Murder in my Mouth

Exodus 20:13

June 5, 2021 | Brian Bill

On Saturday four weeks ago, I had just started our grill when I saw a long line of cars backed up on the street behind our house.  I heard some shouting and saw some people running so I became curious (OK, I was being a nosy neighbor).  I should mention I was wearing a white t-shirt, sweatpants, and my old lawn mowing shoes.  When I hurried down the street, I saw two women on their hands and knees heading into some bushes on the side of a neighbor’s house.

I ran over and asked how I could help.  They were a bit hesitant to trust me at first because of the way I was dressed, and I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet.  I discovered they were searching for some baby ducklings.  Apparently “mom the mallard” and her 10 ducklings were crossing the road when a car hit the mother.  Two of the ducklings lost their lives, while the others scattered, leaving the mother hopping around and looking dazed.  Seeing an opportunity to be a good neighbor, I offered to hold an Aldi refrigerator bag while the women scooped up the distressed ducklings and put them inside.  

These women were locked into their task.  After finding a duckling they’d lean forward, motion for everyone to be quiet, and listen for more chirping.  One woman, hearing a duckling in distress, ran into another backyard and found a dog had cornered one.  She rescued him from the canine while a neighbor boy collected another one.  

Just when I thought we had found all of them, one woman stopped traffic again and ran across the busy street because she thought she heard some more chirping.  We all followed.  I was skeptical, but sure enough, after about five minutes she emerged from the woods with two more.  Now, I had eight chirping ducklings in my bag.

At this point, one of them called the police for help while the three of them tried to catch and rescue the dazed mommy duck.  They caught her by throwing a big blanket over her.  Then, they handed her and the ducklings to Officer Friendly, pleading with him to find an animal shelter.  I could tell he didn’t really want to do this, but they were quite persuasive in their pleas to save these little lives.

I’ll never forget how determined these women were to save this momma and her eight ducklings.  With tears in their eyes, they expressed sorrow for the ones who lost their lives while rescuing Darla, Dean, Della, Daphne, Daniel, Dottie, Doug, and Donald Duck (OK, I gave them names because I may or may not have become a bit attached to them).

While I was on duckling duty that day, it struck me how we should be running to save human lives, because every boy and girl, man, and woman, matters to God.

This is important because we live in a culture of death.  The news of murders and shootings fill our headlines daily.  Sadly, as of early May, there have been 194 mass shootings in the U.S. this year, which averages out to 10 a week.  In the first three months of the year, murders are up 18% relative to the same period last year.  

This is also a problem in our own community, not just something which happens elsewhere.  Here are some front-page headlines from the Dispatch-Argus this week:

  • Sunday: “One dies in Rock Island shooting.  Illinois Q-C has had 2 homicides in 24-hour period.”
  • Tuesday: “Man charged with killing teen.”  Another headline said, “Murder charge filed in shooting death of Silvis man.”
  • Wednesday: “Group looks at violent crime.  Officers [in Davenport] responded to 279 reports of gunfire in 2020, an all-time high.” 

Have you noticed murder has become a central source of entertainment in our society?  According to Philip Ryken, “By the time the average child finishes elementary school, he or she has watched 8,000 televised murders and 100,000 acts of on-screen violence.”  Video games are so life-like that those playing them get the sensation they are actually killing someone.    

On Tuesday night in Florida, a 12-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl opened fire on Sherriff’s deputies.  The girl is reported to have said, “I’m gonna roll this down like GTA,” referring to the video game, “Grand Theft Auto.”  The boy, at 4 feet, 11 inches tall and weighing 78 pounds, told detectives he wanted to harm cops.

Apparently, a computer game developer has made a Columbine game containing actual footage inside the school, including the crime scene.  Those who play the game can make decisions about who to murder and who will live.

When we come to the Sixth Commandment, we lament the loss of life around us while at the same time most of us breathe a sigh of relief because we don’t think this prohibition applies to us.  Listen to Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder.”  Very few of us are murderers, right?  We’ll see about that.

Here’s the sermon in a sentence: Since God has purposes for every person, all life must be prized and protected.

To get these commandments into our heads, hearts, and homes, we’re encouraging everyone to take a bookmark and work at memorizing these short phrases.  

  1. One God
  2. No idols
  3. Revere His Name
  4. Remember to Rest
  5. Honor Parents
  6. No murder
  7. No adultery
  8. No stealing
  9. No lying
  10. No coveting

In a new survey, adults ranked “You shall not murder” as the top commandment while keeping the Sabbath holy was considered the least important.

