Here is my sermon on the 6th Commandment in our series at church.
After spending 3-1/2 hours enduring the long lines, surly clerks and insane regulations at the Department of Motor Vehicles, I stopped at a toy store to pick up a gift for my son. I brought my selection – a baseball bat – to the cash register. “Cash or charge?” the clerk asked. “Cash,” I snapped. Then apologizing for my rudeness, I explained, “I’ve spent the afternoon at the motor vehicle bureau.” “Shall I gift-wrap the bat?” the clerk asked sweetly. “Or are you going back there?”
Welcome to our continuing study of the TC—as you know, we have been taking apart each of the Cs one by one…seeing what they say, what they mean, and how they are still very much applicable to us today. They are not just an old dusty set of rules that God sent down from heaven to keep us from having any fun.
They are a foundation for God’s people…and what is going to be neat today is that we are going to see how Jesus took these TC from the OT…and didn’t get rid of them, but rather, explained them even further for us.
Now, you may be tempted to mentally check out of this sermon today…maybe sleep right through it because you have seen that the sermon is dealing with the 6th C—which says, very simply:
Exodus 20:13 (TNIV)
13 You shall not murder.
And you are thinking, “Great, I’ve never murdered…this won’t mean much to me.” Ah, but if you do that, as I will show you in a second…you will be just like the Pharisees.
But first…let’s set the stage.
Not too long ago, I read about a teenage mother who gave birth to her baby…and then discarded her baby in a dumpster, where the baby died. Later, that teenage mother was charged with murder.
In a second scenario, everyday a teenage mother walks into a doctor’s office where a doctor performs an abortion on a baby just seconds before it is born. The teenage mother walks out of the office and goes home.
Two scenarios…but the same result. In the first scenario, the mother did not have the right to discard her baby. In the second scenario, she did. But the child still ended up dead.
This sermon is not about abortion. Really…what this sermon is all about is the value of life.
Because…this topic can get blurry in our nation. Think about it: what kind of killing is OK? Abortion? Capital punishment? Euthanasia? Suicide?
We need to hear what God’s word says about these things. And we have to understand them…and that is another reason why, if you aren’t still paying attention, you need to (even if you have never committed murder yourself!)
Well, let’s simply start with the C and go from there.
It states, in our TNIV and most of your Bibles, “You shall not murder.”
In the old KJV, it was translated wrongly, “you shall not kill.” The Hebrew word for used in this passage literally means “the act of taking a life unjustly.” That act is premeditated and deliberate.
And that is the definition of murder. And that is why the KJV is wrong…because there is a difference between the act of murder and the act of killing.
As you look at the rest of the OT, you see several things that are not forbidden by this commandment…and some things that are forbidden.
Let’s start by looking at what is NOT forbidden by this 6th C.
The killing of animals, for food or clothing, is not murder.
You hear a lot of animal rights activists today who want to make sure that everyone knows that an animal had to die for us to eat meat or wear some clothes.
Now, I don’t want to make this into an issue, because it isn’t…if you don’t feel it’s your right to eat meat or wear garments made with animal fur, that’s fine. Don’t. But God has given to us, HUMANS, dominion over animals. We are still to treat them with respect, because they are a part of the creation of God, just as we are. But we have been given the authority, by God, over them.
Genesis 9:3 (TNIV)
3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
God tells Adam it’s OK to eat meat. God gives Adam clothes made from the skin of an animal. God permits animals to be sacrificed in worship. It is not a violation of the 6th C to kill animals.
Self-defense, according to Scripture, is not murder.
Exodus 22:2-3 (TNIV)
2 “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens [b] after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.
So…basically, if someone breaks into your house in the night and wants to rob you, if you kill him in defense of yourself, you are not guilty of murder. But if you go out the next morning and track the thief down and kill him, then you would be…because that is premeditated and vengeful.
War is not murder.
I don’t like war…I like times of peace. And I struggle with the concept of war often.
Ecclesiastes 3:8 (TNIV)
[there is] a time for war and a time for peace.
I believe that God is going to hold those accountable whose wars are not justified…the war-monger. And I believe we should strive, all of us, to be peacemakers. But there are times when God has called His people into war.
Accidental killing is not murder.
Exodus 21:12-13 (TNIV)
12 “Anyone who strikes someone a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13 However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate.
Deuteronomy 19 gives us an example…a man goes out into the woods to chop down some trees for firewood. As he is doing that, the head of the ax flies off and hits another man and kills him. That man would not be guilty of murder, but he would have to flee into what the Bible calls a “city of refuge.” God gave the Israelites 3 cities…and people such as this man would flee to the cities of refuge for his own safety. He could escape the angry families and mobs and be safe there. Once he arrived, he would go before the priest and present his case. If the priest thought the man was guilty of killing the other man on purpose, he would send him back to his community to face the sentence. If the priest determined it was an accident, the man would stay in the city of refuge and be safe.
Capital punishment is not murder.
Again, another sticky topic that I have wrestled with for years. But God instituted the idea of capital punishment in the OT Himself.
