Commandment 6 – No Murder

May 26, 2019

Norwalk First United Methodist Church

The Ten Commandments

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Commandment 6 – No Murder

Exodus 20:1-2, 13

            The Sixth Commandment seems so simple and so clear, but it may be the least understood of the Ten Commandments. The King James Bible is the most widely used English translation of the Bible. It translates this commandment as “Thou shall not kill.” Many of us grew up with that translation in our minds. But the original Hebrew says, “Do not murder.”  And the difference between the two is enormous.

         Kill means taking any life, whether of a human being or an animal. Or taking a human life deliberately or by accident. Or Taking a human life legally or illegally, morally or immorally. On the other hand, murder can only mean one thing, the illegal or immoral taking of a human life. That is why we say, “I killed a mosquito,” not “I murdered a mosquito.” And that’s why we would say, “The worker was accidentally killed,” not “The worker was accidentally murdered.”

         The Ten Commandments do not prohibit killing. In the first five books of the Bible, know as the Torah by the Jews, killing is allowed for murdering another individual, and in war, and in animal sacrifice, and for eating meat. Did you know that killing animals was not permitted by God until after Noah came off the ark in the Book of Genesis? Until this time, animals and humans only ate plants and lived amongst each other.

         Listen to Genesis 9:1-7: Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

             4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.

6        “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed;  for in the image of God has God made man.

         It was then long after Noah that the Hebrew people were given this command by God not to murder. People who are against capital punishment and for pacifism can not cite the Bible as a source to support their views. We are allowed to kill in certain circumstances, but we are not allowed to murder another human being without facing death ourselves.

         This Sixth Commandment, the first of the “do nots” in our relationship with other people, is the most important of the “do nots.” That is why it is listed first, because murder is the worst act a person can commit. The final four, adultery, stealing, giving false testimony, and coveting are serious, but not nearly as much as taking the life of an innocent person. Well, more about all of this in a moment, but first, would you pray with me?


         Our relationship with God defines our responsibility to our fellow human beings. The last five commandments of the ten pertain to our relationships with our brothers and sisters created in the image of God. Albert Mohler, Jr. in his book Words from the Fire, writes this: “Because of our fidelity to God’s law, our submission to God’s sovereignty, and our knowledge of God’s purposes, we see human beings in an entirely different light. And herein is the radical truth – without the first five commandments, everything we learn in the second table of the law is continuously and ruinously negotiable. If you take away the first five commandments, then everything that follows can be redefined and renegotiated.”

         In other words, when we see God as the one and only true god, and when we have no other gods but God, and when we don’t take his name in vain, and when we hold the Sabbath holy and honor our father and mother, then we can model the proper behavior with our fellow human beings. Our respect for God influences our respect for each other. After all, we are created in His image.

         For many of us, murder is a hard thing to comprehend, since many of us have not been touched by it. But unfortunately, in the twentieth century, we found out that murder could be accomplished on a massive scale. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security director for President Jimmy Carter, wrote in his book Out of Control, that four human beings alone could be blamed for 175 million deaths: Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. The twentieth century leaves memories of murder that can never be forgotten. Truthfully, murder is really not that distant from us.

         Even in our society today, there is constant murder on the streets. Violent death is a leading story on our news. It is the leading cause of death for young males. But there is also murder on the small and large screen. By the age of eighteen the average American child has seen more than eighty thousand murders depicted on television, film, and in video games. Murder is becoming so routine that it is now something that is expected and is no longer taken with great moral seriousness. It is the pretext for the drama yet to unfold on the screen or the story to be replayed thousands and thousands of times over with a controller in hand. We don’t distance ourselves from it.