Let’s make some observations.

  1. This is the shortest verse in the Old Testament. The text is terse, with only four words in English and just two words in the Hebrew.  It’s literally translated as, “not murdering.”
  2. The command is directed to every individual.  The tense is the second person singular, meaning each one of us need to take it to heart.
  3. It’s stated in the strong negative (like seven of the other commands).  It’s an unconditional prohibition.
  4. It deals with murder, not killing. There’s confusion about this because the King James Version translates it this way: “Thou shalt not kill.”   The word refers to unlawful “slaying.”  Philip Ryken defines it like this: “The unjust taking of a legally innocent life.”  

Here’s where we’re headed…

  • The principle behind the commandment
  • The prohibitions from the commandment
  • The positive implications of the commandment

The Principle Behind the Commandment

Why did this commandment make God’s Top Ten list?  For the answer, let’s go to Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”   Humans are unique, they alone are made in the image of God.

Human beings belong to God, and we are accountable to Him if we take someone’s life.

Perhaps you’ve heard the Latin phrase Imago Dei, which means “Image of God.”  This means every human being has inherent value independent of their utility or function, from conception until natural death.  Human life is sacred to our Sovereign God because He is the giver and sustainer of life.  Human beings belong to God, and we are accountable to Him if we take someone’s life.

The creation of the first man stands out from everything else God created.  When He created all other things, it was sufficient for God to simply say, “Let there be…” and it was!  But for His final creative act, God did not say, “Let there be a man.”  Instead, we see how personally involved He was in Genesis 2:7: “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” 

When God created Eve, He didn’t form her from the dust as if she was a separate act of creation.  Instead, according to Genesis 2:21-22 we read, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”  Eve shared the same dignity given to Adam, for she was made from man.  This means all their descendants are also made in the image of God.

The command against murdering is first found in Genesis 9:6.  After getting off the ark, God reminds Noah how precious human life is: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in His own image.”

Every person you meet is an image-bearer of God.  It doesn’t matter what the person does or doesn’t do, he or she is designed with dignity.  One pastor says, “When you think of men and women as anything less than the image of God, you devalue life.”  

I can think of at least seven reasons why murder is such a serious crime.

    1. The act of murder is an assault on God Himself.  To murder another human being is to murder what is most like God in creation.  When you attack a human being, you are attacking the One in whose image they are made (Genesis 1:26).
    2. Murder assumes the authority and right reserved for God alone.  Since only God has the right to give life and take away life, the person who murders is taking the privilege that is God’s alone.  Job 12:10: “In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”
    3. Every person is intrinsically and immeasurably valuable.  As darling as ducklings are, only human beings have souls, or more accurately, humans are souls who live forever (James 3:9).
    4. Because we have a common parentage, we are our brother’s keeper.  In a real sense, there’s just one race – the human race.  When a human being murders another human, he is doing what Cain did, slaying the image of God in the one who is his brother (Genesis 4:9).
    5. Murder defiles the land.  When Cain killed Abel, his brother’s blood cried out from the ground.  Numbers 35:33 says bloodshed pollutes the land.
    6. Murder is directly identified with Satan.  1 John 3:12 says, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.”   Be reminded what Jesus said about Satan in John 8:44: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.”
    7. Because murder cannot be undone.  If you steal, you can make restitution.  But if you take a human life, it is impossible to get life back again (Luke 12:5)

Since God has purposes for every person, all life must be prized and protected.

Prohibitions From the Commandment

Simply put, the sixth commandment prohibits the taking of innocent human life.  For the sake of time, I’m not going to address what the Bible teaches about capital punishment, just warfare, accidental homicide, or self-defense, though this would make for a great sermon series at some point.  Now, let’s look at the prohibitions from the commandment.

1. Murder.

Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3 and in the very next chapter, we see how anger caused Cain, the firstborn of Adam, to take the life of his brother.  God gave him a warning to turn away but instead of being his brother’s keeper, he became his brother’s killer.  

Note how his anger ultimately turned him into an assassin.  Turn to Genesis 4:6-8: “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry and why has your face fallen?   If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.’  Cain spoke to Abel his brother.  And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.”

