The Ten Commandments Part 6
Respect Human Life
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 6, 2005


Main Passage: 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 Relieve Stress:

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 jail.
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 from him.

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…

Exodus 20:13
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:

1. Physical Murder

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 said…

“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 another person

  • Infanticide – taking the life of the newly born

  • Genocide – killing off an entire race or cultural group

  • Patricide – killing your father

  • Matricide – killing your mattress (actually, your mother)

  • Fratricide – killing your brother

  • Sororicide – killing your sister

  • Suicide – taking your own life

  • Vaticide – killing a prophet or a bishop

  • Hospiticide – killing a guest or host

  • Regicide – Killing a king

  • Prenticecide – 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 – – 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?

A. That 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.


B. It 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 God’s image.

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 intentional.)

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 itself.
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 deadly poison.

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.

Murder 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 someone else.”
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 foothold.

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 emotion.

What are the primary emotions?

Primary Emotions Causing Anger:

According to counselors, anger can be the result of one of these three emotions:

  • Hurt

  • Frustration

  • Fear

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

  • Blow Up

    This is when you start yelling and screaming and name calling and accusing. Don’t do that.

  • Close Up

    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 outward.

  • Give Up

    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

  • Own it.

    You recognize and take responsibility for it. You choose how you handle it.

  • Express it.

    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 things.

  • Control it.

    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.



Copyright © 2005