We don’t always see things the same. We often look at things with an eye toward what is most advantageous for us. Disputes arise when people think others should have handled things differently. Right or wrong we have to settle things. Living life with things unsettled is not beneficial for a fulfilling and satisfying life. How do we go about settling things? Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Did your parents ever say; “sort things out” when you and your siblings were having a dispute? Maybe they strongly suggested that you need to figure out what you did and then come to them and talk about it. These encounters just give us a glimpse of what we face each day. Give and take, sorting things out, finding a way to settle things.
We have been working through a passage in Mathew’s Gospel that covered three important aspects of life, value others, guard your heart and settle things. Today we are encouraged to settle things before someone else; the courts, have to get involved.
Matthew 5:21-26, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, `Raca, ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
These are three very important concepts for us that are connected. The words we use indicate the value we place in someone. We use words to devalue someone and in turn elevate ourselves. When we tear someone down with words, we kill their spirit. God values each one of us the same, we were created equal. When we do not value what God values, we elevate ourselves above Him. We do not have that right.
Jesus tells us that when we do not show others the same value that God does, we, in effect, murder them, kill their spirit. Jesus says we shouldn’t do that.
The middle passage talks about offering a gift to God, worship, and the condition of our heart. Our gift is not acceptable to God if our heart contains guilt. Our gift is not acceptable if certain things are present in our heart; hatred, jealousy, rage, selfishness, disagreements and envy, things that don’t honor God. These things separate us from God. Jesus tells us that we need to resolve the condition of our heart before we can offer worship to God.
Think of it this way, God doesn’t receive our worship if our heart isn’t right. We cannot harbor animosity in our hearts toward others and expect to be right with God. God requires that our heart is motivated by the right things.
This week we decide who will settle our differences. Let me ask you, have you ever cheated someone? Have you ever cheated on something? We all look for the situation that is to our advantage. We all fudge, stretch the truth, maybe a little white lie. Fudging a little really isn’t too bad, right? Any way we look at it we try to get an advantage and hope no one is looking.
What happens when we do? Are we willing to put our fate in the hands of the judge? We try to settle things before we get to court. Think about the last speeding ticket you got. How much did you try to get out of it before the police officer wrote the ticket? Did you admit your guilt or were you trying to convince the officer that you were not guilty?
I can tell you it will go better for you if you do not try to talk the officer out of a ticket. Many of you have heard the story of the time I was stopped by Virginia’s finest on the way to South Boston at 3:30 am. I was asked a simple question; did I have any reason to be going the speed the officer said I was going? I responded, No Sir. In the end he asked me to drive carefully and he left to give chase to someone else. Realizing your guilt and confessing it with a humble heart, changes things.
Are we honest with ourselves? Do we seek to settle things or leave them in someone else’s hands? When we leave things unsettled, they take on a life of their own. Many of us are burdened with the weight of unsettled issues.
To sum up this passage we could use the phrase, do not think more of ourself than we ought, it will be our downfall. Jesus knew we like to be the most important. He knew we would do anything to stay on top. He knew we would have trouble admitting we were wrong. His point is this, we need to guard our heart and keep it in tune with God. We need to honor and respect what God values. When we are wrong, we need to settle it and move forward.
Be careful what we harbor in our heart and allow it to come out of our mouths because if we don’t, we will have some things to settle.
We will move on in our study on the Sermon on the Mount next week to look at the way we should honor the commitments we make to a relationship. Let’s take some time this week to look into our heart and see if there are some things that need to be settled. Settle them.