Summary: What does this command prohibit and how does it fit in our society today.
A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to "honour thy father and thy mother," she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?" Without missing a beat, one little boy (the eldest child of a family) answered, "Thou shall not kill." Having grown up the baby of the family, I’m sure that my older sister would have to agree with the little fellow.
We started this series on the Ten Commandments early in January and I hope you remember how the first four commandments dealt with our relationship with God. They were vertical commands, and now they have become horizontal commands in that they deal with our relationships with one another. You might remember the first commandment was to not replace God, the second command was to not reduce God, the third was to not belittle God, and the fourth was to honour God by celebrating the Sabbath. But then we got to commandment number five and it took a different direction, it’s as if God was saying, “now that you’ve got our relationship straight let’s work on your relationship with others”. And so we went from the vertical to the horizontal. And so at that point we went on to discuss honouring our parents which is the fifth commandment.
So here we are at number six, a commandment which most of us, I’m sure, figure that we are pretty safe on. It says: Exodus 20:13 Do not murder. I’m aware that most of us grew up hearing the commandment as “Thou shalt not kill” but it’s a little narrower then that. First, regardless of what International Vegetarian Union says this commandment had nothing to do with animals, it not talking about us swearing off meat and becoming vegetarians; did I hear a collective sigh of relief? This commandment was dealing exclusively with people, with human beings. Nor was it given in relation to war, or to self-defence.
Without trying to get into a deep study of the original language the Hebrew word used here is jx’r; raÆtsach raw-tsakh. And it refers to the intentional and conscious act of taking the life of another. It is deliberate and calculated.
And so the first thing we need to look at this morning is Physical Murder. In its purest sense this commandment relates to:
· Murder, taking the life of another
When we lived in Truro murder was not something you thought about, if you did it was in relation to what had happened in the city. During our five years in Truro I can’t remember one single pre-meditated murder happening. Maybe there was but I don’t remember them. And then we moved to Brisbane, a city of 1.7 million people. It seemed that every other day someone was killing somebody else. Two weeks after we arrived a murderer was arrested less then a kilometre from our house, Angela wanted to move home. Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
--Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, DC
And so we begin with this prohibition of physical murder and from that I believe by implication it also deals with
· Abortion, taking the life of the pre-born
· Infanticide, taking the life of the newly born
· Euthanasia, taking the life of the elderly or infirm
· Genocide, taking the life of a group of people
· Suicide, taking your own life
As I said earlier the original meaning of the word did not reflect acts of war or self-defence and so we are not going there this morning. The questions are ageless as are the answers so it is something that you will have to settle in your on heart, between you and God. No one else can settle it for you and they aren’t easy questions, and they don’t have easy answers.
Some people would even say that this commandment doesn’t apply to capital punishment. At one time I’d say that I agreed with that statement and I was a fairly vocal supporter of capital punishment, however over the past number of years I’ve changed my mind. In our country we don’t have to look farther then Donald Marshall or David Milegard to see instance where someone has been convicted of murder and then later it was discovered they were innocent of that crime. To quote US author Anne Smedley “There’s something dreadfully decisive about a beheading.”
Even though the Old Testament clearly stands in favour of capital punishment there were several safe guards that were put in place to assure that the wrong person was not executed. The most obvious of course was that a person could not be convicted of a capital crime without the testimony of two eyewitnesses.