We are studying Matthew 5:21-32 for Sunday, July 14 – the first part of Jesus’ explanation of what it means for one’s righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees. [Study notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to consider before or discuss during class:
How well do we understand our own anger at other people? [When – under what circumstances – do we get angry? With whom? Etc.] Do we see any patterns? What are they?
What seems to be going on with us, and between us and other people, when we are angry, would we say? What does our anger tell us about how we see the world? About what we understand our place in the world to be? About how we think “things should be?” About our evaluation of other people?
Does any of this help us understand how getting angry at another person could be related to murder? Or how calling another person names could be related to murder? What do we understand from this?
Verse 23 suggests that the quality of our relationship with other people is a higher priority than paying certain kinds of obligations to God. What does this tell us? How seriously do we take this? How does this – or will this – affect our behavior? Why?
In v25 Jesus tells his listeners to be “goodly minded” – of good will – with another person who has a cause for action against them. What is our experience of being of good will with people we have anger issues with? What are the challenges and the possibilities in that situation? What would help us? Why, do we think?
Jesus says to do this “while you are on your way to court.” Are we ourselves on our way to court, do we think? Why? What do we think “court” means? Why do we think that?
In v28, what problem do we think Jesus is addressing – is it sexual attraction, desire, acquisitiveness, having power over other people, wanting to have power over other people … ? Does it make a difference what we think the problem is? What difference?
What do we understand Jesus to be saying here? Why do we think that?
Thinking of verses 31-32, do we think other people ever cause us to sin?
[I find myself wishing we had a licensed clinical social worker in our class! Or wishing I could put a warning label on these questions – so this is it:
It seems to me that these verses, and almost all the questions that they bring up, get really deep and personal and even potentially hazardous really quickly.
It also seems to me that we could answer them, for ourselves and others, in ways that are really unhealthy, harsh, ungracious … almost as easily as we could answer them in ways that let ourselves “off the hook” for being open to change in our personalities, our ways of thinking about and dealing with the world …
In the absence of that licensed clinical social worker, we may especially need to remember God’s love, and to pray for wisdom, this week.]