Matt 5:23-26 – Reconciliation

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, 29 May 2011

Translation by Nate

21. Y’all heard that it was said to the men of old, “Do not murder,” and
            “Whoever murders will be guilty in the judgment.”

22. But I myself am saying to you,

            every one who is enraged toward his brother will be guilty in the judgment, and
            whoever says to his brother, “Racca,” will be guilty in the court, and
            whoever says, “Moron,” will be guilty in the hell of fire.

23. If therefore, you are lifting your gift upon the altar,
and there you happen to remember that your brother has something against you,

24. let go of your gift right there in front of the altar

and start climbing down;

first be reconciled to your brother,

and then, when you come [back], start offering your gift.

25. Get to be on good terms with your plaintiff quickly,
            even while you are with him on the road,
            lest it happen to be you that the plaintiff delivers over to the judge,
                        and the judge to the police, and you be thrown into prison!

                        26. I’m telling you truly, you will never get out of there

                                    until whenever you shall have paid the last cent.


Review: Jesus is teaching about the law of God.

o       He’s not loosening up on the O.T. law,

o       and He’s not introducing anything fundamentally new either.

o       What He’s doing is connecting the dots.

o       In our study of vs. 21-22, we saw that Jesus started with the 6th commandment, “Do not murder” and then connected hatred and slander to that commandment, showing that God intended the application of the 6th commandment to include hatred of and offensive treatment toward fellow human beings.

o       Jesus makes it clear that God holds us accountable not merely for our outward actions but also for our heart attitudes.

o       In the next 4 verses which we’re looking at today, Jesus draws two practical applications in light of this important principle:

  1. One scenario depicts you when you realize that you have acted offensively towards someone and you need to go find that person,
  2. and the second scenario depicts an encounter with the offended party on the street.


Jesus personalizes the application from a plural “y’all” to a singular “you” and some real-life scenarios. This is not something that somebody else needs to do, but something each one of us personally needs to consider.


In fact, I had to clear the air with my neighbor in order to share this sermon with a good conscience. [Tell story of borrowed chainsaw returned in poor condition.]

1. What do to when you realize you have been offensive

Mat 5:23  ᾿Εὰν ον προσφέρῃς τὸ δῶρόν σου ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον κἀκεῖ μνησθῇς τι ὁ ἀδελφός σου χει τι κατὰ σοῦ,

23. If therefore, you are lifting/offeringNIV/presentingNAS/bringKJV your gift upon the altar, and there you happen to remember that your brother has something against you,


In this first scenario, you’re in the middle of a worship service:

o       Maybe during the prayer time while confessing sin to God,

o       maybe while listening to the word of God as it is read and taught;

o       maybe as you are about to take communion,

o       maybe as you are approaching the treasure box to drop a gift in.


You’ve turned your mind away from all the business that usually preoccupies you, and you are fixing your thoughts on Jesus, but then suddenly a thought arrests you, “Oh dear, that thing I did without hardly thinking about it must have really hurt so-and-so. I bet they are struggling with their attitude toward me now.”

o       This is not a distraction which needs to be kicked back out of your mind; this is an intrusion of the Holy Spirit upon your thoughts to convict you of sin and righteousness.

o       I often find that when I slow down enough to spend time alone with God in prayer, loose ends like this turn up in my thoughts. Let us all take the time to slow down enough before God in private and public worship that we can hear the Holy Spirit communicate to us in this way.


What constitutes the sort of offense we are talking about?

o       Obviously, from vs. 21, if you’ve committed murder, there are survivors in the family you need to make amends with.

o       and from v.22, if you have called somebody a moron or insulted them or given them any tangible evidence that you hate them, you need to make things right; you have damaged their reputation and turned other people against them and you need to do what you can to fix that.

o       There is an ancient Jewish teaching that says, “do not bring the trespass offering before the sum of what is stolen is returned” (Maimon. Hilch. Gezela, c. 8. sect. 13.)

o       And indeed, if you have shortchanged somebody or sold them an inferior product or charged for more service than you can deliver, those are all forms of stealing, and you need to go back and make it right with your customer.

o       But this goes beyond financial matters. The Greek word τι “’something’ against you” is quite indefinite. Does your brother have any just ground of complaint against you?

o       This raises the principle that God is not the only party we have to deal with when we sin. Usually our sin harms another human being, so there are actually two offended parties:

1.      God, whom you have offended by violating His law, and

2.      that other person whom you have offended by treating them wrongly.

When we sin, we must confess our sin to God and ask Him to forgive us on account of Jesus’ death on our behalf. But we also have to make it right with whomever we’ve offended.

o       This is something we can teach children as well. Say little Johnny hits big sister Suzie. He first has to stop what he’s doing and make sure she is all right and apologize to her and take care of her and comfort her if she got hurt. Then take Johnny aside and explain that God commanded us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted and forgiving…” Was that kind to hit Suzie? No. Then you have broken God’s command, and I need to teach you not to do wrong like that. So I spank him and then say, “You need to ask God to forgive you.” Once we’ve prayed, I assure him that God will forgive him because we asked Him to in Jesus’ name. Then I can assure him that everything is set right – with both God and Suzie.


