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.
-- Matthew 5:22 (KJV)

  1. What is the meaning of the word "fool" in this verse?

  2. Why would Jesus say those using it would be in danger of hell?


5 Answers 5


To understand the significance of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:22, we need to put it in context with the preceding verse.

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 5:21-22 NIV)

Jesus is reminding his audience of the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) but then goes on to explain the true significance of the law—a deeper, spiritual meaning they had never seen.

First, Jesus warns that the very act of murder finds its roots in an angry, murderous spirit: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22a). God, who examines the very thoughts and intents of the heart, will issue judgment upon unrighteous anger. Next, Jesus warns against name-calling, using “raca” as an example (verse 22b).

Raca comes from the Aramaic term reqa. It was a derogatory expression meaning “empty-headed,” insinuating a person’s stupidity or inferiority. It was an offensive name used to show utter contempt for another person. Jesus warned that the use of such a word to describe someone was tantamount to murder and deserving of the severest punishment of the law.

Jesus then issues a third warning against those who call someone a “fool” (verse 22c). Murder begins in the heart, and epithets such as “raca” and “fool” are signs that there is hatred lurking within. The hatred that causes one person to hurl insults is the same hatred that causes another to commit murder. The attitude of the heart is the same, and it’s this attitude that makes a person morally guilty before God. Jesus not only warns us against expressing unrighteous anger, which can lead to murder, but clearly commands that disparaging denunciations and name-calling be avoided. Such abusive words reveal the true intents of one’s heart and mind for which we will be held in judgment: “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10 NIV).

  • 1
    The seriousness, as you point out, of regarding a fellow human - one of God's own creation - as worthless is so serious that it warrants an extreme response from the Creator.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 21, 2018 at 14:18


The meaning of “fool” is “dull or stupid (as if shut up)”.

In other words, every word that comes out of the mouth of a brother is considered (by those who are in danger of the judgment) as nonsense and is shut up of knowledge. They do not believe that Christ speaks in a brother and will reject a brother’s words and speak of him as “unintelligent”.

This is what the scribes and Pharisees did with Jesus as they did not believe what He preached. They could not receive His words in belief. They did not believe that He was sent by God to speak God’s words.

“But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me.” John 8:45.

As they mistreated Jesus, so will they treat those brothers sent out by Him to preach His living words to the churches. Nothing will change today. History repeats itself.

The scribes and Pharisees hated their brother Jesus without cause and called him names. To hate a brother without cause and labeling one as “unintelligent” for what he preaches is “killing” another with the spear of the tongue.

This is much in the way Cain (meaning “spear”) rose up and killed Abel (meaning “empty, vanity, breath”). To hate = “murder”.

To call one “Raca” is to consider what he says as “emptiness, vanity”….not worth the breath that comes out of the mouth. Raca = “empty one” or “empty-headed”…empty of knowledge.

Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:20.

A person will not enter in to understand the true knowledge of God without having love for the brothers sent out by Him to speak His words of spirit and life.

The scribes and Pharisees did all of those religious things that appeared religious outwardly to men but they lacked brotherly love. If they were of God the Father, they would have listened. If they are of the devil, they will not hear and will do the things that they see their father doing. The same holds true today.

John 8:43 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on My own, but He sent Me.

Matthew 5:20-22 KJV (20) For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (21) 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:

Anger starts in the heart when one hears the Word of Truth sent from Heaven and they do not believe in what they hear.

In the beginning, Cain was also full of wrath and his countenance fell but he was counseled to overcome it: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. “

Sin (evil speaking of another) lies at the door of the mouth. When one is angry with his brother who preaches what one considers as “unintelligent”, he is in danger of speaking out with evil words against that brother in wrath and is in danger of being judged.

The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. A wrathful brother already knows this within himself. He already knows the judgment of God (Romans 1:32).

When the wrath comes out in words by calling another brother “Raca”….”empty-headed”….for what he preaches (through Christ speaking in him), he is in danger of the council.

He is then reminded of the commandment of Jesus (who is risen from the dead) to have love for another. He is reminded of the holy covenant to have brotherly love as Jesus loved us and died for us.

They are reminded of such by the words of Jesus (the High Priest) and all of words of the apostles and prophets of the Bible. He is counseled to "overcome" and be found of Him in righteousness...to "awake" ...to "arise from the dead".

The Sanhedrin = the words of the law and the prophets that they are to hear.

Then Abraham said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead. (Luke 16:31).

If they continue to "sleep" and not repent and continue to willfully sin (against the commandment to have love for another) by persisting in speaking in wrath calling them a “fool” for a second time, they are in danger of “hell fire”….Gehenna fire….if afterwards they do not repent.

