Ten Commandments Part 6
Respect Human Life
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 6, 2005
Exodus 20:1-17 (NLT)
[Top section used at the
beginning of the service as a welcome/teaser]
Good morning. I’m glad
you’re here at Sunrise this morning, and I want to encourage you to
just set aside all the pressures of life for the next hour and focus on
worshipping God and receiving what He has for you this morning. Now, I
realize that’s easier said than done, so to help you set aside the
pressures of life I want to give you the…
Top Ten Ways to
10. Go shopping. Buy
everything. Sweat in it. Return it the next day.
9. Fill out your tax return using Roman Numerals.
8. Reply to everything someone says, "That's what you think".
7. Pop some popcorn without putting on the lid.
6. Make a list of things to do that you've already done.
5. Stare at people through the tines of a fork and pretend they're in
4. When someone says, "Have a nice day" tell them you have other plans.
3. Jam 30 tiny marshmallows up your nose and try to sneeze them out.
2. Lie on your back eating celery, using your navel as a salt dipper.
1. Find out what a frog in a blender really looks like.
That’s my Top Ten list for the morning. Later on we’ll be taking a look
at God’s Top Ten, the Ten Commandments. We’ve already examined the
first five commandments and if you missed those messages they’re
available on our website. This morning we’ll be exploring the sixth
commandment which simply states, “Do not murder.” Think you’re safe on
this one? Well, stick around and we’ll see.
Columbine, Taber, the Montreal Massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing,
9-11, the Holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Russia school standoff,
Tiananmen Square, the DC Snipers, Laci Peterson, Nicole Brown Simpson,
JonBenet Ramsay… all terms or names that bring to mind murder, and in
some cases extreme losses of life. Each one of these stirs our hearts
and makes us wonder how life can be treated so cheaply.
But you and I both know that this is only a sampling. These are only
some of the cases that achieved national and even international
coverage. But the truth is, there are cold-hearted murders each and
every day. Turn on the news any given night and you’ll hear of some
murder somewhere. And you just know that there are plenty of other
murders that the media doesn’t cover. It’s a sad reality of life on
planet earth that there are people who are willing to cut short the
life of another without batting an eye.
It shocks us now, and it’s always been shocking. Think about what it
would have been like for Adam and Eve. Their firstborn son became
jealous of his brother, so he killed him. Never before had a person
been murdered. Never before had Adam and Eve looked upon a lifeless
body. Can you imagine the shock they would have experienced? They
didn’t even have a word for it yet. They had no concept of murder. Yet
there it was… a person given life by God Himself, a person they gave
birth to, just lying there lifeless because someone else stole life
It’d be sad enough if that was the first and last time a person was
murdered. But unfortunately, murder has been part of life ever since.
And if we’re shocked and saddened by it, you’ve got to wonder how God
feels. After all, we are His workmanship. He created us. He loves us
beyond all measure. And when He sees His creation destroyed, it’s got
to just tear His heart out.
No wonder He gave us the sixth commandment…
Do not murder.
Since the beginning of January we’ve been working our way through the
Ten Commandments. We’ve seen how the first four commandments deal with
our relationship with God and the last six commandments deal with our
relationships with others. And obviously, this commandment is one of
those. So this morning we’re going to look at two meanings of this
commandment: the obvious meaning and the underlying meaning. You can
use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill
in the blanks as we go.
This Commandment Refers to:
This is the most basic
and obvious meaning of the sixth commandment: Do no deliberately and
unlawfully take the life of another. Do not murder.
I doubt that anyone here would argue against such a commandment. In
fact, whenever surveys are done asking people to rate the Ten
Commandments, most people identify this commandment as the most
important. Doesn’t mean it is, but that’s the way people view it. And
without a doubt most would see this as the easiest commandment to keep.
After all, there are more adulterers, liars, swearers, workaholics,
delinquents, and robbers in this world than there are murderers. That’s
got to mean something. As Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, DC
“Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates
in the country.”
~ Marion Barry
Actually, it’s a sad commentary on our society that murder is a reality
of life, and we’ve even had to come up with a variety of words to
describe different types of murder. Here are just a few…
Homicide – killing
Infanticide – taking
the life of the newly born
Genocide – killing
off an entire race or cultural group
Patricide – killing
Matricide – killing
your mattress (actually, your mother)
Fratricide – killing
Sororicide – killing
Suicide – taking
your own life
Vaticide – killing a
prophet or a bishop
killing a guest or host
Regicide – Killing a
killing your apprentice (I wonder of Donald Trump is aware of this term)
Abortion – taking
the life of the pre-born
Euthanasia – taking
the life of the elderly or infirm
So murder is a reality in our society. For some, it’s a way of life.
