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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

A Certain Trumpet Sixth in a series: 'The killer within you'comment (0)

June 12, 2014

By Ron Pate, Th.D.


A young girl was asked by her Sunday School teacher which of the Ten Commandments related to parents. She responded, “Honor thy father and mother.”

“Very good,” replied the teacher. “Now tell me which commandment applies to your brother and sister.”

“That’s easy. Thou shall not kill.”

The sixth commandment is short and to the point no matter which version of the Bible you use. “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13, KJV) or “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13, NIV). Almost everyone thinks this is the one commandment they have not broken. This commandment tells us that life is a gift from God and that we are not to interfere with God’s gift of life to others by taking it away.

At least six different Hebrew words are used for killing about 28 times in the Old Testament. The word used in Exodus 20:13 appears 21 times. It is the most used and the most violent. This word refers to taking an innocent life by criminal intent or gross negligence. The Bible does make distinctions among the actions that cause another person to die. Distinctions that lead us to evidence in the Bible for different types of killing. At least three kinds have been identified and relate to this commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Intentional murder

The first and most obvious is intentional murder. Intentional murder is expressly forbidden by the sixth commandment.

However, not all killing is intentional, criminal or grossly negligent. In Exodus 20:24 it refers to the killing of animals for sacrifice in worship and in other places the Bible describes how to eat these animals. The command does not refer to killing animals. In Exodus 21:12 the Scripture refers to one who strikes another person and causes him or her to die and requires the death of the perpetrator. This brings up complex issues but the Bible does not attack what appears to be capital punishment for the taking of another life. Therefore capital punishment is not in violation of the sixth commandment. 

If a thief is killed breaking and entering, then the defender is not guilty, according to Exodus 22:2. Self-defense does not violate the sixth commandment. Nor does it include the enemy during times of war. Although war takes a great personal toll on the person who has to kill or be killed in battle, God often sent His people into battle against others.

This command relates to homicide — intentional, willful taking of another person’s physical life. The first recorded homicide is found in Genesis 4. In a fit of jealousy and rage Cain killed Abel, his brother. 

We still live in a violent world where violent people commit violent acts when they are out of control. Angry people are rarely in control. Road rage, employees who have been fired, college-age and high school-age kids full of anger for mistreatment, abuse or rejections go on killing sprees. Child abuse takes the lives of innocent babies and preschoolers. Domestic violence not only destroys marriages but also takes lives. Only God has the right to number a person’s days, but often people usurp God’s right.

So God points us to the sixth commandment. I can almost hear Him say, “Don’t you understand? I have a better way. I don’t want people to sleep with pistols under pillows. I don’t want women to have to carry pepper spray in their purses. I don’t want multiple locks on every door. Do not kill each other, do not abuse each other and do not condone violence. Obey the sixth commandment.”

Another type of murder can be found in the Bible. Some refer to it as invisible murder. 

In Matthew 5:21–22 we have Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount expanding the scope of the sixth commandment. He states that anger with another can be murder. Jesus was telling us there is more than one way to murder a person. He would tell those of us who live in nice neighborhoods, work for nice businesses and attend nice churches that murderers walk among us. No we don’t shoot anyone, but we could be exactly who Jesus is talking about. Unresolved anger shows up in a hateful attitude toward others. Like the people of Jesus’ day we call people “Raca-Fool,” which indicates our disgust with a person and an attitude that they are “good for nothing.”

Have you ‘murdered’?

It appears that Jesus sees little difference between a knife dripping blood and a tongue dripping juicy gossip, between bullets ripping the flesh and an abusive tongue ruining a life. Why is this true? Both come from the same place, a corrupt, hateful heart. Do you need to confess the sin of murder? Who have you murdered with your tongue?

When you kill physically you usurp God’s right to number a person’s days. When you kill verbally you usurp God’s right to decide a person’s worth. 

In James 3 the writer tells us we are prone to bring praise and curses out of the same mouth. We cannot worship God one minute and abuse others the next. Look at the cross. See the Savior dying, murdered by men with hate-filled hearts. Yet He did not curse them, but He forgave them through eyes of unconditional love. He wants that love to be in our hearts. We need to ask God to replace our hatred with love, our arrogance with humility and our malice with understanding. We need to pray Psalm 51:10 with King David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Indirect murder

A third type of murder is indirect murder. The indirect murderer commits no murderous acts and uses neither hand nor tongue. He kills by neglect and apathy. He kills by withholding love and attention. Some call these folks who would never see themselves as killers, religious-style killers. Jesus condemned those in Matthew 25:42–43 who did not participate in ministry to others as failing to minister to Jesus Himself.

In 1 John 3:15, John noted that something was wrong with the person who had plenty and closed his heart to the person who was in deep need. We are committing an indirect murder. Something is wrong with believers when we have apathetic hearts that cause us to withhold blessings from others. John questions whether or not we have the love of Christ dwelling in us.

In Acts 1:8 disciples of Jesus are commanded to witness. Could allowing people to die without sharing Christ be a form of murder by neglect? It is certainly something to consider.

Intentional murder by homicide; indirect murder by hate, cruelty or devaluing a life; invisible murder by simply neglecting the lives of others and letting them die without daily needs or a relationship with Jesus Christ all might be evidence of breaking the sixth commandment. Do you need to confess to murder? Who have you murdered this week?

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