10 Healthy Habits for Building Strong Families ❧ Part 11
When it comes to understanding the Ten Commandments, you’d think the one that requires the least explaining would be the sixth commandment, which the King James version famously translates, Thou shall not kill. Some of you may be thinking this seems pretty cut and dry – don’t kill. We can skip this one. I mean, you don’t struggle with the urge to kill – very often, only when the IRS says you owe them more money. And there are those occasions when your blood begins to boil, and you start to grow fangs when you find yourself waiting in line too long at the grocery store, or when someone rudely cuts you off on the highway. But outside of that, you’re good.
The famous attorney Clarence Darrow wrote in his autobiography, “I haven’t killed anybody, but I’ve read a whole lot of obituaries with great pleasure.” According to the American Psychological Association, by the time the average American child has hit 6th grade they have already witnessed over 8,000 murders on television. They have watched over 100,000 acts of violence on television. We live in a violent society. Every 22 minutes in America somebody is stabbed, shot or beaten or strangled to death. That is the highest homicide rate in the world. More kids die from violence than they do from illness.
Up front, it seems God’s command not to kill doesn’t need much explaining. But, in truth, it is one of the least understood commands. For starters, is it do not kill, or do not murder? That depends on which translation of the Bible you’re reading. If you’re looking at the King James translation, God is telling us we’re not to kill. While other translations don’t use the word kill, but murder. Which is it?
What Does This Commandment Really Teach?
Not to kill? Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13, KJV). This is the word used in King James. Or is it Not to murder? You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13, NAS). The New American Standard Version uses this word as well as other translations, even the New King James Version (NKJV) uses the word murder. There is a vast difference between these two words. When a deer hunter gets a deer, he doesn’t say, “I murdered a deer.” No, he says, “I killed a deer.” Or, we don’t say, “I murdered a fly.” We say, “I killed fly.” Big difference. So, which does God mean: “kill” or “murder”?
The Hebrew word God used for the sixth commandment is not the word “kill” (harag), but the word “murder” (ratsach). The root of this word means to strike or slay. There are at least eight different Hebrew words God could have used here, but He used this specific one. It is never used in the legal system or the military, or for hunting or killing animals. God carefully chose a word that points to the unlawful killing of another human being (Ryken, WIS, p136). When the King James Version was translated in 1610, the word “kill” was synonymous with “murder.” The difference in wording was not a problem then like it is today. People understood God is saying it is illegal or immoral to take the life of another human being. They knew from the context God was not prohibiting killing. If killing were wrong, then why would God command the death penalty for those who commit murder? Why would He allow killing in war? Killing in self-defense? One author points out: If the Ten Commandments forbade killing, we would all have to be vegetarians – killing animals would be prohibited. And we’d all have to be pacifists – since we could not kill even in self-defense (Prager, TTC, p 46).
So, God is saying it is unlawful and immoral to take the life of another. Why is this so important to God? For the simple reason that every human being, no matter who they are, have been made in the image of God and are valuable to Him. The same God who created Universe to display His incomparable glory, created man in His own image. God made us to share in His divine life (Gen. 2:7). Nothing in all the wonder of God’s creation shares this same distinct honor. To unlawfully take the life of another is synonymous to murdering the image of God. Every human being matters to God. C.S. Lewis said, There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit… How Does God Want Us to Apply His Command? Three truths we need to understand.
I. Your physical life comes from God. The very fact you have eyes that can see me and ears that can hear me right now is because God gave you physical life. The Bible says God formed us from the dust in the ground breathed life into us. Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). You didn’t evolve from monkeys. It’s not, “From goo to you by way of the zoo.” God made you.
Years ago while my brother was visiting us I gave him the book: “Darwin on Trial” by law professor Philip E. Johnson. After he read it, he was angry. He was angry because for the first time he was shown the dishonest holes in evolution and realized all of the evidence points to creation. He was angry because his public-school education tried to make a monkey out of him by teaching “monkey mythology.” He realized no evolutionist, no matter how persuasive or how many degrees has after his name can explain the origin of life. The only adequate and plausible explanation for life is God.
George Wald, a prominent Evolutionist (a Harvard University biochemist and Nobel Laureate), wrote, “When it comes to the Origin of Life there are only two possibilities: creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous Generation was disproved one hundred years ago, but that leads us to only one other conclusion, that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance!” (“The Origin of Life,” Scientific American, 191:48, May 1954). Evolution is really an attempt to break the sixth commandment by murdering God.
Many want us to believe we are not made in the image of God and that life does not come from Him. They want us to believe life has no value, no purpose. But when we realize life comes from God and we’re made in His incomparable image, it rips away the mask of deception of abortion, suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia (mercy killing), infanticide. The sixth commandment was given to remind us life is a precious gift from God, and it is to be carefully guarded against those who carelessly devalue it. The sixth commandment is to protect life. It reminds us God alone is Lord of life and death. He alone has the right to give it and take it.
