By JoJo Tabares
“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.” Matthew 5:25 KJV
I was studying this scripture one day. It’s actually quite short, but as with many of God’s messages, it is packed with vital communication lessons that are applicable to us even today. I felt God calling me to write our first additional 21 Days to More Godly Communication articles on this scripture. Let’s pick this apart and I’ll show you what I mean.
Right from the start it says, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him.” To understand this first part, I’d like to share what the NIV version says, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court…” What happens when we don’t work things out with people before they take us to court? Tempers flare. Parties aren’t as willing to compromise because they have too much invested.
Further, the cost is usually higher than it would have been had the two parties settled before it reached the court date. Often, when an offer of settlement is made, it is done so with the understanding that the settlement amount is preferable to the price the loser would pay if he lost in court. Either the amount of money he had to pay would increase at the court date or his time and cost to his reputation would be more damaging to him than the small amount he would pay in comparison to settle beforehand. So God is telling us to work things out before disagreements turn into more serious issues which require help from others to resolve where a disinterested third party may increase the amount of damages or penalty one would have to pay: “lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer”
Next, scripture tells us we may also avoid another type of penalty, our freedom! Scripture says, “and thou be cast into prison.” So matters may escalate even out of the hands of the judge where we end up losing our freedom all because we weren’t willing to work things out before the situation escalated.
Now let’s go back and look at this scripture in context:
“Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” Matthew 5:21-25
The Lord says we shall be judged guilty not just for the murder of our brother, but also for being angry with him and even voicing unfounded claims at him, calling him fool. But God doesn’t stop there. He also tells us “if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that they brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Does God really want us to reconcile our differences with our brother before we lay gifts at His feet? Yes He does! Why?
You cannot properly give thanks with anger in your heart. Have you ever tried to be nice to someone after having an argument with someone else? Joe didn’t do anything to you, but after having a fight with Fred, you just can’t seem to be peaches and cream with Joe just now. Even when an argument is old, it has a tendency to harden your heart toward others. So God wants our total devotion unhindered by the troubles of our hearts with other men.
Now did you notice that God didn’t tell one of the parties to give in to the other. No. He says “first be reconciled to thy brother.” Being reconciled means that you try to work out your differences. This cannot be accomplished by only one party. Fred cannot simply tell God he is sorry for the fight they had. He must go to Fred and try to work things out. In order to work things out, however, both parties must be willing to trust, compromise, and perhaps change. This is not always possible. But notice here that the Lord doesn’t say we have to come out as friends in order to be reconciled. If Joe makes a sincere attempt and Fred will have no part of it, the matter is reconciled to God. The rest of it is up to the other person and God will deal with him in the same way. If Fred will have no part of working out his differences to Fred, then God will consider Fred’s gift either.
So godly communication involves working things out quickly before it escalates causing more damage to the relationship between the parties, stiffer penalties for one or both parties, hardened hearts towards God, and to avoid judgment. Godly communication for reconciliation ideally involves both parties being willing to trust, compromise and change. Lastly, godly communication may end up appearing more one sided where one party makes an effort but finds the other party unwilling. In this case though, there are still two parties involved in the reconciliation: you and God! Your obedience to God manifested by your willingness to work things out with the other party and the Lord’s blessings He bestows upon you for that obedience in the form of a heart free of burdens that can focus more on the Lord’s mission for your life.
JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication, but it is her humorous approach to communication skills which has made her a highly sought-after Christian speaker and writer. Her articles appear in homeschool publications, such as Homeschool Enrichment Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which also endorses her Say What You Mean curricula. You can also find JoJo on web sites such as Crosswalk.com and Dr.Laura.com. For more information on communication FUNdamentals and Christian-based communication skills for the whole family, please visit http://www.ArtofEloquence.com
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