Sermon on the Mount Series – The Value of a Soul

If a person cherishes a spirit of malice and unkindness, he is cherishing a spirit that will result in hatred and a desire for revenge. The Bible says that he who hates his brother is a murderer and cannot hope to have eternal life (I John 3:15). The question is, though, how can this spirit be removed or changed?

Across the Sea of Galilee from where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, there was the land of Bashan, a land of wild gorges and wooded areas. It had been a long time favorite lurking ground for criminals of all descriptions. There had been reports, even in Jesus’ day, of frequent murders and robberies that had been committed throughout that area. The people thought that in Jesus’ teaching of the law He would have a strict, stern rebuke for those people committing the crimes. However, they were shocked when, in quoting the sixth commandment that says, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13 RSV), Jesus showed that the commandment applied to themselves.

It is clear as you read the gospel story in any one of the gospels that the people cherished bitter hatred against the Romans as well as other people of their own country who did not in all things conform to their ideas. They were contentious and passionate about their beliefs. Jesus said to them in Matthew 5:21, 22, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment,’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council, But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Actually, many of the most accurate and ancient manuscripts leave out the words “without a cause.” The text would then read like this: “… I say to you that whoever is angry with His brother shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother ‘Raca!’ (equivalent in our speech today to calling somebody an air head) shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says to his brother “marad” (Aramaic for apostate or rebel) shall be in danger of hell fire.”

This same spirit of hatred and revenge is at the basis of all murders. It originated with a leading angel of heaven called Lucifer, whose name became Satan, which means adversary, or devil, which means a slanderer. This spirit of hatred and revenge caused him to put to death the Son of God. The Bible is very clear – the intelligence that was behind the crucifixion of Jesus was not only the Jewish leaders, and it was not just the Roman government, or Pilate; there were supernatural forces that were in conflict. The devil was intent on destroying the Son of God. It was he who was the one that engineered and programmed the whole event.

The whole heavenly universe was privy to the battle in heaven that resulted in Satan and his angels being cast out into the earth; they saw and knew who was behind it. But the people on this earth were ignorant of the bigger controversy and acted like pawns in the devil’s hands. Whoever cherishes malice or unkindness is of the same spirit and its fruit will be unto death. The revengeful thought is the seed that, once germinated and grown or unfolded, will produce the evil deed. For this reason John wrote, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15).

In the gift of His Son given for our redemption, God has shown how high a value He places upon every human soul. He does not give any of us permission or liberty to speak contemptuously about another human being. It is true that if we have our eyes and ears open, we are bound to see and hear of faults and weaknesses in other human beings. But God claims them as His property. They are His first of all because He created them. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24:1 AMP). He owns it all; He made it.

Not only did He create everything in the beginning, but He has also purchased them back by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. All human beings were created in the image of God and even those who have been most degraded by sin are to be treated with respect and tenderness. When we study the life of Jesus, we find that He even treated His persecutors with politeness and courtesy.

Jesus teaches us here that God is going to hold us accountable if we speak contemptuously about somebody for whom Christ Jesus laid down His life. The New Testament also is very strict about this principle. Notice what it says: “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not received it” (I Corinthians 4:7, literal translation)?

Paul says that everything you have is only yours because you have received it from God and since you have received it, why talk as if it were your own and you produced it on your own? Again, the apostle Paul says in Romans 14:4: “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”

We are not to speak contemptuously of any human being, even if they are degraded because of a life of sin. We are not to condemn our brother as somebody who is beyond the reach of salvation and cannot be saved. To pronounce judgment on somebody else, believing they cannot be saved, puts that person who judges in danger of hell fire himself.

In the book of Jude is an example of how we should talk and treat fellow human beings. Christ Himself was contending with Satan about the body of Moses. Notice what it says in verse 9:

“Yet Michael (Mi ka El, One Who is like God) the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ ” Jesus did not bring a railing accusation against the devil. If He had done that, He would have placed Himself on Satan’s ground for accusations are the weapon of the wicked one. Notice what the Bible says in Revelation 12:10: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’ ”

Satan is the one who is called in Scripture, “the accuser of the brethren.” Jesus would not even have stooped to bring an accusation against the devil; He left it for His Father to decide on the condemnation and the judgment of the devil. His example is for us. When we are brought into conflict with the enemies of Christ, and it is true that Jesus Christ still has many enemies in this world, we should say nothing in the spirit of retaliation or that would have even the appearance of being a reviling or railing accusation.

