Well, if you have done your New Testament reading for today, then you know the reason for the difference. Jesus said that to call your brother (or in my case, sister) a fool was to place you in danger of hellfire. “Stupid” and “idiot” and even “stupid-idiot” are one thing, but calling someone a “fool” can send you to hell. That was always curious to me, but I have never since called anyone a fool! Even people who I suspected were.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is calling us to a ethic that transcends rules and exceptions to the rules. He calls us to a morality that goes beyond that of the Pharisees, the experts in splitting hairs and finding loopholes. He says, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). He then goes on to illustrate that ethic as He calls us to seek the heart and mind of God in doing what’s right and reflecting God glory in everything we do--
- Don’t just follow the rule of not killing someone; deal with the anger in your heart so that you will reflect the love of God.
- Don’t just follow the rule against adultery; deal with the lust in your heart so that you will reflect God’s purity.
It doesn’t matter whether you call someone a fool or an idiot. It’s not the specific word that Jesus has in mind, but the heart that gives voice to it. Listen to the “fool” passage in Matthew 5:22 in Petersen’s The Message translation--
“I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire.
This would have been terrible when I was a kid-- it takes stupid and idiot off the table too! So what are you going to call someone when you get really, really mad at someone? Well, it's the really, really mad part that is the whole point!