Later, Lamech, one of Cain’s descendants, was marked as a murderer and even bragged how he was a better killer than Cain in Genesis 4:23-24: “…I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.  If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”  Murder and mayhem are now unleashed in our sin-soaked world.  

2. Genocide. 

Recently, my wife and I watched a documentary on the Holocaust called, “The Last Days.”  Even though Hitler knew he was losing the war, in the final six weeks, he sent over 400,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz.  The four crematoriums worked 24 hours a day but couldn’t keep up, so they burned bodies in open pits.

At the end of the film, one survivor made this profound statement: “The Holocaust is perhaps the culmination of the kind of horror that can occur when man loses his integrity, his belief in the sanctity of life.”

A form of genocide happened 100 years ago this week when somewhere between 30 and 300 blacks were massacred in Tulsa.

3. Abortion. 

While it’s unthinkable that 6 million Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust, there’s another horrible Holocaust happening right now.  Since 1973, approximately 62 million image bearers have been extinguished through abortion, which is more than 10 times the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis.  

While many believe abortion is a political issue and should not be discussed in church, the truth of the matter is abortion is the premeditated murder of human life and a violation of the sixth commandment.

Abortion is the central moral issue of our day because the baby in the womb is human life.  When someone says, “The fetus is not really human life yet,” you could respond by saying, “Well, what kind of life is it, if it’s not human life?”

Individuals will have their opinions, organizations will offer their expertise, politicians will differ about the preborn, but listen to what God says in Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 

Let’s make a few observations.

  • The word “before” is used twice.  This moves us back in time from the point of conception to sometime in eternity past.  
  • The word “I” is used four times to indicate not only is God speaking these words, but He is the one at work in the womb.
  • The word “you” is used five times.  What is in the womb is a person, not a blob or a bunch of cells.

This leads us right into the first truth this passage teaches.

  • The preborn are people.  We see this in the very first phrase: “I formed you in the womb.”  Before Jeremiah was even conceived, God knew him as a person.  The word “formed” is the Hebrew word used to describe the creative work of a potter as he molds and shapes a piece of clay.  
  • The preborn are preknown.  Look at the next phrase: “I knew you.”  The word, “know” in Hebrew speaks of a personal intimate knowledge and was used of Adam “knowing” Eve.  
  • The preborn are prized.  Check out the next clause: “I set you apart.”  This verb was used of setting something or someone apart for a specific and special use.  
  • The preborn have a purpose.  The last part of verse 5 tells us about Jeremiah’s purpose: “I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah had a job to do and so do you!  

Erwin Lutzer has some pointed words we need to ponder:

Abortion continues only because babies are not strong enough to fight back.  Their cries are muffled in the sanitary surroundings of hospitals and abortion clinics. Someone has to fight their battles for them because they are helpless in their struggles…If the Christian church cannot unite in its opposition to abortion, it is highly unlikely that it can unite about anything else.  

Since God has purposes for every person, all life must be prized and protected.

Let me be quick to say, if you have had an abortion or have urged someone to get one, there is forgiveness and healing available through Jesus Christ.  This church is a place of grace, and we can connect you with a group at Pregnancy Resources to help you find healing.

4. Suicide. 

Kevin DeYoung writes: “There is almost no topic more painful than suicide for those who have experienced it with family or friends.”  

On average, there are 130 suicides per day.  In 2019, there were nearly 48,000 recorded suicides, up from 42,000 in 2014.  The annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, the highest rate recorded in 28 years.  On top of that, in 2019, there were 1.3 million suicide attempts.

Some of you may have contemplated suicide in the past or maybe you’re hurting so much that you want to hurt yourself right now.  Discouragement, despair, and depression are making you think of things you’ve told no one else about.

No matter how bleak things look, don’t take the only life God has given you!  Reach out to someone.  We care about you.  We can get you the help you need.

5. Euthanasia. 

Often misnamed as “mercy killing,” many countries have legalized “physician-assisted suicide” and laws continue to be passed in our own country.  I’ve found this distinction to be helpful: “We are not talking about the termination of treatment, but the termination of life.”  When a person is suffering, we should do all we can to minister comfort and manage the pain, but we should not end the person’s life.  According to 1 Samuel 31:4, when King Saul was wounded and suffering, his armor bearer refused to take his life out of fear of God

6. Hatred in the Heart.

If you’re feeling a bit smug because this commandment has not messed with you yet, check out what Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the Hell of fire.”

