Monday: Murder

(Matt 5:21-26)

After He clarified His intention to uphold the law, Jesus started to explain a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. He begins by citing the sixth commandment (Exod. 20:13) and summarizing, from the law of Moses, the penalty for violation (Exod. 21:12, Lev. 24:17).

Image © Lars Justinen from

Image © Lars Justinen from

The sixth commandment does not include all cases in which one person kills another. In cases of manslaughter, a person could flee to a city of refuge and gain temporary asylum (Exod. 21:13, Num. 35:12). However, one who intentionally took another’s life would receive swift judgment. In His explanation, Jesus does not focus on the act itself but on the motive and intents of the one who commits the act. One might take a life accidentally, but the person who purposes to take a life has gone through a period of deliberation. The sin took place before the person even carried out the terrible deed. Many potential murderers are stopped only by a lack of opportunity.

Read Matthew 5:22. What does Jesus equate to murder? How does 1 John 3:15 help to emphasize the point? What is the real issue here that Jesus is pointing to, and what does this tell us about the real reach of God’s law?

Though the Bible often talks about the power of words, Jesus here takes it to a deeper level. Often, the sole purpose of harsh words or cursing is to evoke negative feelings in the victim. Jesus’ point is crystal clear. It’s not just those who carry through with the crime who are guilty of murder but also those who speak harsh words to others or who even harbor murderous thoughts. Jesus counsels those harboring these thoughts to reconcile with their victims before coming to the altar (Matt. 5:23-26).

Dwell on the implication of Jesus’ words in the texts for today. How well have you done in this regard? What does such a high standard tell you about the need to be covered by Christ’s righteousness at all times?



Monday: Murder — 17 Comments

  1. "'God's law reaches the feelings and motives, as well as the outward acts. It reveals the secrets of the heart, flashing light upon things before buried in darkness. God knows every thought, every purpose, every plan, and every motive. The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been given opportunity.'...'He reveals to man the defects that mar his life and calls him to repent and turn from sin''' (5BC 1085.4)
    This is so profound, can you imagine that, ''The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been given opportunity''. I read this statement over, and over again, because I want to understand God's explanation and clarification of Matt 5:22. Hence the repetition.
    Oh, Lord Jesus help me today to repent of all wrong motives and feelings. My prayer for today is Psalm 139:23 and Psalm 51:10-13.Amen.

    • Looking at how Jesus explanation of the act of murder is more than the actual death caused by an individual on another individual but that the sin of murder includes the inner thoughts of anger, meditated insults, attitudes of revenge. My heart got humbled and more repentant as I realize no one can measure up with the standards of God without the righteousness through Jesus. When I read the Monday " murder" and Christ teaching that every motive behind an actual action even without carrying out the act carries a heavy weight of a committed sin! I am on my knees more that my inner being be stripped off of any attitudes and thoughts that violates Gods value of my fellow brothers and sisters. That I may not murder by having thoughts of revenge by leaning on the strength of Jesus and seeking the spirit of discernment. It is my humble prayer daily.

  2. The laws of God are really so deep that we really need Christ's saving grace at all times. That's why self righteousness is such a vain thing because none is righteous save Christ who kept the laws of God at all points.

  3. When the lesson says, “Often, the sole purpose of harsh words or cursing is to evoke negative feelings in the victim. Jesus’ point is crystal clear. It’s not just those who carry through with the crime who are guilty of murder but also those who speak harsh words to others or who even harbor murderous thoughts” we need to be careful lest we charge Jesus with murder in His rebukes to the Pharisees in the temple (Mat 23:13-33). I think we need to see the commandment as a definite intent to do harm to another person. I think we also need to realize that there are many ways to kill a person including slander in destroying one’s reputation. We can also lie and bear false witness to the extent that we knowingly cause a person to be unjustly condemned and thrown into prison or executed for something they didn’t do.

    We can also intentionally do something that casts a bad shadow on another person. Many years ago I read about a law suit being filed against a fellow employee in a grocery store that would intentionally go near the one filing the suit and pass gas in order to get everyone else near him to think that he was the one doing that which caused a very large amount of embarrassment. I think such things fall under the category of intent to murder.

