Truth Matters: You shall not murder

By Ken Askew

“You shall not murder.”  ESV Exodus 20:13

“You shall not murder.”  The command sounds simple and straight forward doesn’t it?  But is this really a simple command?  Is the sixth commandment really an easy commandment to obey?  It may not be as easy as you think.

Jesus had a way of simplifying many Old Testament teachings.  He summed up the gist of the Ten Commandments in two short sentences in Matthew 22 when he said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  And “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  In just two short sentences Jesus taught us how to relate to God and how to relate to our fellow man.

But Jesus also had a knack for expanding the true meaning of Old Testament teachings as well.  In Matthew 5:22-23 Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…”  So, with these words, Jesus expanded the definition of murder to include anger, or murder in a spiritual, internal sense.  John expands the definition further to include hate in 1 John 3:15 which says that, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer…”

Now, using this expanded definition of murder, it doesn’t take a lot of thought to conclude that the sixth commandment is a little more difficult to honor than its simple language might imply.  Think how easy it is to be angry with someone.  Think how easy it is to harbor hatred against someone who has done you wrong.  Give it just a little thought and you’ll agree; it isn’t hard to break the sixth commandment!

So what’s the solution?  How do you faithfully keep the sixth commandment?  Well, I think it’s a task that is impossible in our own strength, but very doable in the power of the cross.  Jerry Bridges likes to say we “need a daily appropriation of the Gospel.”    That thought fits perfectly here, but it’s only meaningful to Christians.  But when a Christian thinks he’s been wronged and is tempted to be angry, he needs only to think of the cross and how his sin debt, incurred because of his transgressions against God, was paid by Christ to bring forgiveness into his heart.  When Christians are tempted to hate, they need only to think of how God displayed His love for them by sacrificing His son to put things into perspective.

Colossians 3:12-13 sums it up well:  “Put on then, as god’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Ken worships at Tharptown Baptist Church in Russellville where he leads an adult Bible study.  Comments are welcome and may be sent to