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About this series
God's Boundaries for Abundant Living
Psychologists tell us that boundaries provide security, protection, and self-esteem. Long before psychology, God provided ten clear boundaries to protect His people from harm and give them the highest values ever recorded on the earth. "God's Boundaries for Abundant Living" gives a fresh look at the Ten Commandments and will help you discover God's boundaries for your highest, best and most abundant living.More from this series
By the sixth grade, the average American child has witnessed eight thousand murders on TV and one hundred thousand acts of violence.
Into this world, God says, stop the violence. God says, “Thou shall not kill.” Into this day of technological sophistication but moral disintegration, God places a boundary of protection around the most precious commodity on this planet. And to God, the most precious commodity is the human life.
We’re going to examine the sixth commandment. It’s on your notes and I would like to examine it by asking and answering four questions.
First, what’s the meaning of the sixth commandment? Second, what’s the purpose behind the sixth commandment? Then I want to make some, what are the obvious applications of the sixth commandment for us in our day? And then finally, what are some not-so-obvious applications of the sixth commandments that we get right from the very lips of Jesus? I’ve entitled this boundary, Stop the Violence! And it’s found in Exodus 20 verse 13.
So, let’s jump right in. What’s the meaning of this command? Literally, there are two words. The two words are, no murdering. There are seven different words in Hebrew for the idea or concept of killing. This specific word has the idea with premeditation and intent to take another’s life.
The Bible does not teach that all killing is wrong. This word is not used, for instance, in reference to the killing of animals: Genesis 9. This word is not used in reference to accidental death or manslaughter. This word is not used in Hebrew of killing someone in self-defense. This word is not used in Hebrew for capital punishment. This word is not used for just wars and the killings that occur in a just war.
God does not forbid all killing. God forbids, in the sixth commandment, thou shall not murder.
And I don’t know about you but I was a young Christian, I did not open the Bible until I was eighteen. I went away to college and basically I majored, mostly in basketball and baseball and I got an education too.
And there was a guy out of New York City, a really, really tall guy and I was a Christian and we had a lot of things that were very different and he was a senior and I was a freshman and I always carried his bag.
And his goal in life was to humiliate me. And he was very good at it. And so he would get everyone’s attention and then he would rag on Chip, in the locker room, at the training table. And one particular time, “Hey, Chip!” And that meant everyone, Jerry has a time where he’s going to belittle the skinny little guard. And I said, “What, Jerry?” He said, “Are you eating that meat?” And I said, “Yes. Training table, of course I’m going to eat it.”
“You hypocrite. You call yourself a Christian.” He was always hitting my faith. “What are you talking about?” “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Thou shall not kill?’” And I thought to myself, well, yeah. He said, “Someone killed that animal and you’re eating it. You Christians. You’re all hypocrites.”
And something down inside said, I’m not sure that’s the proper translation or application of that text. But you know something? I didn’t have an answer for him. I couldn’t say.
And so what I want you to know tonight, the Bible does not forbid killing. The Bible doesn’t even forbid war. What the Bible forbids is intentional murder. The taking of another person’s life.
But what’s behind it? I mean, why? What’s the purpose of the sixth commandment? I think we find the heart of it in Genesis chapter 9 verse 6. It says, “Whoever sheds the blood of a man by man shall his blood be shed. For in the image of God, has God made man.”
And there’s, we could go a lot of directions on this passage. Capital punishment is not the issue here, okay? Whether capital punishment deters or not is not the issue of this text. The issue of this text is, as the program of God is unfolding, God gives the penalty for what? He’s bringing about justice. That if a person’s life is taken the absolute highest penalty will be rendered and he gives us the reason why.
Is because every human being, Christian, non-Christian, believer, unbeliever. Every race, every background, every age. The weak and the feeble, the young and the strong. Those in power, those that are being abused. Those people that have no right, no vote, and can say nothing. Those people that, quote, are of no value to society and those that are important and powerful and wealthy and make all the decisions. Every single human being on the face of the earth is made in the image of God.
And what’s behind this command is that God sees every single person through the lens that they have His thumbprint. They have His image. They have the ability of mind and will and emotions and decision. They have the capacity to love. They have a spirit within them given by God. The most precious commodity in the world is human life.
