Father, we thank You for these commandments that You have given; the ten guiding principles of human life. And we understand, in the midst of the 'thou shalt nots,' so many things that we shall do; all of the positive things that are a part of Your character, that are also reflected in these commandments. I pray Lord, that week by week, that we would learn and treasure the revelation that You have given to us, from heaven to earth, and that we would be changed by them and be pleasing in Your sight. In Jesus' name. Amen.
As we're going through the Ten Commandments, it would be really great if we would memorize them. It's not too hard; there are only ten of them. Some of you remember doing that as children - it would be great if you teach your children the Ten Commandments. In fact, I wonder if you know them right now, at least what we've gone through so far. Let's go through them. The first - "I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me." The second - "You shall not make for yourself any graven image." The third - "Keep the Lord's name holy." The next one, "Remember the Sabbath." You don’t take the Lord's name in vain, then you keep a day holy, the Sabbath day. The next one, "Honor your father and your mother."
This is the simplest one so far, it's the shortest one, found in verse 13: "You shall not murder." Maybe in reading this commandment, you're thinking, "Okay, the other commandments had something to do with me; there was at least relevance for my own personal life - honor your father and your mother. I got that, didn’t like when you talked about doing that with parents-in-law, but none-the-less, I admit that those are things that are relevant to my own personal life - honoring God above all else, certainly. But here's a commandment that I can just tune out because it has absolutely no relevance to my life whatsoever." Because after all, you would say, you never plotted the murder of another person. And even when somebody pulled out in front of you on the freeway, and you had a moment of road-rage, and you even thought, "I'm gonna follow them through the entire state of New Mexico, and make their day miserable," still, you didn’t plan on how to murder them. But I would venture to say that every person in this room, self included, has gotten away with murder, if we apply the meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His words in the New Testament, to this commandment. We'll look at that this morning before we close.
Murder has always been a problem with mankind from the very beginning. The first two people, Adam and Eve, had two kids and the first crime ever committed by those two kids was homicide. In Genesis chapter 4, the Bible says that Cain and his brother Abel were out in the field, they were having a conversation and Cain rose up and slew his brother Abel. And so it has been the history of mankind, whether we had rocks in our hands, or clubs, or axes, or swords, or in more modern times, guns and bombs; people kill people. That's the sad legacy of the human race. In fact, did you know that out of the 11 so called 'developed countries,' murder - homicide - is highest in our country, the United States of America. I am told that you have one chance in 153 of being murdered, as an
American. They tell us that intentional killing, i.e. homicide, is the fourth leading cause of death in our country. The first is heart disease, the second is cancer, the third is accidents, and the fourth is intentional killing; homicide; murder. This year alone, over 25,000 people will be murdered; those are the ones that will be registered. That's 70 per day. That's one murder every 24 minutes in our country. Staggering, astonishing.
I read an interesting article in the Raiders News Agency, a couple of weeks ago, that police in Vienna, Austria, reported a woman who lived with a mummified corpse of her aunt for over a year. I know that's really spooky, but here's the story. The police knocked on the door after reports from the neighbors who tried to get in to see this 96 year old woman, and her niece, 51 years old, said, "Well, she's sleeping; she doesn’t want to be disturbed." When the police finally got in, they discovered that under this old lady's covers, on her bed, was the corpse that had been there for a year. And it seemed that the niece had been taking the pension money that this elderly aunt was getting, and was using her ATM card. An autopsy was done to see if there was foul play involved. But what would possess a person to live with a mummified corpse of an old person for over a year? Here's another question: What would you be willing to do for ten million dollars, or two million dollars, or four million dollars? That was a question that a couple of New York researchers asked 3500 people across the United States: What would they be willing to do for enough money? So, hypothetical cases were given. They discovered that right around the two million dollar mark, people were willing to do a lot. 25 percent of those who where interviewed said that they would be willing to completely abandon their families for two million dollars. These two researches said, "Seven percent of us say they would murder someone for enough money." That’s about one in every 14 people. Whether they could actually pull the trigger, is another question, but 36 million of us would be willing to consider the offer.