And this commandment expresses in no uncertain terms that murder in any
form is wrong. Don’t do it.
“Murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything that one
cannot talk about after dinner.”
~ Oscar Wilde
Now, I am aware that some translations, such as the King James Version,
use the word “kill” instead of murder. And this is an important
distinction. Is this definition a mistake? Well, yes and no. Let me
show you this verse in the original Hebrew.
Lo tirtzach (or Ratzach)
I’m no Hebrew scholar, but from what I understand the word used here
can in fact be translated as “kill.” That’s a broad meaning. But more
specifically it refers to murder. Imagine you were walking down the
street with a friend and all of a sudden your friend pulled out a gun
and shot a passerby and he died. Could you accurately say that your
friend killed the man? Of course. Could you also say that your friend
murdered the man? Yes. Both words fit the situation, but the word
murder is a bit more precise.
That’s what we’re facing here in this commandment. The word “kill” has
a very broad definition whereas the word “murder” is a little narrower
and a whole lot more accurate for what this commandment is trying to
tell us. The word “kill” could be applied to the police, to war, to
self-defense, even to butchers and exterminators. But the more accurate
word is “murder” which refers specifically to unlawfully taking the
life of another human. So regardless of what International Vegetarian
Union says, this commandment had nothing to do with animals and it’s
not talking about us swearing off meat. It refers to the intentional
and conscious act of taking the life of another.
Cartoon – ReverendFun.com – 11-25-2004
This same Law of Moses where we find the Ten Commandments also
identifies 18 crimes that were worthy of the death penalty in the
Israelite community. And if you want a little more clarification, there
are times and circumstances recorded in the Old Testament after this
commandment was given where God instructed local authorities to kill
people for certain offenses and where He even condoned war, which is
hard to do without killing.
So why does this commandment exist? What’s wrong with taking the life
of another person? I mean, we all know that it’s wrong, but why? Let me
give you two reasons…
What's Wrong with Taking a Life?
Authority Doesn’t Belong To Us
It is God who is
supposed to determine how long a person will live.
1 Samuel 2:6 (NLT)
The Lord brings both death and life; he
brings some down to the grave but raises others up.
No one has the right to number a person’s days, whether is in the very
first months of life while still in the womb or when the person is old
and feeble and frail. And let me add this about abortion. I truly
believe that abortion is wrong and I truly believe that it ends an
innocent life. That’s what I understand the Bible to teach. But the
pre-born child isn’t the only victim… often the mother is a victim,
too. It’s even possible that someone here has made that decision at one
time or other. If that’s been you, you need to know that abortion is
not an unforgivable sin, but I would be amiss in my duty if I didn’t
tell it you that it is a sin and you need to ask forgiveness for it.
At the other end of life, we do not have the right to determine at what
point the elderly or the infirm should die. That is the domain of God,
and God alone. However noble the motive, euthanasia (or doctor-assisted
suicide) cannot be condoned, even if it is intended solely for the
purpose of ending the person’s suffering. The simple fact is that it is
not up to us to play God by deciding when somebody’s time is up.
When someone ends the life of another or of themselves then they are
trying to be God. They are assuming a responsibility that isn’t theirs
to assume and a power that’s not theirs to exercise.
Destroys One Made in the Image of God
Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
So God created people in his own image;
God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them.
What makes us as humans special? What separates us from every other
living creature on this earth? It’s not that we can verbally
communicate with one another. It’s not that we have opposable thumbs.
It’s not that we walk upright or any of the other explanations that
science tries to give. What makes us different is that God just created
all the other animals in the world, but He created us in His own image.
Genesis 9:6 (NLT)
Yes, you must execute anyone who murders
another person, for to kill a person is to kill a living being made in
And so to murder isn’t just to kill a living creature, it is destroying
something made in the image of God. And when people break this
commandment they are trying to put themselves above God, because what
they are saying is; “Look at how powerful I am, I can destroy what is
made in God’s image.”
Now, probably most of us
here will never struggle with physical murder. Most of us never even
contemplate dealing with conflict with a knife or a gun (except maybe
on a bad-hair day and even then it’s only fleeting). So maybe you’re
thinking, “So far, so good. I’m cool here. No problems.” You probably
don’t have guns in your home, and if you do they are only for show or
for target practice or for maybe once a year going out and shooting
helpless little birdies and bunnies. (Oh, that was low wasn’t it? And
But what about our words, our attitudes, and our emotions? Look around.