         Now as Christians, we have to admit that there is a great deal of killing in the Bible and God is the author of much of it. The Bible is a blood-drenched book and speaks of killing with directness by war and by execution. Mohler says this, “Among the many descriptions of God in the Old Testament, we find that He is a God of war, and thus in the Old Testament there is authorized killing, even commanded killing, especially as found in the two categories of war and capital punishment….When we read the Bible clearly,” he goes on to say, “war was a part of God’s plan for the conquest of the Holy Land, the Land of Promise. And war throughout human experience has been a perpetual necessity and a ruinous tragedy.”

         As a Christian church, we have had to try to deal with the concept of war and murder. What developed out of this was the just-war theory. If war is going to happen, we have to reason it like this. If all previous things have been tried, war then becomes the only option that will actually save more lives than it takes. It is a difficult question, but one that was necessary for example for the United States to get into World War II. It was a war made necessary in order to defend life and liberty, even though it was a war filled with horror and matters of moral confusion. We now know that it was justified to defend liberty and the almost six million Jews that were being exterminated. And the confusion is this, the Six Commandment states, “You shall not murder,” but yet we recognize in times of war just how difficult it is to have our hands clean of murder.

         Capital punishment is also authorized in the Bible, seen explicityly in the Old Testament where there are over a dozen offenses that the Lord declares to be worthy of death. Capital punishment is ordered under those circumstances in order to make the severity of the crime clear and understood.

         In Romans 13:4 we are told that the governing authority “does not bear the sword in vain.” There is no way around what that text is telling us; capital punishment is part of God’s plan. The covenant with Noah of Genesis 9:6 reads, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” You see, murder is an insult to God. Murder deprives God of one who was made in His image and for His glory. As Mohler writes, “Murder is the arrogant, willful subtraction of God’s glory, and capacity for the display of God’s glory in the midst of His creation….It is a personal attack upon the dignity of the Creator. The killer or the murderer becomes the taker of the gift of life, the image destroyer.” We need to understand that this commandment was a rule against the taking of human life when the taking of that life was not explicitly authorized by God.

         As we move into the New Testament and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus digs even deeper into the idea of murder. Listen to what Jesus says 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 is 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.”

         As I said at the beginning of this message, murder is somewhat distant from us. Murder is not something most of us find as a personal struggle. But as we read Matthew 5, Jesus now says that murder is no longer a matter merely of the external taking of life by knife, club, stone, or gun, it is also anger and hatred.

         We now have to admit that our heart is a murderous heart. We all know that hatred and anger lurk all too close to us in our own human hearts. We have to understand that human anger is a complex force, burning hot in some of us and cold in others. In some people, anger is ready to strike out all the time, but in others it sits dormant. When anger is hot, it can lead to murder. It is an evil heart that would jump all too quickly from irritation to anger to hatred to murder.

         Not only do individuals share in the bloodguilt of murder, but nations can share in that bloodguilt as well. Israel is at times described as bearing corporately a bloodguilt, especially as we read about all the killing in the Bible. But we as a nation can also share in bloodguilt as we ignore the carnage of abortion around us. Over sixty million unborn Americans have been killed in the womb since the Supreme Court sanctioned the practice in 1973. I recently saw a drawing of man shouting to God to send us scientists and doctors to cure cancer and alleviate the world of its most disastrous diseases. And God says, “I did, but you killed them all.”

         We have become so arrogant as to presume that we can destroy the image of God from embryo until the end of life and elderly stages. We now debate if the aged among us should have continued medical care or should it be withdrawn to lower medical costs. When we negotiate the image of God, we join in a logic of death.

         Folks, none of us is safe from the guilt of the Sixth Commandment. The Sixth Commandment points us toward reverence for life, but not for the sake of life itself but because of the Creator. The Sixth Commandment also points us to the need, our desperate need, for the grace and mercy of God shown us in Jesus Christ. Jesus bore in Himself the malice and the hatred and murderous intention of humanity, and gave His life for sinners, shedding His blood for the remission of our sins. Mohler ends with this, “We read this commandment as Christians. It is addressed to us. Judgment be upon us if we hear it as addressed to someone else.” “You shall not murder.”

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