The commandment is plain, verse 13: "You shall not murder." And I'm glad that our translation corrects the old King James. If you have an old King James, I apologize - great translation, but it simply says, "Thou shall not kill." Modern translations correct the language. The best and only translation can be, 'murder.' Here's why: there are seven Hebrew words that could be translated, 'to kill.' The one word that is translated, 'murder,' is the word that is used here, 'ratsach.' In fact, this commandment is only two words in the original Hebrew, 'Lo ratsach; No murder.' It speaks of the intentional killing of another human being for personal reasons; that's the definition. "You shall not kill; you shall not murder," doesn’t mean that you can't kill animals for sacrificial purposes in the Old Testament; God gave them that command. It doesn’t mean that there can't be Capital Punishment; God gave that command in the Old Testament. It doesn’t mean that the people of Israel couldn’t go to war; they were given that permission in the Old Testament. It doesn’t mean that you can't protect your family or your house if somebody is trying to break in; that was also specified under the Torah. This specifically deals with intentionally killing someone else for personal reasons. We want to look at that in depth this morning.
First of all, I want you to notice with me, the premise of this command. Now I know it's stated in the negative, 'You shall not,' but it also affirms the positive; the negative implies the positive: life is sacred, and because life is sacred, you shall not murder. It's important to think about that premise. Death must always be viewed through the lens of life. Whatever value we place on life will determine whatever we believe about death. As an example, if I believe that life is a gift of God; that God created me, then for me to murder someone is to defy the very purposes of God and to defy God Himself. If, on the other hand, I say, "Well, life is not by special creation - I'm just a cosmic accident; I'm just a biological creature like any other creature - then killing someone, or ending life, is simply a biological action.
When Napoleon Bonaparte was the ruler of his country, he had a general named Prince Clement who advised Napoleon Bonaparte that the plan Napoleon had devised to wage war could cost the lives of 100,000 people, many of them innocent people. Napoleon's reaction was, "Ha! What are the lives of 100,000 people to me?" In other words, the way he viewed the lives of other people determined his willingness to put that many people to death. You say, "Oh, that's so archaic!" However, the current belief today in our educational system pervasively, is that man, woman, we're just advanced protoplasm. Doesn’t that make you feel good about yourself? So they would have you believe that all you are is just a complex, advanced animal; not made by God, no special value - just a biological mechanism. Listen to this quote from the "American Journal of Pediatrics," by Dr. Peter Singer, "We can no longer base our ethics on the idea that human beings are a special form of creation - made in the image of God - singled out from all other animals, and alone possessing an immortal soul. So follow my thinking. If every year in our schools, and from our journals, we are telling people, "You're just an animal," why should we be so surprised if our kids start acting like animals? Why should we be astonished? You've been feeding them this line that they're animals, so now they're acting savage-like; without morals, without underpinnings that God gives because we're His creation. And then you have a media that is pouring millions and billions of dollars into glorifying violence, and children's programming that depicts 25 violent acts per hour - that's the average.
Apart from that, and aside from that cultural view, is the Biblical truth; we're not just an animal, we're not just organic. We have been made by God and life is a gift from the Creator, which is the whole basis for the sanctity of life, based on Genesis chapter 2, verse 7, where we read: "The Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being." It's that text and others like it that even our Founding Fathers thought should be woven into the fabric of the language of this nation, like the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident [in other words, 'Anybody can figure this out!'], that all men were 'evolved equal'[no, it doesn’t say that],created equal and endowed by their Creator, with certain inalienable rights, among these, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Moreover, not just is life a gift from God, but we are made in the image of God. That means you and I possess certain characteristics that our dog, our cat, our pet snail, or whatever we have at home, don’t possess. Unlike those creatures, we (men and women) are made in the image of God. What does that mean? It means we are capable of conceptual thought; we can come up with our own ideas. We are capable of imagination. We are capable of creativity; being artistic - my dog never painted a picture. It would be cool if he did; I think I'd make a lot of money if he did! I've never seen him off in the corner thinking, contemplating, imagining, or creating! Also, man can produce complexity; he can go from simple to complex - connect the dots in our reasoning. Not only that, but mankind is a trinity or a tri-unity - body, soul, and spirit - the tripartite nature that reflects the very Godhead himself. Mankind, unlike my dog, who is a good dog, but doesn’t have what I have - I have an eternal dimension. I enter life asking questions like, "Why am I here?" My dog has never said that. I just pet him, feed him, take him for a walk every now and then and he's fine. But we have the capability to long for God; to have a relationship with God, because we were made for eternity, unlike our pets. So the very foundation, the premise of this command is that life is sacred.