When this kind of thing comes to our attention, Jesus says, we need to act right away…


Mat 5:24  ἄφες ἐκεῖ τὸ δῶρόν σου ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου, καὶ ὕπαγε πρῶτον διαλλάγηθι τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, καὶ τότε ἐλθὼν πρόσφερε τὸ δῶρόν σου.

24. let go of your gift right there in front of the altar and start climbing down/go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then, when you come [back], start offering your gift.


The nuances of the Greek language behind our English translations picture an O.T. Jew “carrying” a sheep or a sack of wheat or a “gift” like that up the steps to the “altar” in the temple, then when they realize they need to take care of an offense against a brother, they “drop” the offering right “there” and “go back down” the steps of the altar and out into the “street” to look for that brother.

o       Perhaps this is during Passover, Pentecost, or Succoth, when all the Israelites gathered to worship God in Jerusalem, so this brother might literally be just outside the temple camping on the side of the street somewhere that week. (Gill)

o       It is o.k. to put your worship on hold (as long as you don’t forget about it) in order to make things right with somebody else. The first priority is to be reconciled with your brother or sister, then you should return to continue where you left off in worship.


How do we get reconciled with this offended party? The Greek word itself teaches us some lessons:

o       This word is an Imperative, requiring action, therefore we must not wait for them to come to us; we are to take the initiative to reconcile. (ATR) Sadly, it is my experience that many offended people would rather nurse their bitter feelings toward me than come to me and make it right, so often I need to be the one to act or the problem will fester.

o       Greek word for “Reconciled” is compound of “dia” = “between” & “allos” = “another” “Between the two [of you] bring about another, a totally different and better relationship …” (Hendricksen)

o       This verb does not occur anywhere else in the NT, but some examples in the OT include:

1.      Judges 19:3 – The Levite whose wife left him, so he took initiative to go after her, spoke kindly to her, to “reconcile” her to himself, and brought her a donkey to ride back on.

2.      1 Sam 29:4 – It is suggested that David will “reconcile” himself to King Saul by cutting off the heads of a bunch of Philistines.

3.      In Job, God is the one who reconciles men by changing their hearts and minds (5:12, 12:20-24, 36:28)

4.      A papyrus dating back to the second century has been discovered on which a prodigal son, Longinus, writes to his mother, Nilus, saying, “I beseech thee, mother, be reconciled with me.” A.T. Robertson commented, “The boy is a poor speller, but with a broken heart he uses the identical form that Jesus does. The verb denotes mutual concession after mutual hostility.”


What this does NOT mean:

o       “[Do we have to] wait until [we’re] bringing an offering to the altar, or… entering the church? Not at all. The time for reconciliation is always right now… ‘Make friends quickly with your opponent…’” (Hendricksen)

o       “The meaning evidently is - not, ‘dismiss from thine own breast all ill feeling,’ but ‘get thy brother to dismiss from his mind all grudge against thee.’” (JFB)

o       [This does not mean that when] “anyone who even in the minutest degree finds fault with you, you cannot bring that offering until you have succeeded in getting him to approve of you and of all your ways.” No. “The ‘something’ must be of a nature important enough to be called a grievance… (Hendricksen)

o       I don’t have to agree that he “has a just cause for complaint… If I know that my brother even thinks that he has a right to be dissatisfied with me, should I not strive to be reconciled to him?” (Hendricksen)

o       His sin can’t prevent me from worshipping God: “the wickedness of another can be no hinderance to me, when I have endeavored earnestly to get it removed, though without effect.” (Adam Clark)

o       God does not always accept acts of worship from His people:

1.      Gen. 4:5/ Heb. 11:4 – God did not accept Cain’s offering,

2.      1 Sam. 15:22 – God was not pleased with the Israelites offering the Amalekite’s sheep as sacrifices, after God had told them to destroy them all in war,

3.      Isa. 1:11 – God was not pleased with the sacrifices the Israelites made in Isaiah’s day because they continued to tolerate sin and injustice toward the poor;

4.      Jer. 6:19-20 – “your burnt-offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing unto me… because you haven’t listened to me and you have rejected my law [coveting and practicing deceit]”

5.      Amos 5:22 – God told the Israelites that He hates their worship gatherings and sacrifices and fellowship meals and songs because they also worship the idols they brought out of Egypt and tolerate injustice;

6.      Micah 6:7-8  “will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? …  He has shown you, man, what is good and what Jehovah requires of you, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”

7.      Mark 12:41-44 – widow’s mite

o       “It is the heart that must be right. It is the inner disposition that must be one of love toward all others. That is the only way to fulfill the sixth commandment.” (Hendricksen)

o       Henry Krabbendam: “The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.”