While we might not murder with our hands, we all have murder in our hearts.  Jesus deepens and transforms the sixth commandment by saying to each of us, “You’re all murderers.  You just don’t know it.”  While we should hate murder out there, we fail to relate to the murderer in here.  This command deals with the physical act of murder and the attitude of murder which resides in our hearts.

Regarding Cain killing Abel, Jen Wilken points out, “If we look carefully, we find that his path to becoming a murderer did not start with plotting murder.  It began with a far more ubiquitous sin.  It began with being angry…Cain’s problem was not mere anger, but anger nursed, anger indulged, anger gratified.”

David Powlison has written a book called, Good and Angry with an unforgettable chapter entitled, “Do You Have a Serious Problem with Anger?”  The reason its unforgettable is because the chapter contains just one word.  Here it is: “Yes.” 

To allow anger to seethe and then to attack verbally and destroy someone’s reputation is tantamount to murder and is a violation of the sixth commandment.   No human may take the life of another human whether physically or psychologically. 

1 John 3:15: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  After reading this verse, I was tempted to change the sermon title to, “The Murderer in Me” or “Murder, We Wrote.”

Positive Implications of the Command

While most of us will never murder someone in the technical sense of the word, we can still break the command in a variety of ways. 

Because we live in a culture of death, we must cultivate a view of the sanctity of life.  We’re prohibited from taking life and we must also protect and preserve life.  Far more than refraining from violence we must learn to value life the way God does by taking some positive action.  

Since God has purposes for every person, all life must be prized and protected.

I’m challenged by these words from Philip Ryken: “Sometimes all it takes to break the sixth commandment is to do nothing at all.”  I’m reminded of the famous quote from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Here are five ways we can live out the heart of this command.  

1. Love your neighbor. 

We can violate this command when we fail to do good or to prevent someone from suffering bodily harm or injury.  Kent Hughes writes: “The sixth commandment…is a call to be a great lover of all humanity from conception to the grave.”  

Is there anyone you’re refusing to love right now?  Are you ignoring someone you’re in a disagreement with?   

2. Confess racism or prejudice as sin. 

On Monday, residents of the Molette neighborhood in Moline woke up to fliers outside their homes calling for “Racial Distancing.”  Some of us slam others and slice them up simply because they have different color skin or are from a different background.

3. Speak up and stand up for life.


We’re called to be advocates for those who can’t answer for themselves.  Proverbs 31:8-9: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

4. Share the Gospel of life with people who are dead in their sins.

Every person is created in the image of God and is worth so much to Him that Jesus Christ was willing to lay down His life so they can have eternal life.  

People are either on the way to Hell or to Heaven because everyone has an eternal soul.  When someone dies, the core of that person never dies.  Not sharing the gospel is a type of murder according to Ezekiel 33:8-9: “If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.  But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”

If we know a person is on the road to eternal destruction and we don’t tell them the good news of the gospel, are we not an accessory to his or spiritual death?   

Do we really believe the gospel?  If we do, how do we justify how little we live it out and how seldom we take Christ to our neighbors and to the nations?  If we know a person is on the road to eternal destruction and we don’t tell them the good news of the gospel, are we not an accessory to his or spiritual death?   

5. Receive eternal life. 

My guess is you’ve gone 0 for 6 on the Commandments so far.  Me, too.  Jesus was murdered to pay the price for murderers like me…and like you.  Because Jesus was 10 for 10, His perfect score can be applied to our accounts.

The only thing that equals the value of life is life.  Jesus gave His life for ours.  He took our death penalty so we might live.  The same Lord who condemns murder has the compassion to forgive His own murderers when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

When Cain killed his brother, the blood of Abel “cried out from the ground.”  Hebrews 12:24 says, “And to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”  Jesus’ blood cries out, not for our death, but for our deliverance.  

When I think about the ducklings who scattered in our neighborhood, I’m reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 12:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”  Are you willing to be gathered by Jesus?  Are you ready to receive the salvation and security He bought for you by the payment of His blood?

Communion is a time we celebrate the new covenant initiated by Jesus our Mediator when He died on the cross for our sins.  Listen to 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Before we receive communion, it’s important to reflect and take a spiritual inventory. 1 Corinthians 11:28 says, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

  • Consider your relationship with God
  • Confess any sins God brings to mind
  • Commit afresh to the Great Commission

We practice open communion here. You don’t need to be a member of Edgewood to participate, but you do need to be born again. 

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?