Are YOU a potential killer? You need to UNDERSTAND the true scope of the sixth commandment as expounded in this continuing series on God's Law!
This is an age of HATE and violence. It is an age of intense competition, strife and personal tensions. The nations of the earth - and the individuals within them - are conditioning their minds and consciences to the likelihood of wholesale MURDER - and possibly world suicide. Naturally, this situation is devastating to the spiritual principles and ideals of our people. The effect of this is being felt NOW even as you read this article! "Murder, rape or assault with intent to kill was committed every four minutes in the United States last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported today. "The F.B.I. said crime is growing far more rapidly than the population. It estimated the population expanded 1.7 per cent from 1957 to 1958 while the spread of crime was five times as great" (recent United Press release).
The Sixth Commandment
Men have forsaken God and His Law! Modern man does not know and does not FEAR the true Creator God. He breaks with impunity the great spiritual LAW of God. And now he is beginning to pay the penalty. Obedience to the Ten Commandments would sop the growth of a living HELL which is rapidly festering in what we call "civilization" today! In this series of articles, we have seen the BLESSINGS that come through fear and respect for the one true God, through reverencing His name and office, through hallowing His Sabbath day to keep in the true knowledge of Him, and through honouring our fathers and mothers in their high office which directly reflects His fatherhood and love for all creation. In all these commandments, there is love, wisdom and blessings. And so it is with the Sixth Commandment. Amid the thunders and lightnings and the literal shaking of Mount Sinai, God's voice thundered the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not murder" (Ex. 20:13, Jewish translation). Biblical authorities agree that "murder" is a more correct reading of the original inspired Hebrew than the word kill. For it is possible to kill and yet not to murder. And it is important to understand that only the letter of God's Law was given to ancient Israel, whereas Christians are to live even by the spirit and fullest intent of that Law as magnified by Christ Himself.
Israel Understood Only the Letter of the Law
Under the original letter of the Law, it was intentional killing or murder that was forbidden. Remember that in this same "book of the covenant" given to Israel, God commanded them to kill or execute those guilty of major crimes (Ex. 21:12-17). Also, the instructions in Numbers 35:9-34 show that accidental killing was not regarded as murder. Even here, though, manslaughter was obviously a terrible offense — and the careless or unwitting slayer had to remain in a city of refuge for perhaps many years, until the high priest died. Just as capital punishment was commanded by God for serious crimes under the "letter" of the Law, so the commanded wars of Israel are viewed not as acts of wholesale murder, but the carrying out of the divine will through human instruments. Notice in Deuteronomy 7:1-2, that God directly commanded Israel to exterminate the heathen tribes in the land of Canaan! This was not humanly devised warfare nor was it personal vengeance or malice. It was the express will of Almighty God who gives life — and who alone has the right to say when it shall be taken. It is worthy of note in passing to say that the history of the time indicates that these nations occupying Canaan were absolutely wicked in the extreme — and were burning alive their own children in human sacrifice to their pagan gods. This was part of the intelligent reason why the Creator ordered their extermination at that time. Notice that in all these cases where God permitted man to take life, it was only as His agent — at His express will. When the nation of Israel entered a war on their own initiative, they were routed with slaughter. In those instances when God ordered them to war, He was using them as His instrument of judgment instead of sending a plague or famine. In considering the things permitted ancient Israel, bear in mind also that they were one of the physical nations of this earth — whereas God's Kingdom is now a spiritual entity. Describing the difference in the operation of God's Law in the carnal Israelite and the Spirit-led Christian, the apostle Paul stated, "For the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (II Cor. 3:6). Remember the principle set forth by Jesus Christ regarding what Moses permitted the unconverted Israelites to do in certain cases: "For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning... it was not so" (comp are Matt. 19:8 with Mark 10:5-6). God's original purpose is that man should learn not to kill. And although it was permitted in certain instances to the carnal, unconverted people of Israel, we shall see that God is now developing in His Spirit-begotten children the character to love, to serve and to save life — not to destroy it.