And what’s behind this command is that every time there’s a senseless killing, if you could imagine it being your mate or your son or your daughter. If you can imagine the closest friend you’ve ever had and them being that woman in the car that some nineteen-year-old who got bored said, “Hey, you know what? I felt like killing someone today.” So, boom!
And if you can imagine what it would be like to come home after work or be called at work or at school and someone say to you, “I’m sorry. Your mom or your dad. They were just in a parked car in downtown D.C. and a nineteen-year-old was bored and so they shot them.” And I want you to imagine what your emotions would feel like and your anger and your rage and your lack of understanding. And just, literally, ready to go through the roof.
What I want you to hear is, that’s how God feels about every human being on the planet. It’s how He feels about black people and white people. That’s how He feels about Hispanic people and Chinese people. That’s how He feels about people that have absolutely nothing and no education and live in the farthest regions of the Amazon and that’s how He feels about people who live in Beverly Hills.
Every human being that breathes is made in the image of God and God says, I’m going to give the highest protection, the strongest boundary around human life. Human life is sacred. That’s what’s behind the sixth command.
Now turn in your notes and let’s dig a little bit together and let’s get down to some of the obvious applications of this command. Notice in Job 14 in the Good News Bible, verse 5 it says, “The length of a man’s life is decided beforehand. The number of months he will live. You, God, have settled it and it can’t be changed.”In the NIV, gets the idea, it says, “It can’t be expanded. It can’t be tampered with.”
What’s going on here? In essence, no one has the right to number a man’s days but God. That’s what Job’s saying is, God knows, God is sovereign, God is in control. He has a plan. God determines the length of a man’s days.
I don’t have the right to prematurely intervene and say, you know what? That life’s not worth much. That life is taking up too much room. You know what? That life is old and decrepit and doesn’t add much value to society. You know what? That life has a cleft pallet. And you know what? They’ll never be loved anyway so let’s snuff it out. You know, that life is a boy but we really were looking for was a girl this time around so let’s snuff it out. You know, that life will never be a productive part of society. That life…
No one has the right to pirate God’s prerogative and end a human life prematurely. No one. Very obvious applications. Under the ethical implications you might jot these down.
First and foremost, it is obvious is homicide. Murder. I mean, it is absolutely forbidden in Scripture, from the sixth command, to willfully, intentionally kill someone. God says, that’s forbidden.
The second application is, not only do you not have the right to number someone else’s days, you don’t have the right to number your days. Suicide is forbidden. And you say, well, it’s my life. I mean, I can do with my…it’s not your life.
And I’ll tell you what. I’ve been on the other end of that. I’ve been on the other end of the phone call where the man has found his wife lying on the bed filled with pills and dead with the note because she was so depressed and so discouraged: I’m sorry. It wasn’t you. It wasn’t the kids. It’s nothing about you. I just, I felt overwhelmed by life, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew it would be better for everyone if I just exited now.
Nothing could be further from the truth and when you counsel people who have lived with a mom or a dad or a brother or a friend who has committed suicide, the people who get left with all the junk and all the pain are the people that are left behind. And God forbids it. Suicide is sin.
Not only is homicide and suicide but feticide. That’s the killing of the pre-born. And by the way, you know, the Bible is very, very clear the pre-born is a human being. And medical science is as well.
Dr. Jérôme Lejeune, professor of fundamental genetics at the University of Rene Descartes in Paris and discoverer of the genetic basis for Down’s syndrome says, pretty high-profile doctor, “Life has a very, very long history but each individual has a very neat beginning. The moment of conception. And to accept the fact that after a fertilization has taken place, a new human being has come into being, is no longer a matter of taste or of opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention. It is a plain, experimental evidence.”
Dr. Micheline Mathews-Roth, principal researcher in the Department of Medicine at Harvard agrees. He says, “It is an accepted fact that life of any individual organism, reproducing by sexual reproduction, begins at conception or fertilization. The time when the egg cell is formed in the female and the sperm unite, they join a single new cell called the zygote, which is human life.”