(22) 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.

So there are 3 warnings here: the first is internal as we know the judgment of God already for doing such things.

The second is being warned by the Scriptures themselves …the living words of Jesus are presented to us to remind us to awake to His righteousness (have brotherly love) and repent.

When there is no repentance after the second warning and instead there is a stubborn repeat of the wrathful words against a brother for what he preaches…the living words of Christ, he is reminded again the 3rd time to “awake to righteousness” by which he is to repent.

After the 3rd unrepentant disobeying of righteousness, there is then no more sacrifice for willful sin (3 strikes) as the judgment of God is then considered not reversible upon that person. Whoever sins are retained, they are retained. He is not found in the book of life and is cast into the fire which is not reversible.

Hebrews 10:26-31 KJV (26) For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, (27) But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (28) He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: (29) Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (30) For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. (31) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

When one hears the Word of Truth from above, the heart may become full of wrath because what one hears does not conform to the word of men who preach the Scriptures with earthly wisdom and not the wisdom from above.

Every man is tempted within his own heart to speak out in wrath and pride against what they hear. It brings forth sin…evil speaking out of the mouth which was conceived within the heart first.

James 1:14-18 KJV (14) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

Sin…. when “it is finished”…brings forth death. Willful sin…continuing to sin after having been warned 3 times without repentance… brings forth the irreversible judgment upon them. There will then be no more sacrifice of Jesus for their willful sins…. “it is finished”.

(15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (16) Do not err, my beloved brethren. (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (18) Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

But, happy are those who will “awake” in the second watch or even in the third.

They will awake to His righteousness after having been warned…even after the 3rd time. They will recognize the coming of the Son of man to them in the hearing of His words and will awake from being dead in sins and trespasses and cast away the works of darkness….the wrath, the envy, the strife, the contentions, etc.

Luke 12:38-40 KJV (38) And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. (39) And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. (40) Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Some will continue to sin and not repent of their evil….continuing to willfully sin against one that comes in the name (authority) of the Lord. Those who do such things do not believe that Christ is speaking in the one that they sin against.

2 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV (1) This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (2) I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: (3) Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.

A minister of God is sent for our own good but there is power to retain the sins of those who continue to willfully sin in their unbelief in the Word of Truth when they hear it spoken through the Holy Spirit.

Romans 13:1-5 KJV (1) Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (2) Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. (3) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: (4) For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (5) Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

John 20:21-23 KJV (21) Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (22) And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: (23) Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.


1 What is the meaning of the word "fool" in this verse?

The word in this verse means “mutinous” or “rebellious” and referred to as such , that person is said to be morally worthless, or a rebel against God.

2 Why would Jesus say those using it would be in danger of hell/ Gehenna.

Deuteronomy 19:17-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days, 18 and the judges shall make a thorough inquiry. If the witness is a false witness, having testified falsely against another, 19 then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Under the Mosaic Law a person making a false condemnation against another person, was liable to that sentence himself, however Jesus went a step further and said ,that person would be liable to hell/Gehenna- everlasting destruction

  • 3. Such a condemnation is also, effectively, declaring a person's final destiny -- a judgment that God alone is permitted to make. The person who does this is making himself equal to, or putting himself in place of, God Himself. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:1-2.
    – JDM-GBG
    Aug 21, 2018 at 3:01

We can say to somebody that he acted foolishly, without a censure, however to say to somebody that he is fool is a grave sin and offence of divine image in him, for all humans carry divine image in them as being created by God in His image and likeness. But to offend God's image, that is to say, God's representation in human, is to offend obliquely God Himself.

Indians say to each other instead of "hello", a more traditional "namaste", which means "I respect/worship divine in you". Should Christians be immeasurably less respectful to each other as to derogate divine image in each other as foolish?


I think the word fool here is badly translated because it does not convey the meaning of the author but it basically means to be a non-believer. Not in Christianity so much but to have no belief in God as a whole. Put as simply as I understand it, Jesus was saying that to call a person a "non-Believer" is to put yourself in danger of Hellfire.

For example, Only a fool says in his heart, there is no God. Remembering what we know about judging others, if we make judgement about another person, condemning them as a non-believer, we might fall under the same judgement. If the Judgment falls upon us the same way we have judged others, and are named a non-believer, by God, the ultimate Judge, we have placed ourselves in danger of Hellfire. Plus, even if we got it wrong and the person was a believer, we are also in trouble with God for falsely accusing. It is a very dangerous thing to make such a strong statement about another person, although it may well be true.

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