But there is a problem, and the problem is not with the command, it's with those to whom the command is given. The problem with "Thou shall not kill," is in the 'Thou,' the 'you,' the 'me.' Years after this was given to the Children of Israel, Paul the apostle would write in the book of Romans, looking at the law that God gave; all of the commandments, all of the instructions, Paul will say, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal and sold under sin." There's no problem with the Law, because it reflects the heart of the Lawgiver; that's the bar. The problem is with the people who receive the Law, Paul would say. The Law is spiritual, I am carnal; sold under sin. Even God understood that there would be this problem when He gave the Ten Commandments, in fact, the whole Law. There was thundering and lightening on Mount Sinai, a big fire show, and the Children of Israel didn't want to go any closer. They said, "Moses, you go and listen to whatever God tells you, come back and tell us what to do and we'll do it." Yeah, right! Moses, go up to the mountain and God says, "You know, Mo, I heard the words the Children of Israel told you, and what they said was good," but listen to what God said, "But oh, that they had such a heart to fear Me and to always keep My commandments that it would be well with them and their children forever." In other words, "I love what they said, I only wish they had the capability; the heart, to do everything that I've told them to do." So God understood; there is nothing wrong with the commandment but there is something wrong with the way man is wired after the Fall with Adam and Eve, that rather than innocence, there is depravity. A famous text of Scripture, many of you know it well, out of Jeremiah 17 - it describes the human heart saying, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?" How many of you heard of a radio show from the 1930's, before television, called "The Shadow?" "The Shadow" was this unknown sleuth on the radio who solved crimes and went against criminals and the show began each week on the radio with this, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" followed by a wicked laugh and then, "The Shadow knows…" Even a 1930's radio show admitted that evil lurks in the hearts of men and "the Shadow knows," of course the Bible knew long before the Shadow. The Spirit knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men and He's revealed that in His Word. So anytime we see any act of evil, any crime, any act of violence, we can simply say, "It's exactly what the Bible said would happen." We're not born innocent; we're born by Adam's nature - depraved and in need of a Savior. So the problem is that man is defiled, which actually helps answer a question that a lot of people have: "Why is it that we're not any better after all this time?" Thousands of years, we've improved culturally, we have more creature comforts, we've made so many advancements, why is it that we haven’t fixed this? Why is it that mankind is still angry, and violent, and murderous, and at war? What's the problem? What's the real reason for that? Some will say, "It's the Liberal Media! They're the problem with everything!" or, "It's the Democrats!" or, "The Republicans," or "The United Nations!" No, you and I have to look no further than the mirror. The problem is in every single one of us; it's the human heart. James tells us in one verse what the problem is - James 4:1: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it; you kill and covet but cannot have what you want." Get what he's saying: Why do people fight? Why are people at war? What is the problem? James says right here - it's the desires within the human heart. So, yes, mankind is violent, yes, mankind is murderous, and the problem isn’t because guns exist or the access to guns. Take away every gun in the world; destroy them all - we'll pick up stones or clubs, or something else - that is where the problem lies. There are not too many times I would ever agree with Sigmund Freud, but here is one instance in which I do. He said, very interestingly, "The very emphasis of this commandment, 'Thou shall not kill,' makes it certain that we have descended from an endlessly long chain of generations of murderers, whose love of murder was in their blood and perhaps is also in ours." I am amazed that Sigmund Freud had right theology concerning this commandment. I didn’t know he had any theology.
Let me give you an example of how our view of life can determine how we view death. I'll never forget being in India for the first time and I spoke to a Christian leader who had told me what had happened in India the week I was there. This is a true story. First of all, if there are any traffic laws in India, nobody knows them. There was a bus driver going down the street and there was a cow crossing the street (there are usually a lot of animals out on the streets - cows, camels,) and there was also a man crossing the street and by the time the bus driver has the presence of mind to make a decision, and he had to make one, he was going to have to veer one direction or the other, running into the man or into the cow. Which did he choose? He ran right into the man, killing him instantly, because in Hindu philosophy and theology, a cow is a higher level of life than a human being. Thus, a person's view of life determines how they view death. You say, "Well, that's so backwards and so wrong!" You're right - isn’t it odd how human life is being devalued and animals get more rights than anything else?
