10th February 2023


‘But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.’
(Matthew 5:22 NIVUK)

Jesus’s statement here is very powerful and severe. If we call someone ‘a fool’ we place ourselves in danger of judgement, and yet Jesus is not embarrassed to call someone a fool or foolish in his teaching or his interaction with people.

For example, he taught that a person who builds their house on sand is foolish (Matthew 7:26); he describes God calling a greedy rich man a ‘fool’ (Luke 12:20), and he calls those who are not ready for his return foolish, (Matthew 25:1-13). Additionally, Jesus calls the teachers of the law and the Pharisees ‘blind fools’ (Matthew 23:17), and says to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that they were foolish for being slow to believe what the prophets had spoken about the Messiah (Luke 24:25).

What are we to make of Jesus using such terms? Is he contradicting his teaching in Matthew 5? The clue to the answer is in the context of Matthew 5. Jesus is explaining that what goes on in the heart of an individual is important to God. A person may have hatred inside of them that is as vehement as that of a murderer but they just may not have the opportunity to kill. They may be so angry and abusive to someone in their hearts, calling them Raca1 or ‘fool’, that they wished they were dead. These feelings of extreme anger and hatred produce a spirit of murder in our heart, and whether it is acted out or not, it makes a person capable of murder. 

John helps us to see what Jesus had in mind when he wrote, ‘Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.’ (1 John 3:15). Jesus does not want anyone to purpose in his heart to murder, even if he is not able to carry out the act itself.

On the other hand, when Jesus used the terms ‘fool’ or ‘foolish’ it was not with hatred in his heart. He didn’t use these words because he wanted the people he was referring to dead. Rather, he used them to show how unwise, uninformed, unintelligent, and even how hypocritical they were. Jesus called these people fools with a view to correct them, not to kill them; to heal and restore, not harm and destroy.

The lessons for us are twofold: we must not harbour hatred and murderous thoughts in our hearts, and we must seek wisdom and learn from God, so we are not foolish in our hearts. We will be wise if we do these things.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. 2 In Jesus’s name, Amen

Study by Barry Robinson

1 An Aramaic term of contempt equivalent to ‘numskull’, ‘empty headed’ or ‘worthless.’
2 From the prayer of St Francis of Assisi. 


About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Southern England.

Local congregation:
Grace Communion International Camberwell
The Salvation Army Hall
105 Lomond Grove
London SE5 7HN

Local congregational contact:
Barry Robinson
Email: camberwell@gracecom.church 

Word of Life contact: