First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ October 30, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“You Shall Not Murder!”
Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21-26
As we continue our sermon series reflecting on the Ten Commandments, we come this morning to the sixth commandment. The sixth commandment is found in Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder,” said the Lord to the people of Israel. As you see, that is a really short commandment. In English it’s four words, but in the original language, in Hebrew, it’s only two words, Lo ratsakh (רצח), which pretty much translate to “no murder.” It cannot get any clearer than that. Although it’s a short command, it speaks in such a profound way to our culture today; a culture that is marked by hostility and violence; a culture that definitely has lost its way.
At first glance, it looks like that’s the easiest one to keep. Not only that, but it also seems that everyone is on agreement regarding the sixth commandment. Taking someone’s life is universally assumed to be wrong in all cultures. You could probably go out and talk with anyone here in Blackwood, and 100 out of 100 would agree that murder is wrong. If you asked them why, they would probably say something like, “It’s just not right.” “Why not?” “Well, it’s not a very nice thing to do. We should treat each other like we want to be treated.” That’s true.
Some people might even go a bit further and say, “If our society is really to function—if we’re to feel safe and flourish as human beings—we can’t just go around killing each other willy-nilly. We have to be protected from that.” So when it comes down to it, most people would defend the rightness of this commandment by some form of utilitarian ethics. Everyone, even people who don’t believe in God, can agree that killing people is bad.
So as we reflect on the sixth commandment this morning, I would like to underscore two observations. My first observation has to do with the value and sacredness of life and my second will look at how Jesus in the New Testament deepened and transformed this commandment.
First: The Value and Sacredness of Life
Have you ever wondered why murder is wrong? As I pointed out, while everyone around us may agree that murder is wrong, as Christians, we should have a deeper understanding of the problem. For us, there is an inherent worth and dignity of every human life and that is the foundation for keeping the sixth commandment. Life is valuable. Life is sacred.
This is what the Lord God said in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed, for in his own image God made humans.” It’s because all humans are made in the image of God, taking someone’s life is wrong. No matter their race or ethnicity, born or unborn, healthy or sick, young or old. It doesn’t matter how they vote, agree or disagree with us, every person on the face of this earth has inherent worth and dignity, since they are created in the image of God. Only with Biblical anthropology can the commandment to not murder be based on something deeper than utilitarianism. The sixth commandment is about valuing, honoring, and respecting life.
Second: Jesus Deepens our Understanding of this Commandment
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus deepened our understanding of the sixth commandment. This is what Jesus says in Matthew 6:21-22, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment, and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council, and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
In these verses, Jesus intensifies the meaning of the commandment. He deepens our understanding of the sixth commandment. He challenges us to examine and repent of the conditions in our hearts that incline us toward violence—things like anger, resentment, jealousy, fear, insecurity—even if we would never physically harm someone, much less take their lives. Spiritually speaking, Jesus tells us, these “lesser” sins are as deadly serious, even if we never lay a hand on another person.
Jesus isn’t changing the commandment. He is really just getting to the heart of what it truly means. When reflecting on this sixth commandment, Reformer John Calvin said that it would be ridiculous to imagine that God, who looks upon the thoughts of our hearts, would “instruct only the body in true righteousness”—as if murder were simply something we do with our hands. No, he says. The law forbids “murder of the heart.”
Friends, do any of us ever commit “murder of the heart”? I bet we all have. The very first murder in the Bible happens between the grown children of Adam and Eve when Cain slays his younger brother Abel. Before Cain commits the deed, God warns him to be careful: “Sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Brothers and sisters, sin is constantly lurking at the door of hearts, and we must master it--and not let sin master us! The sin of worshipping false gods is constantly lurking at the door of hearts. The sin of loving the things of this world more than loving God is constantly lurking at the door of hearts. The sin of living a self-centered life rather than a Christ-centered life is constantly lurking at the door of hearts. The sin of embracing a cheap grace rather than being willing to live the costly grace is constantly lurking at the door of hearts. We can’t play around with sin! Unless we deal with these sinful desires and feelings, they will prevent us from being the people God has called us to be.
May our thoughts, words, and actions bring life and lead those around us to life eternal in Christ. Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends, once said to him, “You have instructed many; you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have supported those who were stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees” Job 4:3-4. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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