Read Matthew 5
I like to watch Law and Order. Briscoe and Green were my favorite detectives. Briscoe could go old school any time he wanted and Green had a bit of a temper but they were good cops.
Of course, Jack McCoy was my favorite District Attorney. His dad was a cop. He rode a motorcycle. He had a passion for the law. He pushed the limits of his authority. He put a lot of bad people behind bars, at least on television.
Most of the crimes involved murder or manslaughter—somebody got killed and it wasn’t an accident. For a homicide to be a murder, there had to be mens rea—criminal intent or at least depraved indifference. Sometimes we translate the Latin term into Malice Aforethought.
For as good as these television detectives and prosecutors were, I never saw anyone convicted of having malice in their hearts without a dead body to go with it. You have to have a body to have a murder.
Jesus said that you didn’t. If you have malice or hatred or contempt in your heart towards another person, you stand as guilty as the man with the smoking gun next to the dead body.
Think back to the prophet Samuel. He was judging the appearance of Jesse’s sons but God saw the heart. That’s how we came by King David.
So, if God can see the heart, he can see malice and hatred and contempt in our hearts. Our transgression need not be manifested in the flesh to have fallen short in God’s eyes.
Jesus warns us not to be a hypocrite. If we harbor something against a brother or sister or have wronged someone in any way, we should not come before God making an offering as if all is well in the world.
We can’t sing, It is well, it is well, but not really let’s just pretend and expect communion with God.
We need to seek reconciliation with our brother or sister and then come and make an offering that would then be acceptable to God. God sees the heart.
If we are at odds with another person and have not done our best to reconcile with that person, we are a hypocrite to think our offering of anything—time, money, service, song—could be our first fruits. How could it be the best we had to offer, if our lives were in discord with another person.
Do you want to know what real hypocrisy is? Two people going to court—secular court—that in itself shows our self-centered, self-righteous, and contempt for God.
If this were a Facebook post, I would have a million angry faces before noon. We live in a litigious society. We sue people because our feelings get hurt. We sue people because we want more money. We sue people because they have something and we might be able to get it by taking them to court.
Our civil courts are supposed to provide remedies for wrongs as the law allows. Sometimes equity allows remedy for what is not provided by the law.
Here is the admonishment. Don’t come crying to God because you went to court and didn’t get what you wanted. When you trust human judges over God, you better be happy with what the judge gives you.
There are all sorts of remedies that courts can award. Money, control, custody, restraint, release of property or documents, and other things of this world.
Does this counsel mean that you will never end up in court? No, but it cautions you to be ready for an outcome that you may have never sought or had wanted to avoid.
God sees the heart. Courts hear testimony and review evidence and hear arguments. The best testimony, evidence, and arguments do not guarantee your victory. You are trusting a judge to decide what is best for all parties.
Get your heart right with God then make your offerings. Seek justice through God as your first choice for the courts and judges seldom consider your heart.
Next case. Amen.