There are murders here among us this morning. Maybe the person sitting
next to you, maybe you yourself. Because Jesus taught us that this
commandment is not only concerned with physical murder. It also
included verbal murder.
2. Verbal Murder
Matthew 5:21-22 (NLT)
“You have heard that it was said to the
people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject
to judgment.’ 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.
Jesus is saying that there’s a remarkable similarity between physical
and verbal violence. And I’m sure the people who heard Jesus that day
were a little taken aback. This probably wasn’t a saying that they
immediately embraced and talked about. This was a tough one; this is
something we all struggle with even today. It’s not a passage that
people talk about as being one of their favourites in the Bible. It’s
not one of those Scriptures that many of us memorize to pull out in
hard times. It’s a tough one.
The word “Raca” found in this passage is an Aramaic term and it’s not
translated here because there really is not English equivalent. Some
commentators attempt to explain the word as meaning “fool,
good-for-nothing, numbskull, nitwit, bonehead, blockhead, jerk or
idiot.” But none of these words really carry the level of contempt that
the term “Raca” implies. Perhaps the most literal translation I can
give you is “empty-head”, and it basically demotes a person to the
level of nothing. It’s a fiercely contemptuous word.
There’s a second term in this passage, too. The word “fool” which in
the Greek is the word “Moros” from which we get the word moron. But
this has nothing to do with IQ. It actually refers to the heart or the
moral condition of a person. It was often used in reference to a person
who denied the existence of God and therefore fell into greater evil.
This is seen in the words of David in Psalm 14…
Psalm 14:1 (NLT)
Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no
God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; no one does good!
The word “Raca” expresses contempt for a person’s head or intelligence,
the word “fool” expresses contempt for a person’s heart or moral
condition. So Jesus not only affirms the sixth commandment, He takes it
to the next level.
“There is little difference between a dripping knife and juicy gossip,
between racing bullets and an abusive tongue. Why? Because they all
flow from the same source: a hateful heart. And they all kill.”
~ Bill Hybels
When someone verbally assaults you, don’t you feel like they’re killing
you? When they stab you in the back with their words, don’t you just
feel like a little piece of you has died? The truth is, the words we
use are powerful. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will
never hurt me” is a nice saying, but it’s a lie. Because names do hurt.
In fact, they can destroy a person. At least broken bones heal; a
broken spirit can stay with us forever. That’s why Jesus’ half-brother,
James, wrote in the book that bears his name…
James 3:5-8 (NLT)
So also, the tongue is a small thing, but
what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on
fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that
can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life
into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell
People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish,
but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of
Never underestimate the destructive power of the tongue. Even words
said in jest can cut and destroy people. Words can murder a person’s
self image and self esteem.
The initial command as found in Exodus 20 prohibited outward blows
which would kill. Jesus expanded the command to include the inward
blows such as resentment, bad feelings, anger and insults. Jesus is
saying that the difference between physical murder and verbal murder is
a matter of degrees. It all flows out of an angry, hateful heart.
is birthed in the heart, not the hand.
Can you see how it’s all
part of a downward spiral. Resentment leads to insult which leads to
hatred which leads to murder. And while we’re calling this “Verbal
Murder”, sometimes we don’t even have to speak a word.
“There are glances of hatred that stab, and raise no cry of murder.”
~ George Eliot
Where do these hurtful words or looks come from? Well, Jesus identified
the source as our anger.
Matthew 5:22 (NLT)
“…if you are angry with someone, you are
subject to judgment!”
Now, some people would look at this verse and use it to claim that all
anger in any form at any time is sinful. But that’s not exactly true.
As proof, let me present you with one passage from the Old Testament
and two from the New Testament. First, from the life of Moses…
You may be familiar with the occasion when God appeared to Moses in the
form of the burning bush that wouldn’t burn up. It’s when God spoke to
Him and called Him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Now,
you might expect Moses to be thrilled over being called by God for this
task, but he wasn’t. In fact, he offered a series of objections. “I’m
not important enough to do this. No one will follow me. What if they
don’t believe You sent me? What if the Israelites don’t do what I tell
them? But I’m not a good speaker. I stutter and stammer, I’m just
clumsy with words.” But with each objection, God patiently answered
Moses and reassured Him that He would be with him and that Moses was
the right man for the job. But check out what happened next…
Exodus 4:13-14 (NLT)
But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send
Then the LORD became angry with Moses.
The Lord became angry when Moses just simple didn’t want to obey Him.
