Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

September 2019

The 6th Commandment

The 6th Commandment

There was a part of me that thought perhaps what I would do this Sunday is just stand up and say, “Don’t kill people.” and then sit down. Because this 6th commandment is pretty short and direct. “Thou shalt not murder”. Seems simple, but is it really that easy?
Of course not Over the years people have spent much time and energy arguing with what the word ‘murder’ means. Is it killing someone on purpose? does it include accidentally killing someone? What about soldiers or police officers who kill someone in the line of duty? What about doctors who lose a patient? If murder is taking a life, what does that mean?
This question about what constitutes murder takes a different connotation when we learn what the Hebrew word used in the commandment actually means: The Hebrew word is
Rahtz-akh. This word means 1. Taking a life, 2. Breaking, bruising or crushing the body, will or spirit. 3. Battering, shattering, assaulting physically or verbally or to humiliate someone.
Murder takes on the traditional idea of taking a life but also includes much, much more including simply humiliating someone. The Jewish response to this prohibition agains humiliating someone says, “The person who makes someone else ashamed in the presence of others is as if this person has shed blood for it causes the blood to drain from their face.” Making someone feel ashamed in public is as if you had murdered them. Think about it.
If we really think about his commandment, it is about how we treat someone. What we say to someone in public; what we say to someone anytime matters. It can make a difference in who that person is and how that person sees themselves and how that person is able to live their life. A child who constantly hears they are not good, or aren’t capable of anything, or are a bother to their care giver grows up to be an adult who thinks they can’t do anything. An employee who has a boss who constantly berates them and tells them they are useless or can’t do a good job becomes an employee who can’t do anything right. A person who is laughed at or jeered when doing something in public quits using their abilities. We see it all the time - and according to God the person who does this to someone else is just as guilty of murder as a person who has taken someone’s physical life.
You know when you were a child and someone said to you, “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never harm you,” Clearly that person didn’t know what they were talking about. Sometimes words can do far more devastating and longer lasting damage that any broken bone. Words have great power and we really need to think before we speak.
Jesus reinforces this concept of watching our word first in Matthew 18:6:
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Jesus recognizes the affect of ‘words’ on someone and in this passage he is not only talking about children - young ones in age - but any of his children - those of us who are believers. He holds us to a high standard in our relation with one another as a community of faith. He essentially tells us it is bad to speak to a person in public in a way that will break their spirit or embarrass them, but it is especially bad if it is between members of his family. Bad enough that the one who does the speaking deserves to have a millstone - which is like a very large and heavy rock - tied around their neck and thrown into the ocean - sort of like those cement boots the mafia is said to put on someone who disrespects them.
Jesus has more to say on the matter of murder. In the passage read this morning from Matthew Jesus tells us that murder is wrong, taking a life is wrong, but that this

commandment goes way past just the idea of taking someone’s life. We don’t have to kill someone physically to murder them, we can kill their spirit just as well and that, in God’s eyes, is just as bad as taking their physical life. Matthew 5:22 -
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[ will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Jesus expands the concept of ‘murder’ and it equates it to calling someone names - that is what ‘Raca’ means. It is a derogatory term used against a person. I was trying to think of an example I could use but i couldn’t think of anything I could use that I felt was appropriate. But we all know those names, those words, used for that person who cuts us off in traffic or gets our order wrong at the fast food place or calls us a name first….
Murdering, according to Jesus, is an attitude we have toward anyone else. It is any time we strike out against anyone with the intent to harm them - even with words. Because isn’t that why you say that hurtful thing to someone, to hurt them. Jesus wants us to be so transformed that when someone wrongs us, in whatever way, we ‘turn the other cheek’ - we don’t react in the way someone would expect us to. The telemarketer who has bugged you 5 times expects to hear someone say derogatory things to them - but Jesus demands we act differently.
Awfully hard to do sometimes……
Then, Jesus elevates murder a step higher - Jesus equates murder with anger. Now we do need to take a step back and understand this anger. Clearly all anger is not bad - Jesus got angry enough to take a bull whip and turn over the tables in the temple where they were disrespecting the house of God. There is a thing called righteous angry which his properly placed anger due to a true violation of God’s will….. the anger Jesus is talking about here is that seething, bitter, anger that is destructive mainly to ourselves. It is a dangerous anger that can result in violence, harming others - physically or spiritually.
It is the anger brought to us by Cain and Abel - Cain was angry at Abel for doing the right thing and Cain became so angry his solution was to kill Abel. Anger can lead to murder
Many of us have these emotions in us - we want to yell the derogatory name at someone; we want to get really angry and do something we shouldn’t - but we know we shouldn’t and we usually don’t. Jesus wants us to be so transformed that we don’t even think it. Jesus wants us to be so spiritually mature that even when the time arises to call someone an inappropriate name or to get really angry, it is not even something we think about; not even something we consider. Imagine that……
The 6th Commandment is very short. It simply says “You shall not murder.” But the implications here are huge. Don’t take someones life - physically, spiritually, emotionally.
Don’t call people hurtful names. Don’t embarrass people in public. Don’t get angry with people. All these things are murder because they all harm the life that God created.
And then Jesus says, ‘Let me transform you so much that you don’t even
want to do anything of these things….