The SOURCE of Life
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion..." (Gen. 1:26). Man is given life by his Creator. He did not give it to himself. Neither may he take it from himself — or from others. Life is sacred because it is God-given. Man has been made in the very image and likeness of God. Of all the physical creation, only man has the type of mind that God possesses. God is the ruler of all that is. But out of human flesh He is forming literal sons who will some day share in that rule. So God said, "Let them have dominion..." Man needs experience in order to develop the character God purposes for him. Experience requires time. And a man's life consists of just so much time. God gave that life for the supreme purpose of preparing sons to be in His Kingdom and Family forever. The giving of life, and breath and ability includes all. It is the most wonderful gift of which man has knowledge. The taking of life ends all. It cruelly and unexpectedly crushes all the hopes and dreams and plans of a man made in the very image of the Creator Himself. It is a wicked usurpation by man of a prerogative belonging to God alone who gives life in the first place — and who alone has the authority to take it away (Job l:21-22). That is why any form of murder is one of the 10 great sins. It is destroying the highest creation of Almighty God! In effect, it is an attempt to thwart the very purpose of the great, sovereign ruler of the universe! The Giver of all life is God. And puny, mortal man has no business whatsoever interfering with God's greatest gift!
Personal Application of the Command
Jesus Christ came into this world to magnify God's Law and make it honorable (Isa. 42:21). Jesus cast a spotlight as it were on the Ten Commandments, and showed their real spiritual intent and meaning in the full Christian life. Jesus said: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matt. 5:21-22). Here murder is traced to its source — hate and anger. Christ declared that if personal anger filled the heart of one of His subjects, such a person is in danger of judgment. If that anger leads a man to have utter derision and contempt for his fellow human being, that man shall be "in danger of the council" — of God's punishment. If in bitter scorn a man shall say of his fellow, "Thou fool," an expression which in Greek meant condemnation, such a man shall be "in danger of hell fire." This is Jesus Christ's application of the Sixth Commandment to you and me! If we harbor hate and anger in our hearts, we are harboring the "spirit" of murder! Action follows thought. First we think, then we do! The Spirit of Christ guides us not only to control our actions, but to control our thoughts and our attitudes! In part, the new covenant is the process of God writing His Law in our hearts, and minds and inward parts (Heb. 8:10). God spoke through Paul: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12:19). Man is incapable of taking vengeance with proper wisdom and justice to all concerned. God alone has the wisdom and the power and the right to take vengeance on human beings — to the extent of executing them if need be. The true Christian must learn that God is real — and that His protection and His vengeance are just as real!
The Character You Should Build
How, then, should you deal with your enemies? "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (verses 20-21). It takes real strength of character to help and serve your fellow human being when he has directly tried to harm you! It takes spiritual wisdom to realize that he is a fellow human being, made in the image of God and simply misguided for the time being in his thoughts and actions. Instead of the natural tendency to want to get even with one who has done us wrong, a real Christian must learn the lesson that the apostle Paul was allowed to bring to us directly from the lips of Christ, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). God is the giver of every good and every perfect gift (Jas. 1:17). He has given us our lives, our strength, our minds, our abilities — everything we have or hope to have comes from Him! In order to live happily forever as God's son, man also must learn to give — to serve — to love. This is the great lesson of life. The perfect definition of this highest of all attributes — Christian love — is given in the 13th chapter of I Corinthians. Read it. Study it. The spirit of malice and murder is the exact opposite of this basic attribute that God requires of His sons. Notice the apostle John's emphasis of this point: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:14-15). A continued lack of love in carnal human beings leads to hate. And hate leads to murder. God says the spirit of hate is murder! And this "spirit" of murder is not an indefinable nothing. Doctors and psychologists have clinically proved that people in the attitude of strife and malice and hate literally become sick physically — have a form of mental insanity — if this mental attitude is not changed. And in all too many cases, these wrong emotions lead to the literal murder of a fellow human being.
Mass Murder in the Christian Home?
Concerning these wrong emotions of lust and hate and covetousness, God warns us: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (I John 2:15-16). Certainly there is no more dramatic example of the drinking in and cultivation of lust and violence than that of a person sitting and absorbing, hour after hour, a literal deluge of sexual perverseness, violence and murders from his television screen or that of the nearby motion picture theater! Jesus said, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). So it is with hate and violence and murder! If you "look on" this sort of thing night after night and entertain these thoughts in your mind and heart, you are bound to be guilty, in spirit at least, of the very actions with which you are saturating your heart and mind!