And the evidence is overwhelming. So to kill the pre-born is prohibited by the sixth commandment.
Infanticide, killing babies that are born is prohibited. And you say, how could that happen? And I’m sure you’ve read, as I’ve read. We have children who have minor defects in the United States of America and talk about ridiculous.
We have doctors who get out a little pad and they write a prescription. No food for fifteen days. And they kill kids in this country. We have children that were to be aborted who are born alive who are maliciously killed in this country. It’s murder.
But because, first it was, when they take their first breath, then they’re a human being. And then now, in some Senate reviews, we actually have people saying, until the baby leaves the hospital. This was actually given in a report to the Senate. Until the baby leaves the hospital, it’s not really a human being.
The sixth command says homicide, suicide, feticide, infanticide, and euthanasia is yet another one.
Euthanasia, we’re not talking about passive euthanasia, we’re not talking about undoing plugs to keep people alive whose life is a vegetable or they can’t sustain life on their own.
We’re talking about active euthanasia. We’re talking about people that do have difficult medical problems and say, I don’t like the suffering. I don’t like the pain. I don’t like what I can’t do anymore and so will you help me kill myself?
Only God has the prerogative to number a person’s days. Do I understand why some illnesses do what they do to people? No. Do I understand the suffering and in the sovereignty of God what He’s doing? No.
But the moment we start drawing lines and saying, this life has value, that life doesn’t have value, this life does, it doesn’t, we are on such a slippery slope. And if you think I’m joking, you know what older people do? Older people in those countries, they don’t want to go to the doctor. Because you know what they write prescriptions there for? No longer useful to society. And they inject them. Both for and against their will.
The sixth command says, the most precious thing on this planet is human life and to murder someone, is wrong. I think that’s pretty clear. Stated positively, are you ready for this? We are to cherish our own neighbor’s life as much as our own flesh. That’s really the heart of the sixth command. You’re to cherish the value of a person, regardless of background, or race, or creed, or color, or benefit to society, or age.
We’re to cherish our neighbor’s life just as much as you cherish your own flesh and your own will to live. And we must assign to God and allow only God to determine and number someone’s days. And that’s the heart of the sixth command. It’s not really hard to understand and by the way, I don’t think there are a lot of people here that have, you know, have multiple ways that you’ve been wrestling with, you know, if I could just break the murder habit.
But I think when you dig down a little bit and you hear the words of Jesus, maybe the application might be a little bit closer. Because what we know is that the law and the letter of the law was written and on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus would say, “You have heard it said, but I say to you. You have heard it said, letter of the law. That’s the truth. But what I say to you, let Me give you the spirit behind the law. Let Me give you the why behind the what.
“Let Me talk to you about issues of the heart concerning murder that may not be a club that is raised and pounds a person’s head and cracks a skull and kills them and takes a life, but let Me talk about issues of the heart and issues of the lips and things that happen in the human heart that, from My perspective, as the eternal God of the universe and the Savior of the world, My evaluation, it’s murder.” And that’s what Jesus does.
So let’s look at some not so obvious applications of the sixth command. Jesus said, in Matthew chapter 5 beginning at verse 21, “You’ve heard what was said to a people long ago, ‘Do not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’” That’s the letter, it’s the truth. “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
Let’s do a little Bible study. And Bible study is making observations, what does it say? Doing some examination to say, what does it mean? And then making the application, what’s it mean to me?
And so, let’s go through and let’s start with, “But I tell you, anyone who is angry,” - put a circle around ‘angry,’ – “with his brother,” – and then put a box around ‘subject to judgment.’ You’re going to see a parallel occur.
So you have anyone who is angry will be subject to judgment. And then drop down and anyone who says to his brother – put a circle around the word “raca” – is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And then put a box around “Sanhedrin.” So circle around “raca” and then a box around “Sanhedrin.” And then as you move on, “But anyone who says ‘You fool!” Put a circle around “You fool!” – will be in danger of, put a box around the phrase, ‘the fire of hell’.”
