A Hot-Tempered Teacher

by Lois Tverberg

“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:24-25

It is easy when you are passionate about something, especially about God’s Word, to use strong, angry words to shake up your audience. When you see obvious errors online, your urge is to denounce the foolish author by pointing a prophetic finger of rebuke.

Certainly there’s plenty of arguing online now, religious and non-religious. You might be surprised at what we can learn from rabbinic teachers. They said: “A hot-tempered man cannot teach” (Pirke Avot 2:5). Aimed at those who teach the Scriptures, it was a warning that once a communicator loses his temper, he loses his ability to communicate. A related insight was, “Anyone who allows himself to become angry — if he is wise, he loses all his wisdom” (Talmud, Pesachim 66b).

Consider the damage that occurs when we communicate in anger. We leap to assumptions, assuming the worst about the people we are trying to reach. The street-corner preacher who scolds his audience about their wicked lifestyles has made an accusation that justifiably offends people. He’s presumed the worst and he loses his ability to reach his listeners.

Psychologists talk about the “Idiot Effect.” People can have a disagreement and openly discuss their differences, but at the point when one declares, “The reason you believe that is you’re an idiot!” the other will slam shut the doors of communication and never open them again. When you insult your listeners, you lose them.

Rage of AchillesThis can be an issue for people when they discover their Jewish roots. They often grumble, “Why wasn’t I ever told this before?” or “Why has the church lost its Jewish heritage?” Some people angrily accuse the church of deliberately withholding information, rather than acting out of ignorance. The latter is much more likely, because the unfortunate split between Jews and Christians goes back to the first few centuries AD.

Whether you’re trying to share the Gospel with a non-believer or your knowledge about your Jewish roots with your pastor, you need to guard against an argumentative attitude or anger. Know that others are trying to discern the truth just like you are, but they’ve had different sources of information. To be convincing, you need to humbly bridge the gap between their perspective and yours.


Further reading: Be a Bridge, Not an Island at OurRabbiJesus.com.

Also the final chapter of Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus.

Photos: CCGiovanni Battista Tiepolo / Public domain

Anger Unleashed

by Lois Tverberg

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell. Matthew 5:22-23

Rabbis of Jesus’ day sought to motivate people to obey God’s word and stay far from sin. One technique they used in their teaching was to pointing out that seemingly small sins can lead toward much greater sins.1 We see this in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount when he first describes how in the Scripture, murder requires judgment, but then he says that even anger and insults put you in danger of judgment. A rabbinic source actually derives this same point by linking together several verses in Leviticus:

“He who violates, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself [Lev 19:18],’ will ultimately violate, ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart [Lev 19:17],’ and ‘You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge [Lev 19:18],’ and even, ‘He shall live with you’ [Lev 25:35], until in the end he will come to shedding blood.” 2

It is fascinating how the commentary here pulls together several commands from Leviticus and points out the progression between them. It draws a slope of sin that is a natural progression:

Not loving your neighbor –>

Hating him in your heart –>

Taking revenge on him –>

Driving him away from you –>

Taking his life – murder!

Both Jesus and the rabbis are emphasizing that the time to confront a sin is when it is still minor, so that you can forgive and your relationship can be repaired. If you just internalize your anger, it will eventually lead to contempt, hatred and thoughts of revenge. After that it is a short step between insults, fighting, breaking up relationships, and even destroying life.

We all should examine our feelings toward others and consider whether we harbor grudges toward people around us. The time to confront and forgive is now—before we slip any further down the slope. Like Cain, sin is crouching at the door of our hearts. We need to keep ourselves from sliding down this terrible incline that can eventually lead to death.

1 & 2  Sifre Deuteronomy, Shoftim 187.11. As quoted in New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus, by David Bivin, p. 98.

Photo: LilRoloHere