot treat, talk, or think evilly of our brother without it affecting our worship. If there is ought between us, we must leave our gift at the altar and go to our brother to be reconciled. After doing this, then we can return and offer our gift. A gift can’t reconcile us to God while we are at odds with our brother. No gift is big enough to do that. We can’t hate our brother and love God at the same time. John wrote, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” ( 1 John 4:20-21). God requires us to love our brother. He requires us to be reconciled to him. To try to draw near to God in worship while at odds with our brother is impossible. It is to try to worship God while at the same time disregarding and disobeying His commandments. Loving God requires that we keep His commandments. Immediately after the instructions about loving our brother, John wrote, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:1-3).

As we get ready to worship this week, we need to pause and think about the relationships that we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If there are problems in these relationships, they need to be worked out. We cannot draw near to God while we are at odds with them. It is impossible for us to love God while our heart harbors hatred for them. God commands that we love Him and them.