And let me see if I can help explain what’s happening in this text that might lift it and give you some insight. Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said about murder and you know the letter of the law and the actual killing of someone. But I say to you, option or level one, anyone who is angry with his brother…”
And there are a couple different Greek words for anger. This is not the kind of anger where something happens and you blow up quickly. This is an anger that’s rooted in bitterness and resentment. This is the kind of anger that, you know, when a certain people’s name’s come to your mind, your stomach begins to tighten up. This is the kind of things that over, sometimes, weeks or months or even years that you have this perverted sense that they have so hurt you, and so violated you, and done things so unmentionable to you, that you have actual anger fantasies at times.
You know, you don’t really want them to get killed but if they were in, like, a mild auto accident it would be, like, okay. You know? And you would never admit that. If they had lost their job it would be, sort of, cool. If the person that they ran off with would leave them like they left you, it would, kind of, bring a little grin to your face. This is an anger that’s rooted in vengeance in wanting to pay someone back.
And Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Do not murder’ but I want to tell you, level one, if you have this type of ongoing anger in your heart,” then what’s He say? What’s the box around? “You’re subject to judgment.”
And the word here for “judgment” was the lower courts in the local Jewish village, He says, that kind of anger means that you are liable and ought to have to go before the local village judge and deal with that issue because, by My estimation, you are guilty of a type of murder.
And then He bumps it to round two. He says, “But again I say, anyone who says to his brother ‘raca’.” And it’s a very hard word to translate. Barclay, in his commentary says, it’s to despise with arrogant contempt. The word literally means “you brainless one.”
The first type of anger is an emotional anger in your heart. The second, now, it moves to your lips. This is where you say things that cut people. You put them down. You’re critical. You’re cynical. This is someone, “You brainless one.” You embarrass them in front of people. This is where you use your tongue to do Lethal Weapon 4.
And you cut them up. And you stab them in the back. And you use your tongue to destroy them, and to hurt them, and to pound their self-esteem. And make them feel less than and to embarrass them. He says, anyone who says “raca” to his brother should go before the Sanhedrin. And then the Sanhedrin is the next step up from the village judge. That’s like the Supreme Court.
And then He goes on to the next word that you have circled. Anyone who says to his brother, you moron or what’s the translation here? You fool. It’s from, we get our word “moron.” The Greek word is “moros.” And our word moron often means a lack of intellectual ability. That’s not what this word means. This word means, you immoral one. This is using your tongue to say to a person, you are immoral.
This is using gossip and slander to paint a picture of someone else that they are wrong, that their motives are bad, that they’re immoral, that they’re doing things wrong. This is where you murder their reputation and you slander, and gossip, and say just enough information to put people in a very negative light in the eyes of others.
And Jesus says, when you murder a man’s reputation or a woman’s reputation. When you pass on untested truth. When you have anger in your heart. When you use your tongue to cut down people in blowups or outrage or passive aggressively try and jab people here and there. To put them down and raise you up, He says, take My word, you are guilty of murder. Murder has occurred in your heart. You have slayed people with your lips. You have defiled what? The image of God in them. You have made them to appear or you have damaged them in such a way, maybe they didn’t physically die but emotionally, and intellectually, and spiritually, and relationally you have committed murder. And Jesus says, it’s very, very serious.
A level one means you should go the local judge. A level two is you should be brought before the Supreme Court. And a level three, when you assassinate, a willful, malicious, slandering, gossiping intent, you’re guilty of the hellfire.
You know, I don’t know about you but these Ten Commandments are kind of tough to take, aren’t they? And, you know, the first three were like, sort of like, whoa. You know, God is so great and no other God and no worship but true worship. And then, you know, we talked about how, you know, honoring your father and your mother.
And I don’t know about you but when I got to this one, I thought, you know, maybe I’m going to sort of skim tonight. You know what I mean? It’s like, I haven’t had a lot of problem killing people I didn’t think. I mean, it’s not like I think, you know, God I’m sorry for what I did, you know, ten years ago. And I’m sorry for what I did twenty years ago.
But, you know, I just don’t have murder in my background. I didn’t think. Until I studied this text carefully. And when you study this text and you hear the heart of Jesus and you hear, see all murder, malicious, intentional murder. Where does it begin? I mean, people don’t just wake up and say, “Hmm, might be a good day to kill someone.”
