Q. 105. What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?
A. I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor – not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds – and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge. I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either. Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.
The sixth commandment prohibits the taking of another’s life in all cases except for war and by civil authorities. The specific word God uses for murder is really a word that implies any taking of human life. It is used of intentional and unintentional acts. Read these passages understanding that the same Hebrew word is used in all of them: Numbers 35:11-18, Deuteronomy 19:4-6, Numbers 35:25, Joshua 20:3.
But there is more to the command than simply not taking the life of another, the catechism tells us not belittle, insult or hate as well. This comes from Jesus’ expansion of the commandment in the Sermon on the Mount. In his sermon, Jesus teaches his people that the action is simply the result of the heart and when the heart is darkened, then that is the same as the performance of the action. Our actions must seek to protect life and enhance it, not destroy and demean it. Read Leviticus 19:16-18 and Matthew 5:21-22.
Read Romans 12:17-21. Revenge is a wicked impulse and we all must strive against it. In revenge the desire to get back, or get even takes over and unfortunately it is always paired with a desire to cause suffering that exceeds the original offense. As believers we must hand over our desire for revenge to the Lord and trust that in his justice all the evils we have suffered will be adequately punished.
But this commandment also applies to our own person. We must not treat our own bodies in a way that brings about damage or destruction to our physical, mental or emotional health. This is a place where many of us must reconsider our way of living and the constant pressures we put upon ourselves. Maybe it is time to reflect on the hobbies and leisure activities we engage in. Or might the psychological berating we dish out upon ourselves be damaging our ability to engage others well? All of these and many more must be considered when we include our own person in the commandment to honor and cherish life. Read Matthew 4:5-7.
But all these commands are giving to individuals as the way in which they are to live and engage their world. Governments however are called on to protect their people and ensure the furtherance of Christ’s message. Therefore, there are times when the government will be forced to defend itself in war or to punish criminals by taking their life. The Bible is clear that such decisions of the government must not be taken lightly but should be honored and submitted to when implemented. Read Romans 13:4.
All of the negatives discussed in the catechism are really just ways of helping one to understand how to cherish life. Instead of belittling we must offer up encouraging words, instead of insult, grace must be given, instead of hatred, love and instead of killing our neighbor service must be offered. We are to be a people of life, just as our Lord is the giver of live. Read Ephesians 5:1-2.