Genesis 9:6 (TNIV)
6 “Whoever sheds human blood,
by human beings shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made humankind.
Now we can argue the merits of capital punishment…if the punishments deter the crimes or whether it administers true justice.
But God makes an interesting statement in this passage.
“…for in the image of God has God made humankind.”
It’s not an accident this statement follows God’s granting that blood be required for the shedding of blood.
He states humans have been made in His image…and to take the blood of a human is a serious sin and a serious offense. And to take that life is to rob that person and God of value. When you shed the blood of another man, you are striking at God as well, who has made that man in His very own image.
Exodus 21:14 (TNIV)
14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.
Remember what I said just a few minutes ago…that this sermon is about the value of life. To kill someone is to devalue their life…and to devalue the God who created and gave them that life.
And so, obviously, murder is the deliberate taking of another human life. And God has a strict commandment, this 6th C, against doing such a thing.
And He gives us that C because human life has value to Him.
Notice something with me:
In the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, we see the process of everything that is, being made. Creation.
Look at Genesis 1…
God wants light…so He says, “Let there be light.” And there was. Verse 3.
God wants sky…so He says, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” And there is. Verse 6.
God wants land…so He says, “Let the dry ground appear.” And it does. Verse 9.
God wants vegetation…so He says, “Let the land produce vegetation.” And it does. Verse 11.
And on…with light…He says it, and it is. With all of the living creatures…He says it, and they become. ..
And then we come to people…God creates these people in His image. But He doesn’t just call them into being, like everything else.
Genesis 2:7 (TNIV)
7 Then the LORD God formed a man [a] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
God created the man with His own hands…and put something into him that He hadn’t done with the other creatures…the Breath of Life. God breathed the Breath of Life into us Himself.
We have great value to Him…more than any other created thing.
And to take away this life…to snuff out the Breath that God gave us…is a grave sin.
And that can happen in a number of ways…the simple killing of another person. Abortion. Suicide. The Bible even has some verses recording that negligent homicide is considered murder.
And as I stated earlier, most of us, if not all of us, have not broken this commandment to not murder. And we might feel pretty good about ourselves in light of that fact. After all, we have discussed 5 previous commandments that we have most likely broken in one way or another. And so now we feel OK because this one we are good with.
But then Jesus comes along and messes everything up for us…isn’t that just like him?
Remember how I said at the start of the sermon that if you fell asleep during this message because you felt like it would be irrelevant to you, you would be like the Pharisees? Well, here is where I explain that.
Jesus has given to us the greatest sermon ever preached…the Sermon on the Mount. You can find it in Matthew 5-7.
And one of the first things Jesus says in the SOTM is that he did not come to abolish the Law. Rather, he says, he came to fulfill the law. Jesus didn’t come to get rid of the TC—he came to fulfill them.
And then he goes onto say:
Matthew 5:19-20 (TNIV)
19 Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
He says “I want your faith…your righteousness…to surpass that of the Pharisees.”
The Pharisees were OK people. They followed the Laws well. A Pharisee would have never broken the 6th C—do not murder—just as most of us have not broken that C. So…taken at face value, we are as good as the Pharisees; none of us has murdered another.
But Jesus wants more from us…he wants our righteousness to surpass that of the Pharisees.
And so he says, “It’s not good enough to have not murdered…I want more.” And this is what he says:
Matthew 5:21-26 (TNIV)
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, [a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister [b] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, [c]‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Jesus starts by saying—“you have heard it said before…you shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”
He is verifying to them what they know…they knew he was quoting to them from the TC. And then Jesus says, “But I tell you…”
And a lot of people think that when Jesus says that—“But I tell you”—he is nullifying the OT. But he is not…he is verifying it and a little bit more. When he says that (which he does a lot in the Sermon on the Mount, of which this is a part), what he is really doing is going on to fully explain more of that old law for us.
Jesus says…murder is wrong. Even the Pharisees get that. But Jesus wants more…so he goes onto say, “not only is murder wrong…so is anger.”
Uh-Oh! Now this is relevant to all of us! Jesus has just lumped murder and anger into one ball…and we have to pay attention.
Let’s take it apart.
Jesus says, “you have heard it said, don’t murder.”
But I tell you…don’t be angry.
And now this is personal…anger. We all have been angry at one time or another. And, as Jesus is showing us, anger is a dangerous emotion.
It threatens to leap out of control. It can lead to emotional hurt and stress and spiritual damage. It causes great harm.
And anger is a sin…because it violates God’s command to love.
And we know that anger is a slippery-slope…and Jesus keys into that in this passage.
He makes three statements about anger…outlining this slippery-slope.
The first step is silent anger.
Matthew 5:22 (TNIV)
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
Jesus says you will be subject to judgment if you murder…and you will be subject to judgment if you are angry.
Another way to translate this verse is:
Matthew 5:22 (NASB)
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court;
Jesus states that anger makes you guilty…and there is a punishment for that.
The second step is anger with contempt.
The next part of Matthew 5:22 says…
Matthew 5:22 (TNIV)
Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, [c]‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.
