Let’s read the words of the Lord in Matthew 5:21-22, “Ye have heard that it was said by 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.”

In this portion, which comes after the Beatitudes, the Lord Jesus addresses the behaviors, attitudes, and actions of His people.  He later says in Matthew 15:18, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.”  These verses are dire warnings about how we can mistreat others with our words spoken in anger.  The seriousness cannot be overstated for to call someone Raca, or to call someone a fool carries serious consequences.

If one is angry with his brother without a legitimate reason, he would be subject to the judgment, or being taken to court for his actions.  It is so easy to become angry without cause and try to justify it by mentioning our ‘righteous indignation.’  In reality, that which angers us should only be that which would anger the Lord.  We need to be compassionate towards those who ‘get on our nerves’ or those who are not particularly friendly.  Sometimes, it might be right to be angry, but what we do with that anger can be sinful.  We read in Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”  How we handle our anger is a good indication of our own walk with the Lord.  Even if one only speaks angry words and insults, yet never physically kills, their words can kill another person’s spirit and have great negative effects.

Even more dangerous is to refer to a fellow believer as Raca.  One who commits this sin shall be in danger of facing the council.  ‘Raca’ literally means empty or useless.  The use of the word is an expression of great contempt.  It would be saying that someone was mentally inferior or was a worthless person.  Indeed, angry words come from angry hearts.  Ephesians 4:29 instructs us, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

To call someone a fool would cause you to be in danger of hell fire.  Here in this form of unrighteous anger, the word fool does not mean someone who is irresponsible or unlearned.  It expresses the idea that this person should be dead, and you are wishing that he was.  One has said it is equivalent to the expression, “God d— you.”  To use this word would cause one to be in danger of being executed and his body cast into a burning dump outside Jerusalem commonly referred to as the Valley of Gehenna.  (Gehenna is the Greek word for hell.)  This shows the seriousness of calling someone a fool, but it does not mean a believer would lose his/her salvation for uttering these words. 

In Smith’s Bible Dictionary we read of the difference in saying Raca or fool.  That says, “Raca denotes a certain looseness of life and manners, while fool, in the same passage, means a downright wicked and reprobate person.”  This passage is warning us of uncontrolled/illegitimate anger.  Our words, while not guilty of murder, can have a great devastating impact on others.

Let us heed the warning of James 3:5-6, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”  (CC)  (532.6)