The late evangelist D. L. Moody had a sharp temper which he learned to
control—sometimes. One evening Moody was conducting two evangelistic services
back-to-back. After the first one, as Mr. Moody was standing near the door,
welcoming the new crowd, a man approached him and delivered a highly
offensive insult of some sort. Moody never later repeated it, but it must have
been something that pushed his button for in a sudden fit of anger, Moody
shoved the man and sent him tumbling down a short flight of steps.
The man was not badly harmed, but Moody’s friends wondered how he could
now possibly preach the second service. “When I saw Mr. Moody give way to his
temper,” said an observer, “I said to myself, ‘The meeting is killed.’ The large
number who have seen the whole thing will hardly be in a condition to be
influenced by anything more Mr. Moody can say tonight.”
But Moody called the meeting to order, stood, and with trembling voice spoke
these words: Friends, before beginning tonight I want to confess that I yielded
just now to my temper, out in the hall, and have done wrong. Just as I was
coming in here tonight, I lost my temper with a man, and I want to confess my
wrong before you all, and if that man is present here whom I thrust away from me
in anger, I want to ask his forgiveness and God’s. Let us pray.
“Do not murder.”
We are continuing our series on the Ten Commandments and today we are going to focus on Commandment 6. This commandment is pretty straight forward and is one commandment that even unbelievers will agree with. I would venture to say that we ALL know that murder is wrong. Sometimes people get into arguments over what this sixth commandment actually means. At the surface it says what it says… “Do not murder.” But one of the most common questions asked is, what is the difference between killing and murdering? I will talk about this in a few moments. However, my purpose today is not to spend time trying to justify the differences between murdering and killing, but mostly to spend time looking at how this commandment is intended help us love our neighbors and live God-honoring lives.
The sixth commandment is easy to remember, in fact it is just three simply words… “DO. NOT. MURDER.” Seems like a straight forward commandment doesn’t it? However, when we begin reading the Bible it only takes four chapters before this commandment (which wasn’t technically a commandment yet) to be broken.
Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Both brothers were hard workers… Cain was a worker of the ground and Abel was a shepherd. We are told that both brothers brought offerings to the Lord. The sacrificial system had not been established yet so we are uncertain as to why they gave offerings. Cain is mentioned first as bringing an offering of fruit from the ground and Abel brings an offering of his flock (animal sacrifice). We are not told why specifically but Abel’s sacrifice had regard (favor) with God and Cain’s offering God had no regard (unacceptable).
Genesis 4:5 says, “Cain was FURIOUS and he looked despondent.” Cain was angry with God! He was furious and could be translated as Cain “burned with anger.” He harbored bitterness towards God and his brother in his heart.
The Lord asked Cain why he was so angry… not because he didn’t know but he was giving Can the opportunity to openly confess to God his sin that was lurking in his heart. God was challenging Cain to step back and look at his heart and make the necessary changes to do right. God basically says Cain has a choice to make… “If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted?” God mercifully challenges Cain by telling him he does not need to be angry.
God says, “Sin is crouching at the door” – This imagery is vivid, and it is of an animal waiting to pounce its prey. God was saying if Cain continues to harbor anger in his heart this sin will overtake him and ultimately dominate him. “Its desire is for you…” The word “desire” is the same word used in God’s curse on the woman when he says, “your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” This desire will all consuming and it will have control and power over Cain if he does not subdue it. God gives Cain the opportunity and the ability to take control of his sin.
Apparently, Cain does not heed God’s warning or challenge. Genesis chapter 4: 8 says, “And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” We are not told how the crime was committed and I don’t think it really matters, but we are told the end result was Abel is murdered by his brother.
Now, as we read this account, I think it is safe to say that what Cain did was wrong. Cain murdered his brother in cold blood. The sixth commandment, which would not be established until centuries later, prohibits the taking of innocent human life. And I have established that most people would agree with the sixth commandment because it is right to respect innocent human life.
The sixth commandment tells us that we should all value the sanctity of life from conception until death. All life is precious to God and we have no right to murderously take an innocent life no matter how young or old. We are created in God’s image, we are his image bearers so this gives us the call and duty to be protectors and preservers of life here on earth.
So, what is all the hub bub bub? Do not murder… what more do I need to say? Why not skip over this one and move to commandment seven?
The Heart of the Murder
Well, let’s go back to Genesis 4 and the story of Cain and Abel for a moment. Why was God displeased with Cain’s offering? Some believe, and I agree with them, that God’s response to their offerings was not so much in response to what was given, but how it was given. The issue was his heart. The text suggests that Abel gave an offering out of worship and Cain gave out of duty. According to 1 John 3:12 Cain’s deeds were evil and this is apparent (and actually written) because Cain became angry with God because God didn’t accept his offering and he acted on his anger as well. God knew he was angry as it was apparent with his facial expression (“Why do you look despondent?”).
Cain’s heart was not right. His heart was filled with anger, bitterness, and jealousy. We know this because he acted on the desires of his heart. his heart was blackened with murderous thoughts, jealousy, fury and eventually acted on them thus murdering his brother.
This is where things begin to get interesting and the reason why we can’t casually read over commandment 6 and move on. Why is that? Because murder is not just a physical act is it also an issue of the heart and I believe we need to get to the heart of the murder.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:21 – 22, “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder,[a] and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults[c] his brother or sister, will be subject to the court, Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire.”
Did you hear that? Jesus has just taken one of the most agreed upon commandments and takes it to the next level. He says that not only is murder wrong, but so is anger against your brother or sister.
In fact, John the Apostle takes it even a step further when he writes in I John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” Simple translating… If you hate someone, then you have murdered them.
Our hearts are deceitful and wicked and Jesus tells us, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Did you catch that? Out of the heart comes MURDER.
This means that not only is it wrong to take the life of another innocent person, but it is wrong to harbor hatred, anger, and bitterness in our hearts toward then. All life is precious and how we treat, and value people matters.
I love this quote from J.I. Packer, “The commandment rests on the principle that human life is holy, first because it is God’s gift and second because man bears God’ image. Human life is thus the most precious and sacred thing in the world, and to end it, is God’s prerogative alone. We honor God by respecting his image in each other, which means consistently preserving life and furthering each other’s welfare in all possible ways.”
So, what is our takeaway in response to commandment 6?
The absolute opposite of murder is love. When we show Christ-like love to those who love us, hate us or are indifferent to us we are fulfilling the Great commandment of Jesus Christ and thus bringing honor to God’s name.
Loving the loveable is easy for the most part. But loving the unlovable can be difficult and we can ONLY do this by the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we close today, I encourage you to check your heart. Are you harboring anger, bitterness, rage, jealousy, hostility, or the list goes on in your heart? Take some time and allow God to soften your heart and allow Jesus to transform your heart. It is in Jesus that we are able to lay sin-filled hearts upon him. If your heart is not right with God today, I want to beg you to allow Jesus to work on you and transform your heart into a heart that beats with love, compassion, and in tune with Him.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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