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You Fool! Two Dangerous Words

‌Disagreements happen all the time. Sadly, many of those disagreements make their way to social media or other avenues. Now, if there is a serious public error in doctrine or ecclesiology, there is a need to contact the person for clarity, and eventually, public error will need to be called out publicly.

‌However, there is another kind of error that has eaten up many in Reformed congregations, specifically the Reformed Baptist surrounding the sin of calling a brother good for nothing, a fool or the King James version, raca. Taken from the original Greek word, ῥακά, meaning worthless, empty and foolish. Usually, these things arise from men in their “cage stage” of doctrine. In days gone by this was always associated with Calvinism, but today it is a little different. I have personally walked with brothers and been on the receiving end of these various cage stage issues. May it be the matters surrounding eschatalogical views, patriarchal views and their opinions of how a church should and should not be run.

‌Now, again, no one is beyond a rebuke or having blindspots in their ministry or life, but there is a serious issue when a brother lashes out at another brother, calling them raca.

‌Let us look at Matthew 5:22, as an example

“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.

‌Right away, we see a heart issue. The matter is not regarding correct or incorrect opinions from a specific point of view. Jesus makes a very important connection about the motive, which is anger. The root word in the Greek is ὀργίζω (orgizo) which is not just anger, but could also mean exasperated, which in our english means to enter place of frustration, or being intensly irritated. Why is such anger wrong? Well the connection point in verse 21,

‌Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’

‌Understanding premeditated murder is a clear violation of God’s Law, and all will give an account, Jesus makes it clear that everyone who is easily irritated, becomes exasperated or angry as it appears in its many forms, with his brother shall be guilty. Connection point, the root of murder is anger. Now bringing this forward, with the term ἀδελφός (adelphos), it should cause a great pause. I agree with D.A. Carson that the main point here is that when it comes to relationships among brothers, anger is to be eliminated.1 Now one of the easiest ways to recongnize the fruit of anger, is that term, raca, or fool. Examine the person, are they short, calling people fools all the time, easily irritated? Pay for understanding, and ask directly about such things.

‌I have been involved in enough church problems over the years serving as a lead pastor. One of the things that always strikes me, is when one person is so convinced they are correct in their positions - choose to call another brother raca, fool or worhtless when that brother disagrees with them. They have taken upon themselves a self righteous attitude, and there is really no other way of saying it, other than, “they think their poop doesn’t stink.” For any brother to look another in the eye and call them a fool is gutsy or straight out ignorant.

‌Becoming overly irritated, feeling another brother is worthless or becoming exasperated because someone does not share thier opinoin is not healthy. Only thing more concerning is Matt 5:23-24 and how many do not follow easy instructions regardless of what side they are on.

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

‌Attaching the seriousness of the anger towards a brother, Jesus turns our attention to worship. Now, regardless if the anger is towards a brother in Christ, or simply someone an individual has something against, the application is the same. The offence is before the Lord, alone. When there is offence, sin one cannot with a clear conscience go worship. We could bring this connection back to the spec in a brothers eye, compared to the log in our own in Matthew 7.

Recently there was a situation I was made aware of dealing with this exact issue. An individual at a church, acted in that cage stage mindset over a church polity matter. This person regardless of their original motives operated in sin. They made a decision to walk away from a church they were attending (as covenant members). It was not the first time they did this, nor was it the first time they worked hard to drag others around in their decision. When some refused to be led down another divisive move and chose to remain faithful to a local assembly, such people were called foolish, but in the manner of raca. The individual was irritated, considered those who disagreed with them worthless and even became exasperated. This is not the way believers should act towards other believers. Refusing to fellowship, ignoring and acting as if one is no longer alive, is also the evidence of murder in the heart - but than needs unpacking for clarity another time.

‌Now, how to we avoid such sins? First is take heed to the text. If there is a situation that either you have an issue with another person, or another person has something against you, make it right. Matthew 18, provides a great example on how to go about it.

‌Verse 15 tells us if (big condition) a brother sins, go to him first, privatley. If this does not work, verse 16 tells the believer to go back with one or two witnesses and if there is still no movement, it is brought to the church in verse 17. Failing to do so, makes a person worse than a tax collector. This should slow anyone’s tongue or fingers down. Now in this process, Matt 7 also comes into play. First, remember the judgement you want is righteous judgement because they way a believer judges another is the way they too will be judged [Verse 1 and 2]. Therefore we go to prayer, we go to the word, we cry out to the Lord to show us what it is not allowing us to see clearly because of this log in our eye (verse 3). Once this has been done we are in a rightful place to deal with the spec (Verse 4-5).

‌Saints, we must call out corruption and tyranny, we must expose the lies of false teaching, but we are people of the word. I have learned some hard lessons of the last three years, and I have seen many others still in some of those struggles. Let us be people who do not become so easily angered by a brother, let us not be so self righteous to call another raca. Instead, let is be people who are quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger ( James 1:19)

‌As you pray for me, I am praying for you - onward Christian soldier.


_________________________________________________________ ‌‌1. D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 148–149.

2. Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917)

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