Murder begins with unresolved anger. Murder begins when things don’t get resolved and then stuff starts playing in your mind. And then, you understand where most murders occur? You know the most dangerous place for a police officer in America? It’s not in a gang shooting. The most dangerous place, I got a good, good buddy. He said, what you would dread is the domestic violence call. When you got a call that there is shouting and people having problems, he said, that’s where you can get killed.
And he said most of the people, it’s in a rage. And they got a gun or something or a knife laying around the house and people never woke up that morning and shut off the little button on the alarm and said, “Well honey, I think I’ll probably kill you tonight so are you ready?”
It’s just a normal day and they get up and it can be over something silly as who’s going to get to watch which TV program and there’s all this unresolved anger and then they start getting after one another and screaming and shouting and then in a moment of rage, someone gets a gun or someone does something and people die.
And Jesus is saying, I want to cut it off at the pass. And I want to deal with your heart and the way I’m going to deal with your heart is I’m going to help you see where it comes out of your lips and then I’m going to move it and say that when you assassinate another person’s character, I want you to know that with Me, you’re on very, very dangerous ground.
So what do you do when that happens? He goes on. He says, “Therefore, if you’re offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you.”
Did you notice the shift? He’s talking about your unresolved anger but He says, now if you come. If you come to a place like this or come to a church service and you’re there and you want to offer your gift.
And the gift may be you as a living sacrifice. It might be earlier like we sang, I’m going to sing praises to God. It might be you just can’t wait and God has blessed you and you’re thinking, man, I’ve been working all week and I’m going to take a good chunk of this percentage and I want to offer it as gift to You because I want to see Your work go forward.
He says, when you come before Him, before you offer prayer or offer your money or offer your song or offer your body as a living sacrifice. If you’re there and you’re prompted by My spirit to remember, someone has something against you, He said, here’s the spiritual thing: Stop. Stop your quiet time right then. Stop reading your Bible right then. Walk out of the worship service if you need to. Go find your brother and make it right. Relational harmony. Anger resolved. Chaos between family members. Bitterness that has gone on for years. People that don’t talk to one another.
People who say negative things just as a matter of habit and find a little group of people that they can say negative things about this group and that group. We all do it. And we find a little group that’ll agree with us.
And it’s all about how unfair we’ve been treated, from our perspective. And then we find a little group that we can say and whine and bemoan and pour it out and make someone else the object and they get shrunk.
And God says, clean that up. It’s deathly. It’s as deathly to emotions, it’s as deathly to your spiritual life, it’s deathly to the body of Christ as when people out and out murder one another.
And so, if your brother has something against you, not even you have something against him. Where is the initiative here? The initiative is anybody who’s sensitive enough to God to realize there’s a problem. Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother. And then come and offer your gift. If it means apologizing, apologize. If it means seeking forgiveness, seek forgiveness. If it means, you know, I understand that you have this against me. I want you to know, I forgive you. If it means repenting, if it means restitution, if it means that maybe this is the only night you are to come to this meeting at this time so that you get on the phone tonight and make a phone call and tell someone you’re sorry.
Or you think through the letter that you need to write to maybe one of your kids or a friend or one of your parents. And as far as it depends on you, get your slate clean. And you get up early in the morning and you write that letter. And as far as it depends on you, before God and man, you lay that out. Maybe that’s why you’re here tonight. I don’t know.
The sixth command is about preserving life.
By way of conclusion I’ve put it in a box for emphasis. Because human life is the most precious of all commodities on the planet. God provides boundaries to protect it above all else. And by way of review, are you ready? Here’s the prohibition. And I want to give the application.
The prohibition is, please stop the violence. No murder by violent hands. Stop it. And maybe you haven’t physically killed someone, are you ready? Maybe you have. Maybe you’re sitting here and you’re thinking, my lands, it was 1972. It was 1964. And, man, we were in trouble and I didn’t even think of it and I didn’t know. I wasn’t a Christian and it wasn’t even about human life and I talked my girlfriend to go into New York and have an abortion. I’m an accessory to murder and it’s bugged me. And I’ve never got it right. Or maybe you’re a woman here. And all the while I’ve been talking just images are coming back to your mind. And no one knows.
