Questions 50 & 51

The sixth command tells Israel,* ‘You must not murder.’

 

God gave this command to each person under the covenant.* This command does not speak about rulers who may lead an army or must act as a judge. It does not speak about war. It does not speak to a judge who must take someone’s life to punish them for doing wrong. There are other places in the law* that speak about those matters.

 

No person should take away the life of another person.

 

God gave our first parents life. He is the one who gives all life. Because life is a gift from God, we must value life as God does. So, the life of each person is sacred.* The word sacred means ‘of great value and important.’ The word speaks of a thing that is set apart by God. It belongs to God. It is to be devoted to him and him alone. He is the one who created* all that lives. God is the one who gives life. He is the only one who may take life away.

 

Human life is sacred to God for another reason. People – both men and women, are made in God’s image. Long before God spoke to Moses,* God spoke to a man named Noah.* This is what God said to Noah. ‘For sure, I will take the life of … every person for taking a life. I will punish every man’s brother for taking the life of man. Whoever takes the life of a man will have his life taken. For God made man to be like Him.’[1] God made men and women ‘in his own image.’[2]When God made Adam* and Eve,* he made them to reflect who he is in certain ways. God made nothing else that could do this in the same way. [3]

 

For this reason, we must value the lives of all men and women. We must never treat anyone as if their life had no value.

 

This command did not only mean that one person must not murder another person. God also told Moses that people must take great care to protect the lives of other people. If a man knows that another man is in danger, he must warn the man. If I know that a man is going somewhere or doing something that can hurt him, I must warn him. I must act to save his life.[4]

 

In the law that God gave Moses, a man who murders another man must die. Sometimes, if a person broke a command, they could pay money as a punishment. Sometimes, they could run away and hide in a special town to avoid punishment. But for murder, no payment could be made.[5] For murder, there was no place to hide. When a man or woman murders someone, God sees them. And God will judge them.

 

Jesus* told about this command many times. But he did not only speak about the act of murder. He spoke against the things that cause one person to murder another. He did tell people that they must not murder. But he also told them that they must not be angry with one another. He told them that they must not hate one another. ‘Here is what I tell you. Do not be angry with your brother. Anyone who is angry with his brother will be judged.’[6]

 

Jesus said that if we have hate in our heart for someone, we break this command. ‘Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.’[7]

 

God is not only interested in what we do. He cares about what we think and how we feel. Jesus wanted people to know this. When we allow anger and hate to stay in our hearts*, that does not please God.

 

Murder always starts in the heart. That is the place where it must be stopped as well. Jesus told us that we must avoid hate and anger. Instead, we must love our neighbors.* Not only that, we must even love our enemies. But we cannot do this without God’s help.

 

The laws that God gave to Moses could not change people’s hearts. Only God can change the heart. This is why Jesus came. He came to bring a new covenant that would change people’s hearts.[8] For unless God changes our hearts, we can never truly obey his commands.


[1] Genesis 9:5-6
[2] Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 5:1
[3] See Questions 21&22
[4] Exodus 21:28-29
[5] Number 35:31
[6] Matthew 5:21-22
[7] 1 John 3:15
[8] Jeremiah 31:31-34