  4. This whole subject of the sixth commandment has caused me a lot of consternation because Jesus never touched anyone in violence and taught the same. He was against all forms of retaliation to the extent that, “I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Mat 5:39 NKJV). There is nothing written that shows us this more than how Jesus related to His persecutors at the cross. Therefore the whole idea as Paul said is, “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Rom 12:3 NKJV) and to, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4 NKJV) which is the mind of Christ, “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Mat 5:45-46 NKJV).

    The depth that this goes can be shown even in worldly courts today when someone causes the death of another he or she can still be held responsible through negligence and end up in prison. The whole idea of the sanctity of life is an important concept which materialist atheists continually choose to ignore. To them humans are worth about as much as a germ and should be treated as such but that is not how Jesus viewed the value of a person. To Him every person is so valuable that He was willing to die for just one. As Paul says, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:7-8 NKJV).

  5. When we began our quarterly studies, the water was at our ankles. We were enjoying it because it was as a massage to our feet. The more we studied, the more new knowledge was obtained. Now I can feel the water rising and my feet is getting covered to my knees. Because I cannot swim, I will depend on Jesus to take me through by the time the water gets over my head. I said this to say. Many can look at several topics already covered and thought so far my standing is safe. Jesus spoke about murder, anger as well as hatred. Many over look these as real sin. Many will say someone who commits genocide will not make it to heaven. But what is JESUS saying to me? What about my hidden sins. How many times do people commit these and feel they are okay. These sins are the characteristics of Satan. No one will make it to heaven without the character of Jesus found in Galatians 5:22-23. No one will make it to heaven while he bears or have the characteristics of Satan; hatred, anger (in the context of which the text is speaking) and murder. Let us read the entire chapter of Galatians 5, it also tells us of other works of Satan (those hidden ones which cannot be seen). Have mercy dear Heavenly Father on me a sinner.

  6. What about SDAs who own guns for self defense? What do you think is the sixth commandment telling us? I think the intention is already there, to really shoot and kill once attacked?

    • I think we should be very careful about judging others who may own guns for self-defense. While we may be certain what the Bible is telling us, it is not for us to be conscience or judges for others.

      Just for the record, it is not necessary to kill an attacker in order to disable him/her. In some areas, moreover, self-defense includes defense against large predatory animals.

      I suggest that a discussion on this topic is not appropriate for Sabbath School Net. Instead, I would recommend that each individual seek the Lord in prayer to make his/her own decision.

  7. Hi,

    We all are capable of being evil, even when we think that we are good. It reminds of the Stanford prison experiment. It only took six days for basically good people to become really evil. Our own acts even when we think of them as good are often evil. The only true goodness comes from Christ and His presence in me and His forgiveness. It's a humbling issue as I can't be good on my own.


    • For starters, self-defense cannot generally result in murder, even by secular standards. Murder is planned. Self-defense is a reaction against an attack. The "defender" may not even intend to kill, but may unintentionally kill someone. This is allowed for in the Mosaic laws, and the Cities of Refuge were built as havens of safety for those who caused someone's death unintentionally. There the elders of a city would determine whether or not the act was murder. If it was not, the person could safely stay in the city.

      Jesus said if a home owner knew a thief was coming to his house he would not allow his home to be broken into (Matthew 24:42-44) So it appears that He did necessarily not disapprove of defending even one's property.

      But let's get back to the study for today: Christ's point was that we are not to harbor hateful thoughts against another person. He wants us to demonstrate the self-renouncing love of God to those around us.

      I don't think there is a hard-and-fast or easy answer to the question. I think it would depend on the circumstances, and God will direct those who are close to Him. Sometimes He uses His power to deliver His people. Other times He does not.

      Just from my own perspective, it seems that there would be no demonstration of love by allowing oneself to be killed by a stranger in a robbery. And it might not be a demonstration of love to allow ones loved ones to be killed. (For the record, I've had many arguments with Christians who believe in the carrying guns for self-defense, and that's how I discovered that there are no easy, rock-solid biblical answers.)