II. Your spiritual life comes from God. The Bible teaches that we are born physically alive but spiritually dead. Eph. 2:1 says, Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins). The only way you can become spiritually alive is by placing your faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6). Jesus didn’t say there is more than one way or more than one truth or more than one life. No, Jesus was very exclusive. He is the only way, the only truth, the only life. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). Our spiritual life comes from God.
The moment we trust Christ by turning from our sin and relying wholly on Him as our Lord and Savior, the Bible says we are made spiritually alive; we are new creations. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). When you trust Christ, you’re not joining a self-improvement plan. You’re not just accepting a set of certain beliefs or code of conduct. You’re a new creation, a child of God made spiritually alive by Christ (1 Cor. 3:16). Your physical life and your spiritual life come from God.
III. Your eternal life comes from God. Jesus said, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand (John 10:27-28). The kind of eternal life Jesus is talking about is a quality of life as much as it is a quantity of life. The Bible is very clear, you are going to live forever in one of two places – Heaven or Hell. Both share quantity – forever. But they don’t share quality. Jesus spoke more of Hell than anyone. He repeatedly referred to Hell as a place of eternal punishment where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:46; Luke 12:38). Hell will be like what a fleeing Ukrainian woman sobbed, “Our lives are destroyed forever and there is no hope.” All of us shudder with the carnage and murderous brutality taking place in Ukraine – and we should.
Jesus offers us a different quality of eternal life, a life where there is no more fear, no more sorrow, no more hopelessness, no more death, no more separation, no more war. I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. Only Jesus can add years to your life and life to your years (Rogers, TSFSF, p.104).
The sixth commandment reminds us of the fact that our lives, physically, spiritually, and eternally, come from God. We are made in His image and to unlawfully take the life of another is synonymous to murdering the image of God.
Most of you are probably thinking, that wasn’t so bad. I’m not a murderer. But there is another form of murder we have not talked about and is the least understood intent of this commandment. It is what one theologian rightly called – murder of the heart. God’s intent behind the Ten Commandments is not just outward conformity, but inward integrity as well. Jesus captures the heart of this in Matthew 5. You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell (Matthew 5:21-22). The Pharisees mastered the outward conformity of the law. That’s what made them such “good” legalists. But Jesus is reminding them God is not just interested in your actions. He is just as interested in your heart.
Murder always begins in your heart. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23). Fourth in Jesus’ list of heart-disorders is murder. Even a casual reading of Jesus words should trouble us. At least they do me!
What is Jesus saying here? First, when Jesus tells them, You have heard that the ancients were told, He is not doing away with the law or adding His own beliefs. Jesus says in Matthew 5:17 that He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill what they said. Jesus is restoring God’s original intent behind the law. God was just as concerned about the heart in the OT as He is in the NT. In Leviticus 19:17 God says, You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart (Lev. 19:17). The religious leaders were only focused on the outward, not the inward. Since in their minds they had not murdered anyone outright, they were good with God. So, murder begins in the heart.
Second, this leads us to the question: What kind of anger is Jesus talking about? We’ve all been angry. Jesus Himself was angry, angry enough that He called the Pharisees even His own disciples “fools” (Matt. 23:17; Lk. 24:25). Paul called the Galatian believers fools (Gal. 3:1). We’re told be angry, and yet do not sin (Eph. 4:26). Not all anger toward someone is wrong. So, what is Jesus saying? He’s talking about a brooding bitterness, a deep seething hatred for someone that strikes out to hurt them emotionally, spiritually, physically, first in our thoughts and then in our actions, our words. This is murder of the heart. 1 John says, Everyone who hates his brother is murderer (1 John 3:15). Are you a murderer? Do you ever say something to hurt someone? You may not have murdered someone, but do take pleasure in reading the obituaries of those you don’t like? Do you know someone you’re so angry with you’d like to kill them? Maybe you don’t see yourself as a murder, but you really are.
Sometimes, even murders don’t see themselves that way. During the gangster days of the 1930’s a man known as Two-Gun Crowley was charged with a string of brutal homicides, including cop killing. He was one of America’s most wanted. He was eventually captured after a fierce gun battle in his girlfriend’s apartment. When the police searched him, they found a blood-spattered note that said, “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one, one that would do nobody any harm.”
Two-Gun was deceptively wrong. His heart was rotting with murder. Two-Gun is not alone. We’re all guilty of the same kind of self-deception. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court (Matt. 5:22). Turns out, the sixth commandment is so easy to keep after all!