Summary: The Bible’s opening plotlines show the firstborn man, Cain, killing his brother Abel. Think of it: the firstborn person in the human race was a murderer.
Contrary to many people’s thoughts that civilization is more civilized, evidence suggests that murder is on the increase. In 1963, in Scotland, two people were convicted of murder. In 2000, there were 128 reported homicides in Scotland. In 1960, the District of Columbia reported 81 murders. In 1991 there were 482, and in 2000 the figure was 230. These figures are only indicative of the magnitude of death over the past century. In the twentieth century, murder was accomplished on a massive scale. The national security director for the Carter Administration characterized the century with the word “mega-death.” If you just accounted for four human beings alone, you could count as many as 175 million deaths: Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Even today, we have people with tattooed numbers, etched on their forearms, numbers that marked them for death.
Yet, murder is not new. The Bible’s opening plotlines show the firstborn man, Cain, killing his brother Abel. Think of it: the firstborn person in the human race was a murderer. History’s firstborn killed history’s second-born in jealousy. And to prevent anyone from thinking there is such a thing as the perfect murder, God Himself says: “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). The taking of human life has always been viewed as a serious crime in every civilization. And yet today, the average eighteen-year-old has witnessed 80,000 murders via television, movies, and video games. Whether it is the Columbine massacre of 1999, Pan Am Flight 103, or the 9/11 terrorist attacks, our lives are interwoven with the fabric of murder. Whether it is ethnic cleansing in Darfur or brutal killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson, murder has been a heinous crime.
“You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
Unlike the fifth commandment, no reason is given for God’s order to avoid murder. Historically, this commandment has been thought to be embedded in the moral conscience of humans.
Two Quick Facts About the Ten
1. God’s Law Is Not Tailor-Made
When people browse through a magazine, they see much that is not necessarily relevant. Yet, this isn’t the same on the Internet. The web’s ads are personalized using algorithms. One lady in a NY Times article clicked on a pair of shoes on the website www.zappos.com. She decided against buying them but found the ad for the very same shoes on numerous websites she visited for the next several weeks. The same thing happens on the web when you voice your political views. Soon the Internet only populates your pages with websites you agree with. Try this: Google “Egypt” and have a friend who is of a different race or political view from you, Goggle the same term – “Egypt”. If look at the screenshots of the two searches, you’ll see different results for the same search. Why? Personalization. The site is personalized based on your web history.
The law of God is not like this. The law is not personalized based on our needs, likes, and dislikes. The law is what it is. God doesn’t personalize the law for everyone’s happiness. Instead, He commands you to fit into His mold.
2. You Cannot Have Just Five
The second five commandments will be negotiable without the first five. Our frame of reference is entirely different if we fail to have a transcendent God who speaks law.
So with the quick points out the way, let’s dig into “You shall not murder.”
1. You Must Respect Human Life
The sixth commandment comes to us in four simple words:
“You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
This commandment is one of the shortest as it is just two words in the original Hebrew language – “Don’t kill.” It’s the equivalent of “never murder.” The Hebrew word translated as “murder” is very specific. The word outlaws putting someone to death for selfish reasons. The language of this commandment is worded to distinguish murder from other forms of killing, which will cover in just a few moments. No one individual could decide that he had the right to end someone’s life. No private person or private group has the right to end a life. This commandment seeks to prevent any act of violence out of hatred or anger, malice, deceit, or personal gain.
The fundamental reason why murder is wrong is that God endowed humans with special honor and distinction. Humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). To destroy human life is to rob God of HIS creation. Our creativity, our sense of justice and morality, our self-awareness, our ability to communicate and use the language, our minds, and our never-dying souls are all shreds of evidence that we are made in God’s image. A person may not be killed not because you are primarily robbing the person of their life but because you are robbing God of His praise. “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 118:17). So when the policeman catches a criminal before he murders, the police are not only protecting human life the police are protecting God’s praise. God took great care to communicate to us how important life is.