Let’s pray: God thank you for your presence with us this morning. I ask that you open our ears to hear your words. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and open my mouth and let your words flow out. Amen.
Last week Tara had the longest command. This week, I will tackle the shortest one. It is short but by no means small.
“Thou shall not murder.” If you feel comfortable, raise your hand if you can say “I got this one, No problem! Check! I have never murdered anyone before. You may have noticed that I did not raise my hand. 2 months ago, I would have. But now, well, that is what I will talk about today.
I found references to the word "kill" and the word "murder" in translations of this verse. Let’s take a look at the clarifications of these two words. “The Jewish sages note that the word ‘ratzach’ applies only to illegal killing (e.g., premeditated murder or manslaughter)-and is never used in the administration of justice or for killing in war. The translation "thou shalt not kill" is too broad. The Hebrew word that was used in this case for "kill" (or murder) was the somewhat rare term rasah (derivatives can be found with the meaning of shatter or slaughter.) Although its exact meaning has defied explanation, in other contexts it could refer to killing that was inherently evil.
Since humans are made in the image of God, life is infinitely precious and only God Himself has the right to give and take life. In the Mishnah, the first part of the Jewish Talmud, it is written, ‘Why was only one man (i.e., Adam) created by God? - To teach that whoever takes a single life destroys thereby a whole world; and whoever saves one life, the Scripture accounts it as though a whole world had been saved(Sanhedrin 4:5).’
But murder can be figurative as well as literal. The Talmud notes that shaming another publicly is like murder, since the shame causes the blood to leave the face. Moreover, gossip or slander are considered murderous to the dignity of man. The Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) states, ‘The evil tongue slays three persons; the utterer of the evil, the listener, and the one spoken about.’ Yeshua our Lord also linked the expressions of our words and heart attitudes with murder.
I hope you hear 2 things from this message this morning. One, we are all guilty of not keeping the 6th commandment. Each and everyone of us. And 2, Jesus has us covered. There is hope in our Savior.
In reading Jen Wilkens book “Ten words to live by”, her sixth word, "Honor Life" notes that it is this commandment that changes from honoring God, to what we do about the people we live on earth with. Most people are OK in their own way, but some of them…well, we don’t trust them, we are afraid of them, they make us angry or we just plain don’t like them. Jen references Jesus' words on this from Matthew. We heard it read earlier. Here are the same words from the Message. Eugene Peterson does have a way with the paraphrase.
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. Words can be deadly.
James 3: 5-6 states: “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
Eugene Peterson goes on to say: “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.”
Jesus does not want our compliance to the literal word but rather to the intent of the word. He asks us to get deeper in the emotion behind the murder. Murder begins with anger. Jen notes: “Jesus does not overturn the command not to murder. Rather, he challenges our affection for bare-minimum compliance. A bare-minimum approach to ‘You shall not murder’ means I believe that as long as I don’t commit the physical act of murder, I have fulfilled the law.
But Jesus teaches the better way. He takes great care to help his hearers identify the inward sin that accounts for why murder happens in the first place. And by pointing to anger at its origin, he allows no room for any of us to breeze past the sixth word.” Having read this, I just had to say wowzer….My negative emotion may lead to harmful thinking, to harmful speech, and to harmful actions. Please, do not hear that all anger is bad or awful, but it does give me pause. Perhaps you are starting to sense why I did not raise my hand.
Who of us have been angry enough to say hurtful words or to act in a hurtful way? Who/or what group of people have we decided are less than? (Pause) A few come to my mind. The immigrant at the border, the lady with disability at the market, the man at the street corner asking for money, the guy sleeping in Jim’s trailer behind the Smoke shop. It really is anyone that we, you or I, have decided don’t quite measure up. That step in harmful thinking is the first step to murder.
Dallas Willard was an American philosopher who was known for his books on spiritual formation. He notes this about contempt; “Contempt is a kind of studied degradation of another, and it also is more pervasive in life than anger. It is never justifiable or good…In contempt, I don’t care if you are hurt or not. Or at least so I say. You are not worth consideration one way or another. We can be angry at someone without denying their worth. But contempt makes it easier for us to hurt them or see them further degraded…The intent and effect of contempt is always to exclude someone, push them away, leave them isolated.”
Sounds like what Jesus is trying to help us see. Jesus tells us ‘Whatever you do to the least of these you did to me. (Matthew 25:40) In preparing for this talk, I have come to this: any form of discrimination, unrighteous anger, contempt is the first step. Whether for age, race, sex, ableness, gender is a form of murder. Perhaps not physical but of the heart and soul. Murder takes a life, contempt negates a life.
I will share an example of discrimination based on sex. Most of you know that my professional life was as a nurse. I am an older nurse. Which means, when I was younger most nurses were female and most doctors were male. The expectation was that no matter what, when a doctor walked into the room/floor the nurse would get up and give the doctor the chair. It did not matter if you were at the end of 14 hours of back to back codes or whatever. The nurse got up and gave the chair to the doctor. I found this degrading and disrespectful to those who were exhausted and trying to complete their charting. I spoke up. I was reprimanded. Unfortunately, nothing changed until more nurses were male and more doctors were female. I think it is very easy for culture/society to marginalize and make something acceptable that really treats another as less than.
Yes, Murder is a terrible sin, but perhaps Jesus is shedding tears today because we missed the point. Anger-contempt-discrimination all violate God’s command to love. Words do more than sticks and stones. Words tear down and destroy. All of us have had hurtful words hurled at us…Such as: you are fat…you are stupid…you can’t sing… you can’t paint…you are not wanted. Words that harm our souls. Perhaps you are struggling with these hurts now? Perhaps you have recently hurt someone with your words?
I ask you, is there any hope for us human creatures? The answer is a resounding YES. God believes in you and I so much that he sent Jesus Christ to save us. Paul assures us in Romans 8: 9-11 “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
I Thank Jesus and pray that his Holy Spirit will guide each of us to consider his word and be willing to do more than the bare-minimum in compliance. And to strengthen us to run to our brother or sister and ask; “Can you forgive me!”
Let’s pray: Lord, this is a tough commandment. Thou Shall Not Murder. Four words and so much more. Thank you for giving us the Ten Words that we may have life and have it abundantly. Amen.