Is It a Sin to Call Someone an Idiot? (Y1.T1.D29)
I have a bad habit. When I’m behind the wheel of a car, I've been known to call names.
This doesn’t only happen because I have a bad day. I can wake up in a beautiful mood, free of aches and pains. When I get into my car, I’m all sunshine and smiles. Then while singing along to Christian radio, a reckless driver cuts me off.
"Idiot!" I spit out, "Don't you know the rules of the road? Stupid, fool."
Don’t I have a right to my outrage? Traffic laws exist to protect us. The violation of these laws can cause real damage to property and life. But is it a sin to call someone a fool?
To answer this question let’s define the meaning of the word “sin.”
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary sin "is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God" (1 John 3:4; Rom. 4:15), in the inward state and habit of the soul, as well as in the outward conduct of the life, whether by omission or commission (Rom. 6:12-17; 7:5-24).”
According to James 4:17, “To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.”
And according to Jesus, “Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna [Hell]” (Matthew 5:22).
This is sobering. Apparently, I have a right to be offended by the foolish actions of another person, but I have no right to judge and condemn them. Jesus made this clear when he said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone” (John 8:7).
Am I guilty of foolish driving? Yes. I intentionally and habitually violate speed limit laws every time I drive. As a flawed human, I’ve cut people off, failed to use my blinker, merged poorly, double-parked —you name it. I’ve no right to convict others of what I’m guilty of. This includes calling them a “fool” or other synonyms like “stupid” and “idiot.”
What the world considers innocent name-calling, Jesus calls sin. It's really a heart issue. Our Savior said, “The things which proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimony, and blasphemies. These are the things which defile the man” (Matthew 15:18–20).
A sinless reaction would be to offer those around us the same grace God gives to us. The law was written for self-examination, not external judgment.
With this lesson in mind, I now try to enter my car with a heart of empathy. Rather than curse the offender, I repent for my evil thoughts and ask God to help me pray for the other driver the way I would want to be prayed for when I’m guilty.
I don’t always succeed, but the best way to break a habit is to acknowledge it.
Show Me a Better Way
1 “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. 2 If the thief is found breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt of bloodshed for him. 3 If the sun has risen on him, he is guilty of bloodshed. He shall make restitution. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. 4 If the stolen property is found in his hand alive, whether it is ox, donkey, or sheep, he shall pay double.
5 “If a man causes a field or vineyard to be eaten by letting his animal loose, and it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field, and from the best of his own vineyard.
6 “If fire breaks out, and catches in thorns so that the shocks of grain, or the standing grain, or the field are consumed; he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.
7 “If a man delivers to his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and it is stolen out of the man’s house, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. 8 If the thief isn’t found, then the master of the house shall come near to God, to find out whether or not he has put his hand on his neighbor’s goods. 9 For every matter of trespass, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any kind of lost thing, about which one says, ‘This is mine,’ the cause of both parties shall come before God. He whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.
10 “If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies or is injured, or driven away, no man seeing it; 11 the oath of Yahweh shall be between them both, he has not put his hand on his neighbor’s goods; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution. 12 But if it is stolen from him, the one who stole shall make restitution to its owner. 13 If it is torn in pieces, let him bring it for evidence. He shall not make good that which was torn.
14 “If a man borrows anything of his neighbor’s, and it is injured, or dies, its owner not being with it, he shall surely make restitution. 15 If its owner is with it, he shall not make it good. If it is a leased thing, it came for its lease. (Exodus 22:1–15)
6 “You shall not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.
7 “Keep far from a false charge, and don’t kill the innocent and righteous; for I will not justify the wicked.
8 “You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds those who have sight and perverts the words of the righteous.
9 “You shall not oppress an alien, for you know the heart of an alien, since you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:6–9)
16 “‘But if he struck him with an instrument of iron, so that he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall surely be put to death. 17 If he struck him with a stone in the hand, by which a man may die, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall surely be put to death. 18 Or if he struck him with a weapon of wood in the hand, by which a man may die, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall surely be put to death. 19 The avenger of blood shall himself put the murderer to death. When he meets him, he shall put him to death. 20 If he shoved him out of hatred, or hurled something at him while lying in wait, so that he died, 21 or in hostility struck him with his hand, so that he died, he who struck him shall surely be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
22 “‘But if he shoved him suddenly without hostility, or hurled on him anything without lying in wait, 23 or with any stone, by which a man may die, not seeing him, and cast it on him so that he died, and he was not his enemy and not seeking his harm, 24 then the congregation shall judge between the striker and the avenger of blood according to these ordinances. 25 The congregation shall deliver the man slayer out of the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge, where he had fled. He shall dwell therein until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the holy oil.
26 “‘But if the man slayer shall at any time go beyond the border of his city of refuge where he flees, 27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside of the border of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the man slayer, he shall not be guilty of blood, 28 because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the man slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
29 “‘These things shall be for a statute and ordinance to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
30 “‘Whoever kills any person, the murderer shall be slain based on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness shall not testify alone against any person so that he dies.
31 “‘Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death. He shall surely be put to death.
32 “‘You shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may come again to dwell in the land before the death of the priest.
33 “‘So you shall not pollute the land where you live; for blood pollutes the land. No atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, but by the blood of him who shed it. 34 You shall not defile the land which you inhabit, where I dwell; for I, Yahweh, dwell among the children of Israel.’” (Numbers 35:16–34)
21 “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger of the judgment. Whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ will be in danger of the council. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.
23 “If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly while you are with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. 26 Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:21–26)
Thank You for calling me Your friend (John 15:15). Help me tame the anger I feel toward those who get in my way. I want to see the world as you see it. I want to remember my battle is not with other humans but with the forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Help me see people as You see them. Give me the insight that comes from grace and mercy rather than retaliation and rage. When people see me, I want them to see my friendship with You.
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