“You shall not murder.”
This is the sixth commandment.
There have been debates about what this means and how it applies. The debates are unnecessary.
The word used applies to killing human beings. Looking it up, I find that the word is conjugated in the qal imperfect. Neither of these means much to me or any other non-speaker of Hebrew. However, the qal stem tells me that the idea behind this word is murder, whether it be premeditated or in vengeance or even manslaughter. The imperfect has a pretty broad range of meaning, but the basic idea is this: Do not kill people.
There are those who want to extend this prohibition out to animals. The position is untenable if one believes the whole counsel of scripture. Peter is given a vision from God in which he is ordered to “Arise. Kill and eat.” Peter does not argue the legitimacy of the command to kill an animal and eat it, but rather the types of animals presented. Jesus twice multiplies loaves and fish for a crowd to eat. If one is inclined to be vegetarian, that is perfectly acceptable, but thinking that this command prohibits killing animals for food is a misunderstanding.
Jesus extends this command a bit when He speaks of it. He takes it all the way down to the level of what we think and intend in our heart. He tells me that hatred for another human being is the same thing as murder. And, in a very real way, He is right. I was told about a student at a Southern California university who was so enraged by something a professor said to him that he killed the professor, then simply sat by and was captured. It is entirely possible his hatred bubbled over and he was left in the aftermath wondering what had happened. Hatred is the parent of murder. And Dr. King was absolutely right when he said that hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
I admit to some bitterness in my heart. I have not been dealing with it well and it will, if left unaddressed, fester into hatred. And hatred is the root of the thing against which God is warning in this command. You shall not murder, either with your hands or with your imagination.
One last note, though the application is clear to me that I must ask God (and stay out of His way while He answers) to root out bitterness and hatred in me. God gives color to this command by reminding me and anyone else who reads The Bible that man is created in the likeness of God Himself. To destroy another human being is to destroy the likeness of God.
Father, thank You for the reminder that bitterness and hatred have no place in the heart of Your children. Please root them out of me and remind me to get myself out of Your way while You do.