1.      Isaiah 1:15  And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood… 1 Timothy 2:8  I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing.

2.      Mark 11:25-26 And while you are standing praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you.

3.      1 Peter 3:7  Husbands, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered.

4.      1 John 4:20 If someone should say, "I am loving God," yet he is hating his brother, he is a liar, for the one who is not loving his brother whom he has seen is not able to love God, whom he has not seen. Since we can't see God, the visible demonstration of our love to God is to love our brother. Love of others must absolutely follow from loving God.


o       Calvin: “…The claims of our religion are unwelcome to God… if we are quarrelling amongst ourselves… As long as by our own fault we stand at variance with our nearest, there is no open access for us to God.”

o       Adam Clarke: “Do not attempt to bring any offering to God while… in a spirit of enmity against any person; or hast any difference with thy neighbor, which thou hast not used diligence to get adjusted… A religion, the very essence of which is love, cannot suffer at its altars a heart that is revengeful and uncharitable, or which does not use its utmost endeavors to revive love in the heart of another.”

o       Matthew Henry: “From all this it is here inferred, that we ought carefully to preserve Christian love and peace with our brethren, and that if at any time a breach happens, we should labour for a reconciliation, by confessing our fault, humbling ourselves to our brother, begging his pardon, and making restitution, or offering satisfaction for wrong done in word or deed, according as the nature of the thing is; and that we should do this quickly…”

o       Don’t use this as an excuse to skip church or communion: “Many give this as a reason why they do not come to church or to the communion, because they are at variance with some neighbour; and whose fault is that? One sin will never excuse another, but will rather double the guilt. Want of charity cannot justify the want of piety.” (M. Henry) We are specifically commanded to come back and pick up where we left off in worship and not forget God!


So the first scenario applying the 6th Commandment to practical life was during a worship service, taking initiative to go and be reconciled to an offended brother. The second scenario is in vs. 25-26, where you meet an offended brother on the street:

2. How to stay out of jail

Mat 5:25  ἴσθι εὐνοῶν τῷ ἀντιδίκῳ σου ταχὺ ἕως ὅτου εἶ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ, μήποτέ σε παραδῷ ὁ ἀντίδικος τῷ κριτῇ καὶ ὁ κριτὴς [σε παραδῷ] τῷ ὑπηρέτῃ, καὶ εἰς φυλακὴν βληθήσῃ·

25. Get to be on good terms with your plaintiff quickly, even while you are with him on the road/way/going to courtESV, lest it happen to be you that the plaintiff hands over to the judge, and the judge to the officer/guardESV and you be thrown into prison!


Here, the offended brother/sister is called αντιδικος

o       “adversaryKJV/accuserESV/opponent at lawNAS/plaintiffAdam Clarke.

o       “Paid the last cent” may indicate this is somebody you’ve borrowed money from” (Hendricksen).

o       Antidikos in Scripture – shows up 11x, including Mat 5 and || Lk 12

  1. Accuser in court: Proverbs 18:17* A righteous man accuses himself at the beginning of his speech, but when he has entered upon the attack, the adversary is reproved.
  2. Jeremiah 27:34* But their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is his name: he will enter into judgment with his adversaries, that he may destroy the earth;
  3. Esther 8:11*  wherein he charged them to use their own laws in every city, and to help each other, and to treat their adversaries, and those who attacked them, as they pleased
  4. Jeremiah 28:36* Therefore thus says the Lord, “Behold, I will judge your adversary [Babylon], and I will execute vengeance for you; and I will lay waste her sea, and dry up her fountain.” (cf. Isaiah 41:11)
  5. Luke 18:3 NASB  "There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him [the unjust judge], saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.'
  6. Satan: 1 Peter 5:8 NASB  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (In verb form - Zechariah 3:1 ASV  And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of Jehovah, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary/accuser. Also 1 Tim 5:14.) Let us not take Satan’s place and become a litigious adversary against people as a way of life.


Here we have another command: (ἴσθι εὐνοῶν)

o       agree withKJV/make friends withNAS/settle matters withNIV/become well-disposedHendriksen/Be well-minded toward - inclined to satisfy by paying or compromisingVincent/ Be thou consenting toWycliffe/ Mak up wi’ yere enemyBraid Scots

o       This word is found nowhere else in the whole Bible.

o       Luke 12:58 – parallel passage “work to get released from” – separate, get loose from a contractual obligation.


