The sixth of the ten commandments reads, “Thou shall not kill.” The New International Version translates it, “Thou shall not murder.” This is more accurate because the Hebrew word so translated does not refer to killing in general but to malicious and unlawful killing.
Neither accidental killing (Numbers 35:22-25) nor justifiable homicide (Ex. 22:2) are a breaking of the sixth commandment. Neither killing in war nor capital punishment are necessarily forbidden in this commandment since God required both in certain cases (Ex.21:12). So the preferred translation is, “You shall not murder.”
Why is it wrong to murder? We kill cows, we swat flies, we put pets to sleep. Why is it wrong to do any of these things to humans? God’s answer is that only humans are made in the image of God. This is why we are not to kill people like we might decide to kill an animal. Humans have special dignity and worth and human life is to be treated as of special worth since we are made in the image of God.
When we disregard what God says to us about the special value of human life, we begin to diminish the value of human life and we remove the only inherent hedge against murder. What has happened in our own culture after we removed God and prayer from the public schools a generation ago? Now we can’t stop the killing - IN THE SCHOOLS! As our belief in God has declined, murder has become epidemic.
The human slaughter that occurred in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia illustrates what happens when a society disregards God’s word about the inherent value of humanity. Remove the foundation for the preservation of human life and you remove the restraint against murder. As Dostoevsky put it, “If there is no God, all things are permitted.” Or in the words of T. S. Eliot, “If you would not have God, then you should pay your respects to Hitler and Stalin.”
Perhaps you are thinking, “What has this got to do with me? I haven’t murdered anyone and never will.” I am afraid this commandment is a little more relevant than you might think.
Jesus says there is a very real connection between unjust anger and murder (Mtt. 5:21-22). John says hatred is tantamount to murder (1 Jn. 3:11-18) because hatred is what leads to murder and is caused by the same deficiency that leads to murder - a failure to value human life and treat people with the special dignity of creatures made in the image of God.
And what about the issue of abortion? People cringe when someone brings it up, and preachers are afraid to mention it, but is abortion murder? If it is murder to kill a baby ten seconds after it has exited the birth canal, why is it not murder to kill a baby while it is half way out of the birth canal as is done in the case of partial birth abortion? Is the baby partially born not human yet? These are the unpleasant questions we ought to be asking in regard to the sixth commandment - “Thou shall not murder.”
The basic principle behind this commandment is that we are to value human life and treat every person with the dignity befitting someone made in the image of God. When we fail to listen to God on this point, there are consequences - more death, more killing, more inhumanity to man. When we listen to him, things are better for everyone.
For the church of Christ in Cherryvale, this is Stan Bryan showing more of the benefits and blessings that come to us when we listen to and honor God.