This article is our sixth in our series on the Ten Commandments and has been abbreviated for posting. Be sure to read and study all the scriptures quoted.
The Bible records God as giving the sixth commandment “Thou Shall Not Kill,” but it is better translated “Thou Shall Not Murder.” (Exodus 20:13, NKJV) There is a significant difference. God allowed the Israelites to kill other humans under very special circumstances such as punishment for certain sins, for example, murder (Exodus 21:12-14, Leviticus 24:17, 21) and adultery (Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22-24). God also allowed the Israelites to engage in warfare and even gave them instructions about waging war (Deuteronomy 20:1-20). God also recognized that humans might accidentally kill each other, and he made provisions for this (Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 19:1-13).
God acknowledges that there are times when one must kill-in defense of one’s life, people, and nation. What is forbidden is murder which is defined as “the unlawful and premeditated killing of one human being by another.” In Judaism, murder is understood in a broader sense than our contemporary minds have defined. In addition to the unlawful and premeditated killing of a human being, “murder” includes:
- Not providing safety for travelers who may be in imminent danger.
- Causing anyone (particularly a man) the lost of his or her livelihood (Job) or the lost of their ability to provide for their family and themselves.
- Some scholars view “murder” as including character assassination and false accusation.
- Jesus viewed murder as being angry enough to kill or curse. (Matthew 5:21-22)
In Matthew 5:21-23 Jesus amplifies the meaning of the sixth commandment “thou shall not murder.” He points out that to commit murder means more then just killing someone, it means having an angry and unforgiving attitude towards them:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
The apostle John elaborates on this by writing “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1John 3:15, NKJV).
God places great importance on our ability to control our speech. He equates the ability to bridle the tongue and speak words of love and truth with that of having eternal life.
Murder, like all sin, begins in the human heart for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
In 1839, English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton coined the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword.” I would like to suggest that “the tongue is at least as deadly as the sword.” How often have we used premeditative words to hurt another—to retaliate –to exact revenge – to diminish and destroy a person’s character, reputation, self-esteem and well-being?
Destroying a person’s self-esteem or his ability to make a living or diminishing his good reputation or crushing his spirit is just as deadly as murder.
Christians are no longer under the Law of Moses but under the Law of Christ. Christians should no longer wage carnal war, but spiritual warfare (John 18:36; 2 Corinthians 10:1-6; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 6:11-14; 2 Timothy 2:3-5; 4:6-8). Christians must be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9, Romans 14:19), forgiving those who do them harm (Ephesians 4:29-32; Colossians 3:12-14; Matthew 6:9-15; Mark 11:25-26), treating their enemies with love (Luke 6:27-36) and not seeking revenge (Romans 12:17-21; 1 Peter 3:8-12).
Do you control your words?
Are you a murderer?