“You shall not murder.”
— Exodus 20:13
This commandment, though stating a value we all hold, has tipped off some of the most heated debates in our society.
For example, people often debate how this commandment applies to abortion. Some contend that abortion can’t be murder because they believe that life doesn’t begin at conception. However, the Bible clearly states that a baby has life the moment he or she is conceived. In fact, unlike our culture, the Bible uses the same word for the baby inside the womb as for the baby after birth. Because babies are clearly human beings in God’s eyes, even from the first moment of conception, abortion is murder and forbidden by the Sixth Commandment.
Another hot topic tipped off by this commandment is capital punishment. If taking another human life is wrong, how can we turn around and take a murderer’s life? Let’s go back to the Hebrew to get the answer. In writing the Sixth Commandment, Moses intentionally passed over nine different Hebrew words for “kill” and chose the one that means “murder” (ratsach). In Exodus 21 God commands that people who commit certain sins should receive the death penalty. The word ratsach is not used in these cases, so capital punishment does not equal murder. (Note that killing in self-defense is not murder. In Exodus 22:2 we read that if a thief breaks into a house and the owner kills the thief, the owner won’t receive the death penalty because he or she defended home and family.)
Not only does the Sixth Commandment address hot topics, it goes deeper, penetrating to the secret motives of our hearts. Jesus said, “Whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Thus, unrighteous anger is a violation of this commandment. And to fully observe the Sixth Commandment, we must not only avoid murder and unrighteous anger, but we must proactively save lives. Jesus commanded us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, visit those in prison, and share the Gospel with others.
While most of us don’t murder people outright, we may harbor unrighteous anger, or we may neglect helping those in need. What do you need to do to ensure that you obey the Sixth Commandment completely?