The Breaking Down of Spiritual Principles
To a far greater extent than most of us realize our modern society is literally based on a system of competition, greed and selfishness. In other words — in plain language — it is based on the spirit of murder! You have never thought of it that way before, have you? There is not space here even to enumerate all the conceivable forms of murder indulged in regularly in our Western world. But we do need to understand the principle of the Sixth Commandment, and to obey it! In "respectable" business, it is all too often a practice to overlook the cumulative damage to human beings that the use of certain manufactured products involve. The manufacturer and the advertiser alike both close their eyes to what — in many cases — scientists know is a grave danger if certain products are used regularly. "It's just business," people say to excuse themselves. But God says your first and most important business is to obey His Law of love! To a great extent in the past, and in some cases even at the present time, certain industries have forced their employees to work under such conditions, with such equipment or such long hours that those at the top really knew that a certain percentage of God-given human life would be sacrificed in their business operations to make more money! Those who think this is "respectable" murder will come to a rude awakening in the cold light of God's impartial judgment! In like manner, modern employees have banded themselves together in labor union movements. They — like the employers — have literally murdered to get their way or to gain more of what God describes as "filthy lucre." To all those who read and understand, we may only echo Jesus' words, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Other Personal Violations
There are hundreds in our society take their own lives. But this, too, is violating the Sixth Commandment. It is God who gives life — and no man has the right to take that God-given life, even the one to whom it has been committed as a steward. For such a one is refusing to fulfill the purpose for his creation — and is in effect condemning and blaspheming the very Creator in one of the strongest possible ways. The modern psychology of pleasing the "self" has led many to other forms of murder. Thousands of, young women each year are committing a crime against God and man which is far greater than most of them have perhaps realized. In their desire to evade responsibility or to cover up shame, they are willfully taking the lives of unborn babies still carried in their wombs! This practice is called abortion — and it is clearly MURDER in the sight of the Almighty God who gave these little lives! So-called "mercy killing" is simply the revival of an ancient pagan, practice! It advocates the medical "murder" of a patient suffering from an incurable disease or in great pain. But, once again, men who advocate such practices have left God completely oat of the picture! They don't think of God as REAL. Thy forget that God GAVE life — and that He alone has the right to take it away. And in many cases they remain willfully ignorant of His divine POWER to heal any kind of disease or sickness — no matter what the medical science of the moment might be able to do about it. God has NEVER given the right to puny, mortal men to carry on such a so-called practice as "mercy killing." Its practitioners will stand guilty before His judgment for — MURDER! There is another species of murder that uses the tongue as its instrument. This is the case of a man so reviling, condemning and scandalizing his fellow human being as to lead him to physical and mental sickness — and possibly death or suicide. The apostle Paul describes the attitude of these men who have forgotten God: "Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters..." (Rom. 1:29-30). Paul says the judgment of God indicates that such men "are worthy of death" (verse 32). Those who revile or scandalize their fellowman to the point of misery and distraction are guilty of the spirit of murder — and perhaps literal murder if such action leads to the death of a fellow human being. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof' (Prov. 18:21).
Humanity's Greatest Crime
Perhaps the greatest international crime of humanity is the scourge of war. Millions of human lives created in the image of God have been mercilessly slaughtered down through the ages in useless, senseless, idiotic wars, which in most cases failed utterly to accomplish their stated purpose. The spirit of God's Law as magnified by Jesus Christ is as totally opposed to every form of war as would seem possible! Nearly all the really great religious and political leaders of the world have acknowledged the utter futility of war. Before the outbreak of World War II, Pope Pius XII declared, "Everything is gained by peace; nothing is gained by war." One of the most respected statesmen and military leaders of our time, the late General Douglas MacArthur, stated: "Men since the beginning of time have sought peace... military alliances, balance of powers, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blots out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence, and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past 2,000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh." Humanity's last chance is to repent of the sin of war before human annihilation removes every vestige of life from this planet! General MacArthur acknowledged that the problem we face is theological — it is a Christian problem involving a true knowledge of the true God. He went on to say that it involves "an improvement of human character." The greatest statesman of all time was Jesus. He was the Spokesman for the government or Kingdom of God. Christ said: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you..." (Matt. 5:43-44). There is a great deal of highly respectable, cultured and most interesting religion abroad in the world today under the name of "Christianity." But can even these sophisticated religious organizations face these clear words of Jesus Christ without confessing that His life, His teaching and His Spirit condemn the very essence of war? More lives have been snuffed out prematurely, more suffering has been endured, and more homes have been wrecked and broken, more time and property have been utterly wasted because of the scourge of war than through any other means in the history of man. And war has never solved the problems of men or brought permanent peace. Instead, it only breeds more war. "For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matt. 26:52).