That term “raca” is Aramaic term of contempt…and what that means is Jesus was taking an example from common times of what one person would say to another person if they wanted to insult them.
To use a term of contempt against someone is to use a term that would de-value them…a term that would make them feel inferior or disgraced or worthless.
This kind of anger is the next step…the next progression…and it’s a spoken, contemptuous anger.
The third step is downright hatred.
First it was anger…then contempt…and now hatred. Slippery-slope.
Matthew 5:22 (TNIV)
And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
And I want us to notice something:
Jesus uses a crafty literary device to show this slippery-slope that anger can take you down…
1st step: anger—punishment=subject to judgment (in the court)
2nd step: contempt—punishment=subject to the Sanhedrin (the supreme court)
3rd step: hatred—punishment=subject to the fires of hell (greatest punishment)
With each step we see the sin becoming greater and more serious…as well as the punishment. Jesus’ warming is quite clear…anger is a wicked sin and it must not even be allowed to have a foothold in your life.
Now, there is such thing in the Bible as “righteous” anger.
Jesus shows us an example of “righteous” anger in the book of John.
John 2:13-16 (TNIV)
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Righteous anger differs from other anger in that it is motivated by righteousness…Jesus is angry with the sin that is prevailing. This is much different than being angry at someone because he slighted you or stole from you or cut you off in traffic.
Paul makes this statement in Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:26-27 (TNIV)
26 “In your anger do not sin” [d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
Paul is not saying “don’t be angry.” But he is saying don’t let that anger become a sin. Righteous anger…
He also gives some great advice…if there is anger in your heart, you can’t go to sleep. Some people like to deal with their anger by sleeping on it…but Paul says that’s very dangerous. He says sleeping on your anger…or not dealing with it…gives the devil a foothold in your life.
And that is the first of several practical ideas about anger today.
Unchecked anger is dangerous.
When we feel angry, we must look in ourselves and determine what is causing that anger. If it’s caused by unrighteous things, we have to stop it. We have to pray…we have to surrender it to Jesus. If we don’t we know that it will lead us on this dangerous, slippery-slope that we have talked about.
If the anger is prompted by righteous things, then we still have to make sure we deal with it before the sun goes down. Otherwise, we stew and it gives Satan the opportunity to trip us up.
Another practical idea:
Anger affects your worship.
You will notice in that Matthew passage that deals with the 6th C—leading into anger—also leads into how anger affects our worship. Let’s review:
Matthew 5:23-24 (TNIV)
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.
Jesus takes this anger thing so seriously that he tells his listeners…if someone is angry with you, or if you are angry with someone…I don’t want you to even go to the Temple and worship. Being reconciled is more important…go and do that, and then come and worship.
If someone is angry with you today…Jesus makes it your responsibility to go and attempt reconciliation. In fact, he wants you to do it now…he wanted you to do it before you even got here…
Take a minute…and think…think of anyone who may be angry with you. Or anybody you may be angry with. I want you to write their name down on your notes sheet…and I want you to make a FIRM commitment right now to reconcile things with that person today. Don’t put it off…Jesus wanted it handled last night. Make sure that it is handled tonight.
Anger affects our worship…not only do I believe we worship ineffectively, God is not interested in our worship until we are made right with our brothers and sisters.
Another practical thing:
Jesus gives us the path of reconciliation.
Matthew 5:23-26 (TNIV)
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
The first step on the path: Go.
First go and be reconciled to that person…we need to recognize that something isn’t right with that person and be man enough…be Christian enough…to make it right.
Go…is the first step. You can’t control the other person…all you can do is ask for forgiveness. You can’t make them forgive…but you gotta go.
The second step on the path: do whatever is in your power to reconcile.
Jesus says “settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way…”
We can’t force people to forgive us…but we must go to them and ask…and then we must try to do whatever we can to help the process. Remember…there is a lot at stake.
I heard a story about a young lady fighting traffic during rush hour in Washington DC. She darted her compact car from a side street into the stream of traffic immediately in front of a driver just a few car lengths ahead of me, forcing him to brake sharply. He avoided hitting her by inches and was obviously furious. Within seconds, traffic stopped at a red light, and I watched him pull up behind the offender, leap from his car, and stride angrily toward hers. Clearly, he intended to give her a royal bowling out. Seeing him coming, the very attractive young lady jumped from her car and ran to meet him–a big smile on her face! Before he could say one word or know what was happening, she had thrown her arms around him, hugged him tightly, and planted a passionate kiss on his lips! Then she was back in her car and driving away, leaving her antagonist standing in the middle of the street still speechless and looking somewhat confused and embarrassed–but no longer angry!
She knew how to make friends quickly…and it saved her some trouble.
Hebrews 12:14-15 (TNIV)
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…
We must refuse anger…we must refuse revenge…and we must seek reconciliation when those first two things fail.
We have this simple idea…do not murder. And, like the Pharisees, most of us have obeyed that C. But Jesus expects us to go beyond that…for our righteousness to surpass the Pharisees. And so it’s not enough to just not murder…Jesus wants us to avoid anger, which is a form of murder. When we are angry with another, we devalue their life…and we devalue their Creator.