So did the Lord sin by becoming angry? No, of course not.
Or how about when Jesus entered the temple only to discover that there
were money exchangers with their booths all set up who were cheating
the people on the exchange rate?
John 2:14-17 (NLT)
In the Temple area he saw merchants selling
cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; and he saw money changers
behind their counters. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased
them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and oxen, scattered
the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.
Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these
things out of here. Don’t turn my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures:
“Passion for God’s house burns within me.”
It sure seems to me that His passion was expressed as anger.
Or how about what Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus?
Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the
sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a
Again, it would appear that it is possible to be angry without sinning.
Now, let’s go back and take another look at what Jesus said…
Matthew 5:22 (NLT)
“…if you are angry with someone, you are
subject to judgment!”
Is He saying here that anger is wrong? No, He’s not. What He’s saying
is that the way that we choose to respond to our anger… how we express
it… will determine how we are judged. Do you express anger in a
controlled, God-honouring way or do you allow your anger to gain
control of you?
We mentioned Cain and Abel earlier. When Cain first started to get
jealous and angry at Abel, God recognized it and confronted him about
it. Listen to what God said to him…
Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV)
“Why are you angry? Why is your face
downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you
do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to
have you, but you must master it.”
But the very next verse tells us that Cain attacked Abel and killed
him. Obviously Cain didn’t master his anger.
Anger is a God-given emotion and is not sinful in and of itself. But
like every good gift we receive from God, we can take it and abuse it
and turn it into something bad.
So let’s talk about anger. First of all, you need to realize that…
Anger is a secondary emotion experienced in response to a primary
What are the primary emotions?
Primary Emotions Causing Anger:
According to counselors, anger can be the result of one of these three
So if you’re angry,
there’s something that has caused it. Has someone hurt you in the past?
Are you frustrated with something in the present? Or are you fearful
about something that may or may not happen in the future? You need to
identify the source of your anger.
Now, what is anger? How can you identify it? How is it express?
“When we begrudge, scorn, insult, and disdain others or when we are
annoyed, offended, bitter, fed up, repulsed, irritated, infuriated,
incensed, mad, sarcastic, uptight, cross or when we experience
frustration, indignation, exasperation, fury, wrath or rage, we are
probably experiencing some form of anger. Anger can also manifest
itself as criticism, silence, intimidation, hypochondria, numerous
petty complaints, depression, gossip, sarcasm, blame,
passive-aggressive behaviours such as stubbornness, half-hearted
efforts, forgetfulness, and laziness.”
~ Gary Oliver & Norman Wright, in When Anger Hits Home
Negative Responses to Anger
This is when you start yelling and screaming and name calling and
accusing. Don’t do that.
This is when you deny your anger, you repress it, you hide it, or you
bottle it up. It’s kind of the “tick-tick-tick” postal syndrome. You
keep it all inside eating away at you until eventually it explodes
This is the victim role. This is when you say, “I can’t win! What’s the
use?” That destroys who you are… your self-worth, your self-esteem…
don’t do it.
Positive Responses to Anger
You recognize and take responsibility for it. You choose how you handle
The Bible tells us to, “Speak the truth in love.” So if you are truly
angry you need to express it. Just make sure that the expression of
your anger is coated in love. And let me give you a little advice here:
When you are having one of those expressions, try not to use “you”
statements. Don’t say, “You did this”, or “You did that.” Try using “I”
statements instead. “I feel that…” “I was hurt because…” And whenever
possible wait to have that conversation until you’re not in the heat of
Don’t allow it to control you. Make it the goal of your anger to work
through any issues until you can reach forgiveness and a restored
relationship. And you should know, you can only truly control it with
the help of God. So ask Him.
So when your anger leads
you to accuse, attack, put-down, slander, insult, and commit verbal
homicide, that is not a positive expression of anger. When your anger
leads you to problem-solve, make improvements, change for the better,
or right a wrong that is a positive expression of your anger.
Chances are slim that there’s anyone here this morning that needs to
confess and talk to God about physical murder. But there are probably
people here who need to confess to verbal homicide… People who allow
their anger to take control and who regularly attack other people with
their words. And while you may not carry out the physical act of
murder, in God’s eyes, the darkness in your heart is every bit as bad
and you need to acknowledge it, confess it, and ask God to forgive you.
And you need to ask Him to help you overcome that temptation in the
future. Perhaps the anger within you is so deeply rooted that it will
take time and effort and counseling, but if that’s what it takes to
live a life that is obedient and pleasing to God, then it’s worth it.