The Bible Teaching
Jesus Christ came into this world as a messenger of the government or Kingdom of God. He took no part in this world's politics or wars. On trial for His very life before Pontius Pilate, He said: "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36). As we have stated, only God who gave life has the right to take life. Therefore, only God has the right to wage war. And, as Jesus taught, God does not choose to have His children wage war for Him during this age. Jesus said that His servants would fight if His Kingdom were of this world. But it is not. And wars fought by and for the governments or kingdoms of this world are in defiance of the higher government and rule of Almighty God from whom all real authority proceeds. The apostle Paul stated to the Christians at Corinth, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh" (II Cor. 10:3). Through the apostle James, God shows that war results from a type of spirit exactly opposite that which He wants His servants to have. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:1-2).
A Lack of Real Faith
Men do not believe that God could give them — individually and nationally — the material possessions that they want and need. Instead, they feel they must compete and fight and war to get these things. When an aggressor attacks, peoples and nations of this world refuse to trust God to deliver them as He did ancient Israel at the Red Sea (Ex. 14). Today, we are divided and confused in our religious, political and national loyalties. There is no modern Moses to command us, "The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (Ex. 14:14). In plain language, there is no nation on earth — including America and Britain — that really knows and trusts the true living God for His supernatural protection in time of war. Instead, we seem to find it easier to spend countless billions of dollars and man — hours to protect ourselves. Countless millions of lives are killed or crippled or ruined. And millions of young men are taught to become effective killers — murderers! Indeed, one of the most devastating indictments against war is that it breeds in whole populations the spirit of violence and murder. In one generation Americans are taught to hate the British in a Revolutionary War. Later they are taught to hate the Mexicans and the Spanish. Still later, they must hate and destroy the Germans and the Japanese. And now, the entire Western world — called "Christian" by some — is taught to return the hate and violence and spirit of murder of the Communistic hordes of the East! No wonder there is so much violence, crime, adultery and broken homes in the wake of every war. More than any other one thing, war breeds the spirit of murder. And that evil spirit is growing and increasing throughout the world today.
God's Government Will End War
Jesus came preaching the good news of the government or rule of God. That rule is based on the Ten Commandments — God's spiritual Law. Jesus magnified that Law and showed its spiritual intent and purpose. He taught that if we even hate our brother, we are spiritually guilty of murder! Jesus taught that men should obey the laws of God and prepare for His coming Kingdom by yielding themselves to let God's laws — His character — be placed within them. When God's government does come very soon now to this earth, His Law will go forth as the standard of conduct of all nations (Mic. 4:1-2). At that time, God alone will wage war to punish rebellious nations in perfect wisdom and justice. As for the peoples of the world themselves? "Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (verse 3). War involves learning to hate and kill. Young men will no longer be forced to learn an attitude that is diametrically opposed to the rule of God's Law of love. The late President Dwight D. Eisenhower said: "Man's hope for world peace does not rest in opposing armed camps, but in an idea. That idea is the concept of a rule of law as the means of settling disputes among sovereign states." Whether this President realized it or not, he pointed up the fact that only the government of God based on His laws will solve the problems of men and nations. But meanwhile, true Christians must work and pray for God's Kingdom of peace, and we must realize that the spirit of war is the spirit of murder — and avoid it with all of our strength.
Jesus Christ and War
Speaking before the League of Nations, the late Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick put this thought in a powerful way: "We cannot reconcile Jesus Christ and war — that is the essence of the matter. That is the challenge which today should stir the conscience of Christendom. "War is the most colossal and ruinous social sin that afflicts mankind; it is utterly and irremediably unchristian; in its total method and effect it means everything Jesus did not mean and it means nothing that He did mean; it is a more blatant denial of every Christian doctrine about God and man than all the theoretical atheists on earth ever could devise. "It would be worth while, would it not, to see the Christian Church claim as her own this greatest moral issue of our time, to see her lift once more as in our fathers' days, & clear standard against the paganism of this present world and, refusing to hold her conscience at the beck and call of belligerent states, put the kingdom of God above nationalism and call the world to peace? That would not be the denial of patriotism but its apotheosis." The essence of the matter is that Jesus Christ is against the spirit of murder in every form. He is against war — and someday He will put an end to it forever! He is against all malice and envy and hate. Jesus Christ taught the dignity of man and the sacredness of human life — "created in the image of God." And the great Father of Jesus Christ, the Almighty God who governs the universe from His throne in heaven, that God thunders at an age of violence and rebellion, "Thou shalt not murder In next month's article, we will come to understand the BASIS for most of the misery and wretchedness among married couples today. The seventh commandment is more far — reaching than you have realized! Be sure to read next month's article in this series on God's Law.