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Cain Slaying Abel (Jacopo Palma, 1590)
Have you ever “lost” an argument?
If you’re like most people, you always replay the argument in your mind. Of course, in the replay you always win the argument! You always smash ’em down and put them in their place. You’re like, “They say that, but then I make this super-amazing argument. That would have been great!”
Indeed, we’ve all lots many arguments—but we’ve never lost a rerun. While our mental replay may not seem to have any harm in it, at its core is a murderous spirit, which is exactly what the Sixth Commandment prohibits:
Exodus 20:13 says, “You shall not murder.”
Observing the Sixth Commandment is more than just dealing with physical murder (though it does do that!). Essentially, this commandment is about valuing the lives of others and realizing that people are precious image-bearers of God Himself (Gen. 1:26). This commandment means that the most valuable things on Earth are others. And loving others and leveraging your life to protect and prosper them is of utmost importance.
Why Do People Murder?
First, let’s remember that the Bible says that sin extends to everyone and sinfulness is total. Read Romans 3:9-20. We are all sinful. There is not a culture, time or ethnic group that is not sinful. There are no excuses and no exceptions. Sinfulness is total. It affects every part of us—every thought, word and deed. NO ONE seeks God and no one fears God.
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Second, people murder due to greed (Esau tried to kill Jacob because he took the family birthright), jealousy (Cain murdered Abel because his sacrifice was better), fear (King David killed his faithful soldier Uriah because he was fearful of having his sin uncovered), and personal revenge (Absalom killed his brother for raping his step-sister).
Image source: Pixabay.com
What’s the common denominator here? Someone values a thing, idea, or power more than they value the life of someone else. Again, each commandment goes back to an idolatrous heart. To live in idolatry is to live in such a way that you can’t live without something. Like all sins, murder begins there. You’re not satisfied with something, and you take someone’s life into your own hands.
What Does the Bible Say?
- Genesis 9:6: God says the price for taking a life … is life. If you take a life, you must pay with your life. There’s nothing on earth that you could use to pay for life. This is to say that human life is invaluable, irreplaceable and matchless. There’s no worldly equivalent to it. When you think of men and women as anything less than the image of God, you devalue life.
- Matthew 5:21-22: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus “ups the ante” and equates having anger toward someone as a murderous spirit. And viewing people as anything less than the special image-bearer of God that they are is a type of murder.
- James 2:1-11; 5:1, 5: From this passage, we understand that not to murder has all to do with how we regard the poor.
- “What about self-defense?” In certain situations, the Bible allows for self-defense (Exo. 22:2).
- “What about capital punishment?” Deadly force by police and capital punishment aren’t essentially murder. Only the living God has the authority to take human life. But God has implemented that right through the power of the governing state (Exo. 22:3; Gen. 9:1-6; Rom. 13:1-4, etc.).
- “What about going to war?” Honestly, most wars are brutal and unjust—perhaps, even some of those fought by our country. On the flip side, some wars are meant to protect innocent life. And if battles, wars and such are carried out for that reason, then the Bible wouldn’t consider the actions of those fighting as “murder” by definition.
- “What about abortion?” The Sixth Commandment is denoting to an exact type of killing—the taking of innocent life. As Christians, we believe that, from conception, the baby in the womb is human life (Psalm 139). And contrary to cultural wisdom, human life in general doesn’t come in stages. Just as you’re not more of a human when you graduate from high school than when you graduate from third grade, you’re not more human when your head is fully developed than you were when it was smaller.
What’s the Practical Takeaway?
Perhaps you thought you had never broken the Sixth Commandment, but now you see the stains of breaking it on your hands.
So, what are you to do?
- Put to death your anger. It is a sin of the heart that flows out of pride, self-centeredness (James 4:1-3) and fear. Don’t take you anger lightly—the Bible doesn’t! Don’t stuff or even ventilate your anger. Instead, pray about it and process it.
- Value life of all kind. All heresy begins with a partial truth. Don’t believe the lie that the unborn, mentally challenged, physically challenged, a person of a different race or the elderly aren’t fellow image-bearers of God. Pray that each person of each background in each culture would come to know the living God through Jesus Christ the Son.
As the old Heidelberg Catechism says, “God requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy and kindness towards him, and to prevent his hurt as much as possible; also, to do good even unto our enemies.”
Friend, there is so much we could apply this to in life. But the bigger questions are: What are you pursuing? What are you leveraging your life for? Is your aim to glorify God with this commandment?