If we stand as a mouthpiece for God as all Christians should be, then we should not utter words that even the Majesty of heaven would not use when contending with the devil. We must leave with God the work of judging and condemning.

Now the love of God is something more than simply not doing certain things. It is a positive, active, principle, a living spring, ever flowing out to bless others. And if the love of Christ really dwells in our hearts, we not only will refrain from cherishing evil against our brother, or speaking in a contemptuous way to him or about him, but we will ever and always be seeking to manifest love to our fellow men. Notice what Jesus said about this in Matthew 5:23, 24: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” In other words, don’t even go to church to worship the Lord in public until you have made things right with the person that you have wronged or has wronged you.

I cannot expect to be able to express faith in God’s pardoning love if I myself am indulging an unloving spirit. That would be a farce.

If I profess to be a Christian and I injure my brother in any way, I have misrepresented the character of God and that wrong needs to be acknowledged, confessed, and then corrected.

Some may say, “Well, my brother has done me a greater wrong than I have done him.” That may be true and it is up to your brother to correct the wrong that he has done against you, but that does not lessen your responsibility, even if you have been treated worse than what you have done against him. God will not accept worship from those who have unresolved differences. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35).

The prophet Ezekiel said, “If the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die” (Ezekiel 33:15). If unwittingly I have borne false witness against my brother, by misstating his words or injured his influence in any way, I need to go to the ones with whom I have conversed about him and repair my injurious misstatements.

If Christians followed this Biblical advice in resolving matters of difficulty between their brethren, how many “roots of bitterness, whereby many are defiled” (Hebrews 12:15, literal translation) would be destroyed, and how closely Christians would be united in a bond of brotherly love?

The Jews prided themselves on their morality and looked with horror upon the sensual practices of the Romans and other nations. But when Jesus began to speak to them about the seventh commandment in His sermon, He revealed to them something shocking. He showed them that the sixth commandment reflected not only actions, but also what was in their mind and in their heart. The same applies to the seventh commandment. Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 5:27, 28: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” When the thought of evil is loved and cherished, however secretly, said Jesus, it shows that sin still reigns in the heart. The soul is still in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.

He who finds pleasure in dwelling upon scenes of impurity and indulges in evil thoughts or the lustful look, may behold in the open sin the end result of what he has been thinking. All human beings are tempted in this world; the Bible is very clear about that. However, the sinful action makes manifest only that which was already in the heart, though it may have been hidden from view. As a man “thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). For it is out of the heart that come the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23).

To prevent a physical disease from spreading to another part of the body and destroying the life, a man would submit to having a part of his body, an arm or a hand, amputated. Much more should a person be willing to surrender whatever imperils the life of the soul. Jesus said, “And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29, 30).

This counsel refers to the spiritual principle that whatever imperils the soul must be given up. If what I am looking at is imperiling my soul, then I must stop looking at it. If what I am handling is imperiling my soul, I must quit handling it. If where my feet are taking me is imperiling my soul, I must quit going there.

Through the gospel, souls that have been degraded and enslaved by sin are to be redeemed and are to share the glorious liberty of the sons of God. God’s purpose is not just to deliver you from the suffering that is the inevitable result of sin. His purpose is to save you from the sin itself.

A soul that has been corrupted and deformed, through the gospel is to be purified, transformed and sanctified. It is to be clothed, the Bible says, in “… the beauty of the Lord our God” (Psalm 90:17). It is “… to be conformed to the image of His Son …” (Romans 8:29). The Bible says that “… eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those that love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9, literal translation). In fact, eternity alone can reveal the glorious destiny to which every man or woman may come to when restored to God’s image.

If you and I are going to reach this high ideal, whatever causes our soul to stumble must be sacrificed. Remember that it is through the will that sin retains its hold upon us.

Jesus says that it is better to enter into life, even if you are maimed or crippled, than to keep what you have and lose your soul. God is the fountain of life and you and I can only have life as we are in communion with Him. If we are separated from God, existence may be ours for a little time, but the Bible says we do not possess life. If we are separated from God, it is inevitable that we are going to die. The only way that we can live is if we surrender to the Lord as our Master and Saviour. It is only through self-surrender that we can receive what the Lord wants to give to us.

By refusing to yield to the will of God, clinging to self, is to choose death.

Friend, what is your destiny to be? Are you willing to forsake your sins and choose life? The choice is up to you.