The Situation

o       “[T]he creditor and debtor are going together to some inferior magistrate, or lesser court… pecuniary causes, or causes relating to money matters, were tried ‘by the bench of three’ (Misn. Sanhedrim, c. 1. sect. 1)… [I]f the creditor wanted to, he could oblige the debtor to go with him to the supreme court of judicature, and try the cause there; for so say the Jewish canons[1]: ‘If the creditor says, “We will go to the great sanhedrim,” they compel the debtor, and he goes up with them, as it is said, “the borrower is servant to the lender,”’ where it might go harder with the poor debtor; and therefore it was advisable to prevent it by an agreement…” (John Gill)

o       The “ews” seems to indicate that you’ve been trying to make up with this antagonist, and he decides he wants to take you to court after all, so you continue to follow him down the road to the courthouse and continue trying to reach a consensus all the way up to the courthouse. (The word “court” is not actually in the Greek text, however.)


The Reason for the command:

o       The reason for such persistence in reconciliation is that you don’t want to go down the progression of the judge, the officer, and the jail.

o       “[R]unning through the whole course of a law-suit must not only be vexatious, but be attended with great expense; and in the end, though the loser may be ruined, yet the gainer has nothing.” (Adam Clarke)

o       “It is at our peril if we do not labour after an agreement, and that quickly… Many ruin their estates by an obstinate persisting in the offences they have given, which would soon have been pacified by a little yielding at first. Solomon's advice in case of suretyship is, Go, humble thyself, and so secure and deliver thyself, Prov. 6:1-5... A prison is an uncomfortable place to those who are brought to it by their own pride and prodigality, their own wilfulness and folly…” (Matthew Henry)

o       “…settle the matter out of court; deal with him privately.” (Hendricksen)

The idea is that you don’t want to get the process started. Don’t let an offense stand. One thing will lead to another and it’s not going to have a good result.

Mat 5:26  ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως ἂν ἀποδῷς τὸν ἔσχατον κοδράντην.

26. I’m telling you truly/surely, you will not ever get out of there until whenever you shall have paid the last penny/cent.

o       A quadran would be 1/4 of the standard coin called the “as” or the “assurias.” [Show photo]

o       The quadran featured the bust of Hercules on one side and the prow of a galley on the other.

o       It was worth about 1/8 of an hour’s wages, so around a dollar in our current inflated currency.

o       In the parallel account in Luke 12:59, the word “lepton” is used as the name for the coin.

o       From the gospel account of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:42), we know that two mites (leptons) equaled one quadran.

o       As far as I can tell, the quadran was the smallest coin in Roman currency, and the lepton was the smallest coin in Jewish currency in Jesus’ day so in that sense it would be like our one-cent coin today.

o       Hendricksen: “The point is: the person who refuses to make an earnest attempt at reconciliation will never be able to pay his debt.”

o       Adam Clarke: “If the matter issues in law, strict justice will be done, and your creditor be allowed the fullness of his just claim; but if; while you are on the way, going to the magistrate, you come to a friendly agreement with him, he will relax in his claims, take a part for the whole, and the composition be, in the end, both to his and your profit.”

o       EXAMPLE of my friend Jim putting a lien on a property that he did architectural work for and which didn’t pay him for his work. Jim settled out of court for less than the value.



1. Humble ourselves and reconcile with brothers and sisters:
Calvin: “Where do all these hurts come from, except that individuals are too tenacious of their rights, and overzealous for their own convenience to the detriment of others? Perverse love of self blinds almost every man… Truly men would never rush into spite and strife if the proper humility flourished in our lives, but as it can hardly be avoided that some contests come our way, Christ shows the remedy that may quickly compose them, to put a bridle upon our greed, and to be ready to settle even at our own loss, rather than pursue our rights with unyielding energy.”

o       2. Make sure that we are reconciled to God through Jesus.
This also reminds us that there is a higher court before which we will stand one day, and, although this text is not really talking about that court, we should remember not to let offenses stand with God either: Matthew Henry: “The great God is an Adversary to all sinners… he has a controversy with them… It is our concern to agree with him, to acquaint ourselves with him, that we may be at peace. It is our wisdom to do this quickly, while we are in the way. While we are alive, we are in the way; after death, it will be too late to do it; therefore give not sleep to thine eyes till it be done. They who continue in a state of enmity to God, are continually exposed to the arrests of his justice, and the most dreadful instances of his wrath. Christ is the Judge, to whom impenitent sinners will be delivered; for all judgment is committed to the Son; he that was rejected as a Saviour, cannot be escaped as a Judge. It is a fearful thing to be thus turned over to the Lord Jesus, when the Lamb shall become the Lion. Angels are the officers to whom Christ will deliver them; devils are so too, having the power of death as executioners to all unbelievers. Hell is the prison, into which those will be cast that continue in a state of enmity to God, 2Pet. 2:4… divine justice will be for ever in the satisfying, but never satisfied.” Only Jesus can redeem us by His grace.

* Brenton’s English Translation of the Septuagint

[1] (Maimof. Hilch. Sanhedrim, c. 6. sect. 7)