And you haven’t received forgiveness. You haven’t been able to deal with it. You haven’t been able to make it right. God brought you here tonight not to condemn you but to restore you and to forgive you and let you know you’re not beyond His reach. You’re not a second-class citizen.
You know what amazes me about, most of the Bible was written by murderers, did you know that? Moses, David, Paul. Paul wrote over half the New Testament. He was a murderer. David wrote the most precious material, I think, we have in Scripture in terms of God’s heart, in the Psalms. And Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.
And in moments of anger, and in moments of ignorance, and in moments where they were out of control, they killed. And God forgave, and God restored, and God used, and that’s His message to you. The blood of Christ is sufficient. And He wants you to receive it. No murder by violent hands.
Second application, no murder by angry hearts. So let me ask you. Are there any grudges you’ve been harboring? At a boss, one of your kids, at a parent, at an ex-mate, former business partner? Is there someone down and if you got really honest tonight, is there a name or a face that comes to your mind that you’ve got some level of resentment or a grudge and tonight God says, “Let it go. Let it go.”
No murder by violent hands, no murder by angry hearts, and finally, no murder by lethal lips. And this is one we, sort of just, since everybody does it. Have your lips assassinated someone’s character? Do you need to go back and tell someone, “I’m sorry”? Or go tell someone you said something to that, you know, “I heard that. It’s untested. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I was in this meeting and God brought it to mind and I passed on information and I’m sorry.” Have your lips shot down someone’s self-esteem? Have your lips murdered someone else’s reputation? Have you listened to someone else berate and put down and talk negatively about another person without putting up the stop sign? By the way, this is how gossip stops in the body of Christ.
Because, see, what people do is they’ll find people that will listen. I call them spiritual garbage cans. And you know what you need to do? You need to let them know, I’m not a garbage can and I got a lid. And when they start talking about another person, you hold up the lid like this that says, “stop.” And you say it really winsomely and you smile because it’s really going to hurt their feelings.
And you say, “You know something? You know, there’s a Scriptural passage that says if I’m not a part of the problem and I’m not part of the solution, I don’t think I should be hearing this. So if you need, it sounds like you need to go talk to what’s her name or what’s his name. But I don’t think I’m the person you need to talk to. Sounds like there are some relational issues and I think Matthew 18 says you go first. And if they won’t listen and you need me to go with you later, I will. But I don’t receive this kind of stuff.”
You think that would help the body of Christ? You think that’d clean up? I’ll tell you what, you only have to have someone, I’ve had someone do that to me. That’s where I learned it. And boy was I embarrassed. And because you know what? When you’re assassinating a person’s character it seems so justified in your mind, right? It seems so right and you are so right and they’re so wrong. And you’re in such denial, like.
And when you’re saying it, it doesn’t even feel or even seem like sin until someone takes the lid off the top of the garbage can that you’re trying to dump into and puts it in front of you and says, and you go, ooh boy. This is ugly. And this is me. And, yeah, I think you’re right. This is inappropriate.
And then you go apologize. And you know what I’ve learned? You know how you stop that stuff? You just make a little pact with the Lord. Every time You make it known to me or someone else makes it known to me that my lips have assassinated another’s character, passed on truth that is untested, or done something that harms another person, I will go to that person and ask them to forgive me and apologize. You do that a half a dozen times, I’ll tell you what. It is a powerful antidote to murdering with your lips.
1 John 1:9 may never be more precious for some of us than tonight. If any of us would agree. It’s what “confess” means. If any of us would come into alignment with what reality is about our present situation. If any of us would confess our sins, God is faithful. And He is just. Not only to forgive but to cleanse you and to cleanse me of all unrighteousness.
And the greatest ending of our night is not some big ra-ra or sing a big song. The greatest ending of this night is for you to bow your head, confess when and where, specifically, you have murdered with your lips, or with your hands, or in your heart. And become a forgiven Moses, a forgiven David, or a forgiven Paul that walks out these doors fresh and clean as white wool. Fresh and clean as snow that just dropped. And a conscience that is pure. And a life that God wants to use as a fellow, forgiven sinner just like them and just like me.