You Shall Not Murder
You shall not murder. (Exod. 20:13; Duet. 5:17)
On this sixth day of the new year, we are looking at the sixth commandment--You shall not murder. Most people in the world think they have done a pretty good job of keeping this commandment. The number of people worldwide who have been incarcerated for homicide is small as a percentage of the world population. Most people in the world will live their entire lives without actually taking the life of another human being. But does that mean that most people will keep the sixth commandment? On the contrary, when we understand what the sixth commandment is actually prohibiting, in light of Jesus’ authoritative interpretation of it, we come to realize that most people will likely violate the sixth commandment not once, but many times during their lifetime. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matt. 5:21-22). According to Jesus, being unjustifiably angry with another person is the equivalent of committing murder in your heart. I say ‘unjustifiably angry’ because becoming angry is not always sinful. Jesus became angry and did not sin when he saw people desecrating the temple and then drove them out (John 2:13-22). There is such a thing as righteous indignation. But for most people, when we become angry, it is usually for sinful, selfish, reasons. Thus, for most people, when we become angry, we commit murder in our heart. This is not to say that committing murder in our hearts is any less grievous in the eyes of God. Notice again what Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” The consequences are the same for both physical murder and spiritual murder; hence, the grievousness of both sins are equal in the eyes of God. This is because humans are made as the image of God (Gen 1:26-27); we are image-bearers of God. Thus, to desecrate, insult, or disrespect an image-bearer of God is to render the same to God himself. It is for this reason God commands capital punishment for physical murder (Gen. 9:6), forbids cursing people (James 3:9), and condemns becoming angry with people for unrighteous reasons (Matt 5:21-22). Becoming angry in our heart for sinful and selfish reasons at another person who is made as the image of God is a violation of the sixth commandment--You shall not murder.
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