You shall not commit murder. Exodus 20.13
The sixth commandment may almost seem irrelevant to us. After all, most of us have never killed anyone. And most of us (though not all) have never been up close and personal with someone who has. Furthermore, we might think, ‘Everyone knows it is wrong to kill. So how can you fill up a whole page about the sixth commandment?’
Well, if you ever thought that “You shall not commit murder” was obvious; if you ever were tempted to believe that the sixth commandment didn’t need to be proclaimed from the rooftops, just think about Marcus Feisel. A three-year-old, mentally handicapped child tied up in a closet and left to die by his foster parents while they went off to a family reunion?
And while the city is in a rage over what happened to young Marcus, very few stop to think that hundreds of unborn Marcuses are being sucked out of their mother’s wombs every year in Cincinnati. Hundreds of elderly people are being dumped off by their families to die in dirty, understaffed, inhumane nursing homes. So perhaps the value of human life is not as obvious to the culture at large as we might have thought. Perhaps Exodus 20.13 really does need to be shouted from the rooftops, or displayed prominently on billboards as it is on Montgomery Avenue in Norwood. If there were ever a culture that needed to fall under the conviction of the sixth commandment, it is this one!
Well, perhaps you are thinking like I am prone to think. Perhaps you are beginning to congratulate yourself. You’ve never done such terrible things. You’ve never had an abortion. You wouldn’t abandon your parents in their dying years. You would have treated Marcus better. Congratulations! Pick up a gold star at the door on the way out this morning!
But did you ever stop to consider what Jesus says in Matthew 5.21-22? “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit murder’…But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into fiery hell.”
Now we’re cutting a little closer to the bone. Have you been angry with a co-worker lately? Maybe yelled at your kids, or given your spouse the silent treatment? You’re guilty. Have you (mentally or verbally) called anyone a ‘good-for-nothing’ of a ‘fool’—a lame-brain, an idiot, a lazy bum, a jerk—lately? You’re guilty. Guilty enough to go to hell, says Jesus.
Recently, as I shared the gospel with a young man, I paraphrased Matthew 5.21. ‘If you even so much as call someone a jerk, that is punishable by eternal hell.’ The guy literally grabbed his head—as though his brain were about to explode—let out a groan, and exclaimed: ‘How in the world is anyone supposed to live up to that standard?’
Exactly the response I was going for! That’s just it. The Ten Commandments do not exist as a checklist whereby we can earn our way to heaven. They exist to expose the filthiness of our sinful hearts. They exist to remind us that nice, middle-class sinners are no better off than the inmate on death row. We all alike deserve capital punishment from God. And we all alike need the Savior—the only One, in the young man’s words, who has lived ‘up to the standard’; and who has died in the place of hateful, selfish murderers like you and me. Have you met the Savior? Or are you still on death row?