Jesus gave ten examples to help us understand that the kingdom is a matter of the heart. We will explore the first three here. As with most examples, it should be easier to identify the sayings we can be doing to build stronger houses, and that is a good thing. However, we must remember that Jesus’ focus remains on our hearts, not our performance; the goal is to be made into a kingdom citizen, not to make or justify ourselves.

Guarding Our Tongue

As you might expect, the sayings of Jesus are contrary to the ways of the world. In fact, they serve as a means of inspection: Has our house been weakened and compromised by conformance with the world? With the Holy Spirit’s help, the sayings of Jesus can get us back on the right track – being transformed.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

One of the more subtle and pervasive worldly deceptions can be found in the way Christians use their tongues. What we hear in the world tends to find its way into our vocabulary. In between the hearing and the saying, our minds are at risk of being conformed to the world.

It is time we went on the offensive in this regard. For most of us, there is a lot of conformance that must be undone; and replaced with the image of the glory of the Lord (2Corinthians 3:18). Before considering the following passage, ask the Holy Spirit to use it to renew your mind.

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. Matthew 5:21-22

The way we live with our brothers and sisters in Christ – particularly in the way we speak to one another – carries far greater consequence than we believe; for if we believed this passage, we would be truly fearful about the words we throw around at each other. James 3:6 warns that the tongue is a fire. Perhaps we should consider the “hell fire” it can be for those of us that fail to guard it.

Notice that this passage infers a progression; from anger, to reproach, and then insult. The mind turned toward Christ (i.e., away from itself) learns to recognize the danger before words take flight. If we are surrendered to the Holy Spirit’s work, God will raise up a standard to protect us from harming another (and ourselves).

For example, the Father has given me a phrase to remember when someone says or does something potentially offensive. “God bless him” has become a forced detour in my mind, preventing me from becoming offended and responding in kind. I am sure He will do the same for you – a good first step in doing this saying of Jesus Christ.

Being Reconciled

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. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:23-26

This saying is about as straight forward as they come: If anyone, brother or adversary, has something against you, do all in your power to be reconciled with them. In the kingdom, alienation invalidates our offering to God (see Romans 12:2). In the world, it simply does not end well for us; nor for those who depend on us. If we have wronged an adversary, the challenge will likely be in the area of our trust in God to protect us as we pursue reconciliation in the way Jesus has instructed.

As threatening as an adversarial situation may seem, we should be most careful about this with our brothers and sisters in Christ; for the consequences are much greater. Where those in the world are less likely to let something go, those in our fellowship are apt to forgive and move on. Their forgiveness does not mitigate the requirement for our initiating reconciliation with them; nor does it reduce the consequence for our failing to do so.

The beginning point in both of these situations is the same: Commitment to do the sayings of Jesus, in faith and obedience. This is the solid foundation that will ensure the stability and strength of our house in the storm.

God bless you with grace and courage to meet every interaction and relationship with tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).

Humbly yours and forever His,