Turn with me to Matthew chapter 5, the Sermon on the Mount, and we will end here. We've looked at the premise of this commandment which is: life is sacred. We've looked at the problem with this commandment: man is sinful or defiled. Now let's look at the passion that is against, or opposed to, this commandment. You're going to notice in Matthew chapter 5, that Jesus brings some clarity to this very commandment we are reading. Verse 21 of Matthew chapter 5: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder. And whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother, without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the Counsel." I know some of you are thinking, "Whew! I'm glad - I never said that!" "But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire." Jesus certainly widens the definition of murder and the consequences of murder here, doesn’t He? He is saying, "It's more than a civil issue; I'm telling you it's a spiritual issue. You think it's simply an action that begins in the hands; I'm telling you it's an attitude that begins in the heart." What happens in the heart will be seen in the hands. What you believe about another person may be shown by what you do, but it all begins - whether acted on or not - in the heart. I've gotta think that when Jesus said this, that crowd was blown away. If up to that point they were excited about hearing Jesus, now they suddenly realize, "He just accused all of us of being murderers," because it says, "If you're angry with your brother without a cause." And it's true; to slander somebody made in God's image, is to slander God. Like the eight year old boy whose mom picked him up from school in the afternoon and was driving him home. On the way home the little boy said, "Hey mom, where are all the idiots?" She said, "I beg your pardon! What do you mean, 'All the idiots?' He said, "Yeah, on the way to school today, dad saw eight of them!" Eight times in one day, that little eight year old boy got a lesson from his father of how he views other people, how he views life, what he thinks and is willing to says about other people who are on the road. Now Jesus speaks about anger. Verse 22, He says, "I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother without a cause."
Indulge me for just a moment, I want to give you just a little language lesson. In the Greek language, the typical word for anger would be the word, 'thumos,' it's a very common word - we get the 'therm - thermal' from it. Think of a volcano where it heats up and then erupts. That's a typical Greek word that means to have a flare up, a rage, an emotional outburst. But that is not the word that is used here. It is the word, 'orgizo' and this is what the word means: a brooding, seething, nurtured anger. We would translate that: a grudge against someone. It’s the attitude, and I know you've seen it before. The type of attitude that says, "Okay, I forgive you, but I'll never forget!" Oh please! Spare me the words then! That's a grudge. Do we commit murder? By this definition we do; anybody who harbors a grudge, says spiteful, gossiping things to tear down a person deep in the heart, is because murder exists. Think about it, rarely - if ever - would we think about combining somebody who's angry at another person like this, (as described), and murder, and say they are the same thing. Jesus says they are. One begins the other; the attitude begins the action. We'd say, "I'm not a murderer!" But have you ever in your life thought, "I hate that person!" Or, "I wish they were dead!" Now you didn’t go out and kill them, maybe you were afraid of consequences, or you lacked the opportunity, but it doesn’t let you off the hook! We're still guilty. It's interesting, too, how we justify our grudges and our hatred. And I've discovered something about murderers: they do that too. Even the worst murderers have reasons why they did it. Adolph Hitler had what he thought were rational reasons for killing six million Jewish people, and he convinced a whole slue of people with those reasons. The people who dispatched the Crusaders toward Jerusalem, to also commit that kind of genocide, had their rational. Every Jihadist today has a reason why they would strap dynamite on, and blow themselves up along with innocent children and women. It's this kind of self deceit that Jesus is coming against: anger in the heart.
Let's come to a conclusion by finishing with the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 23 is the remedy: "Therefore, if you bring your gift to the alter and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the alter and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly while you're on the way with him; lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly I say to you, you will by no means get out of there until you have paid the last penny." I'm going to call this remedy, 'active forgiveness.' Jesus said, "If you're angry without a cause you're guilty, therefore…" and then he tells us what to do about it - active forgiveness, as opposed to passive forgiveness. In passive forgiveness you almost just don’t deal with it. We have to deal with it three ways in active forgiveness: number one - admit it. If you don’t admit there's a problem, you'll never fix it. So here's the idea: there's a guy at the alter in Jerusalem, his hands are raised, he's singing, 'I love You, Lord,' he's bringing his lamb to be sacrificed, and suddenly he remembers; a thought comes to his mind, "There's somebody out there really mad at me, angry with me, I've stumbled him and I know about it." It's funny how many people, even in counseling, don’t admit there's a problem. Here's a typical scenario: a man and a woman come to the counseling office and you ask what the problem is, and the man says, "I don’t have a problem, she does!" Wait a minute, the last time I checked, "The two shall become one flesh," i.e., if she has a problem, you have a problem; you both have a problem. When you admit it then you can fix it. Step number two is correct it. Notice, Jesus says, "Go your way," interesting! Somebody's coming to worship and God says, "Go away." "But I'm here to worship!" "Yeah, but there's a problem you have with another person!" "Oh Lord, You see my heart, forgive me." "Go away - first be reconciled, then come and offer your gift." In school, your math teacher taught you the shortest distance between two points is a straight line? It's true in math, but it's not true in theology. Sometimes the shortest distance between you and God is another person. You can't just say, "I don’t want to deal with that other person, oh but Lord, You know my heart, oh but Lord I love You." God says, "Go away. Get it right. You want to come closer to Me, then you come to me through that reconciliation with another person." Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes the best things to enhance a worship service aren’t better music or better preaching, but better relationships. When you have better relationships with other people and you're free, as Paul said, from the blood of all man, your worship is sweet; you've done all that you can do to bring reconciliation. There's no heavier weight that you can carry around than a pack of grudges. There's a story about Leonardo da Vinci: he was painting his most famous work - The Last Supper - and he was having an argument with somebody in town. It was a flare up, he lost his temper, and words were exchanged; he was angry. And he went back to painting The Last Supper. Well, he happened to be painting the most delicate part of the whole picture, which was the face of Jesus Christ, and he discovered he couldn’t do it. He'd pick up a brush and start the fine lines, he wanted it to be perfect. And he thought, "I don’t have the freedom to paint the Lord Jesus' face. He put down his brushes, went and found the person, talked it out, reconciled, and breathed a sigh of relief. Then he felt, "I've corrected it, I can do the Lord's work." Admit it, correct it, and the third step to active forgiveness is expedite it. Notice it says, "You're to go and do it quickly," or urgently; don’t allow bitterness or anger to develop, seethe, boil up, and give you more reasons why you should nurture that and hold on to it. In Ephesians 4 Paul says, "Be angry and sin not. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath." Loosely translated, Paul would say, "Don’t let a day go by, or you're gonna let that anger build up yet again." Or as Phyllis Diller would spin it, "Never go to bed mad, stay up and fight." You know, there's some wisdom in that! Better to be honest, confront the problem, deal with it, and come to an understanding, than go to bed and keep it to yourself un-dealt with. Admit it, correct it, expedite it.
So we have learned today that murder is a sin because we're created by God and we're created in the image of God, thus to murder, is to defy God's purpose. We've learned that there's no problem with the commandment or the standard, but there is a problem with mankind who has frequently, incessantly, throughout history, as a legacy, broken that. We've also learned that it's more than just an act; that it's an attitude and the attitude always precedes the act. Finally, we have learned that any time we, by words or anger, tear down or destroy another person, it's serious and we must deal with it. In fact, no one gets away with murder. Even if you've never committed it, but you've hated that person, you'll never get away with it because it will destroy you - you're the one who will get hurt the worst, as it just eats away at your spiritual life.
There was a very creative teacher at a Christian College. In front of the classroom, the teacher put up a big target and the teacher said to each student, "Today I want you to draw a picture of somebody that you don’t like, are angry at, or mad at." And there were a whole bunch of darts on a table at the front of the classroom. One girl drew a picture of another girl that stole her boyfriend. One young student drew a picture of his younger brother. Some put great detail into their drawings. The teacher had them all stand up and they put their pictures on top of the bull's eye, and the teacher said, "Now throw darts at those people you're angry at, go ahead, get mad at them!" The students thought this was terrific, they were launching those darts - some violently, ripping to shreds the target, laughing as they went. When they were all done, they sat down and the teacher took the darts out, took the drawings off, took the target off, and underneath the target was a huge picture of the face of Jesus Christ. The classroom fell into a hush as they looked at the mangled face of Jesus that they had created. And the last thing the teacher did in that class was write up on the chalkboard the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, "In as much as you have done it to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to Me."
Murder is a sin. We know that. The anger that perpetuates that murder is sinful, hurts the body of Christ, hurts the cause of Christ, and will eat us alive. And we haven’t even touched on Capital Punishment, Military involvement, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide; all of the things that are usually raised by this commandment, so we'll have to wait another week.
Let's pray. Our Heavenly Father, we approach You, the God of heaven and earth, the Creator of all life, Who gave life to us as a gift and also gave to us the Lord Jesus Christ and His slain and broken body, to die for the sins that we have committed. And we have all committed, in some form or fashion, murder. We ask for Your forgiveness. We ask for clean hands and a pure heart and we receive the forgiveness that comes whenever we confess. But Lord, part of that confession must necessitate going toward those that we know we have personally offended and have awed against us. You're not holding us responsible for somebody else that we need to tell them to do that to, but our own selves. It doesn’t mean that every person that we don’t like or that we've been mad at - that’s never the issue. But those that we know that we have offended, and they have awed against us - You told us if we know that, if we remember that, we leave our gift, and we go. And then we return and we can worship with intimacy and with freedom. Lord, I pray that these things will become second nature to us. That we can, as Paul said, be free from the blood of all men - that love will mark us. In Jesus' name, Amen.