“Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell”
My sister called me one day with a question. Her question: “Is it a sin to call someone a fool, to use the word, ‘fool’?” It seems she had been talking to a friend who told her that calling someone a “fool” was a sin because Jesus said it was. I do not know the full context of their conversation, however, I find that this is one of those passages that, when taken out of context, or when taken literally, can be misunderstood. Oh…..the danger of taking a portion of Scripture literally without looking at the context. The answer may very well be “yes”, however, not quite in the legalistic, literal way that my sister understood this statement to be. Let’s explore this statement that Jesus made in context, let’s look at the Scriptures.
Matthew 5:21-22 (TNIV)
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
This is a great passage in which to do some word study. Let’s first look at the word “Raca” then “fool”:
Raca: In Greek, “rhaka“. Pronounced “rhak-ah”. This term is only found here in the New Testament. “Raca” is an Aramaic term of contempt, an insult, that was transliterated into Greek, meaning “empty headed, worthless or foolish”. Using this term toward someone in Jesus day might warrant being charged with slander before the Jewish council or the Sanhedrin (the Jewish supreme court). Using this word simply means “to insult”.
Fool: The Greek word for “fool” (used here) is “moros“, meaning “morally worthless”, which is where we get the word “moron”. It is a more serious charge than raca. Raca scorns a man by calling him stupid…….moros scorns him concerning his heart and his character. Moros also carries the image of rebellion due to the possibility that it may be a transliteration of the Hebrew word “moreh“.
So, what is Jesus telling us here? Jesus, as He does often, reveals the heart of God’s wisdom. Killing is a terrible sin….however, anger is just as bad as it violates God’s command to love our neighbor. The anger mentioned here is extreme anger or bitterness directed at another person. This anger is a dangerous emotion that often moves us to lose control and strike out in rage, bitterness, or violence. Anger leads to emotional hurt, mental stress and spiritual damage. Anger keeps us from developing a spirit pleasing to God.
Jesus is not saying that calling someone a “fool” will condemn us to hell. What He is saying is that to utter such words is to place our self in a worse condition, one that damages our spirit and moves us away from God.
I find that in my life, when I have uttered words such as these….yelling at someone and calling them a fool, stupid, a dip-s**t, or some other term that is so derogatory in nature…..I was actually simply throwing an insult at them to hurt them. I simply wanted to get back at them and make them mad. They may have done something that was not so smart (haven’t we all?)…..however…..it wasn’t that they were actually fools… it was simply that they did something foolish or made me mad.
A blogging friend of mine (Mrs. Darcy), commented to me, “When you call someone a fool, that’s contempt, and it’s the first step in a dangerous path that, if not stopped, will lead to murder. If you hate someone, or dehumanize them and think of them as worthless, if you don’t check yourself, you’ll end up maligning them, then mistreating them, then persecuting them and ultimately killing them. Jesus is warning us of the dangerous path we set out on when we start with this one small, but hateful action toward our neighbors.“ (my emphasis)
I find it interesting that it is much like the pot calling the kettle black…..if a believer is angry enough to call someone a fool, …..the person uttering these words very often suffers from the same condition……placing the utterer in a worse condition at the time of judgement (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).