      Talk to God about it, and let the Holy Spirit guide you. It is better not to trust anyone else's answers.

      • Inge, I agree with the general comment you make but I think your application of Mat 24:42-44 is twisting scripture out from what it was intended to say. The immediate context is, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Mat 24:42 NKJV) and the chapter is about the second advent not about defending oneself from an intruder.

        If we are going to defend ones right to have a weapon then all we have to do is to realize that the disciples of Jesus carried swords which were one of the weapons of that age and they did it with Jesus’ permission. The obvious problem was that they were thinking in terms of a worldly kingdom when Jesus was setting up a spiritual one.

        As for the conundrum over killing vs. murder Jesus is our example. Let’s follow Him rather than our own desires. That is what the early Christians did and because of that they refused to defend themselves under persecution in the coliseums throughout the Roman Empire. Furthermore, a lot of the laws given to Israel were made to cope with the problems of sin on earth. To me God never intended that anyone should kill another person for whatever reason but just like the problem with divorce law has bent down to reach hardened hearts.

        • Thanks for your thoughts, Tyler. (Since this is a bit off-topic because the lesson deals with murder, not self-defense, we don't want to take too much time on the topic.)

          I agree that Mark 24:42 is not the best example in favor of self-defense in the New Testament. But to say that it is "twisting Scripture" seems to me to be too strong a statement.

          I have generally argued on the other side in the past, but I have come to recognize that there are valid arguments in favor of self-defense in specific circumstance - keeping in mind that we must always listen to the Holy Spirit in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

          Paul tells us that our bodies are God's property, and it is our job to keep our bodies in best condition. (1 Cor. 6:19-20) It would be reasonable to conclude that a live body is better than a dead one, don't you think?

          Then there are a couple OT passages that suggest that we have a responsibility to preserve the body and life of others. (Ps 82:4; Prov 24:11)

          And while there is a command against, murder, Ex 22:2-3 suggests that accidental killing in self-defense is not the same as murder. I think the idea is that, at night, the owner of the home cannot determine whether the intruder only wants to steal property or is, in fact, planning to kill him. Thus the homeowner is not guilty if he kills the intruder in self-defense. On the other hand, in daylight, the owner can see that the thief is only stealing. Then the thief is held responsible to make restitution.

          There are, of course, many instances of God's people bearing arms in the OT, including the people building the walls of Jerusalem, under Nehemiah's instruction, with swords at their sides. (Neh 4:17-23). And the Jews were told to defend themselves against attackers after an unchangeable decree had been issued for their total destruction. (Esther 9:1-5)

          And then, there is Christ's instruction that I never could make sense of when I thought that Christians should not defend themselves. (See Luke 22:35-39) Why did He say, (just before His death), that from now on, those who did not have a sword, should sell a garment to buy a sword? What is a sword used for, other than defense or attack? Considering the context, Jesus evidently expected the disciples to carry the swords on their persons as they made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane. That's why Peter had a sword to cut off someone's ear.

          At that time, Jesus gently remprimanded Peter, saying those who live by the sword would die by the sword. (See Matt 26:51-56) And, even from a strictly secular perspective, fighting under those circumstances would have been suicidal. Is that what Jesus was saying, among other things?

          As I suggested earlier, the Bible does not provide a definitive answers. In Christian history, we have examples of mass martyrdom in Roman arenas. Would it have brought God glory if the Christians had tried to defend themselves? I doubt it.

          At other times, we have the example of the Reformers who defended themselves against papal armies, and God gave them victories.

          The bottom line is always a matter of being led by the Spirit. We cannot decide such things for others, and we must be daily yielded to the Spirit so we can follow His direction in any given circumstance. We are not to trust in ourselves or our weapons, but we are to trust in the Lord. But it seems that doesn't necessarily mean that Christians are never to use weapons.

          If you'll listen to the discussion of the lesson with lesson author Keith Burke, you'll see that "turning the other cheek" doesn't necessarily address the problem of defending oneself against a physical attack.

    • There are some verses that suggest we are allowed to defend ourselves and our property. (Exodus 22:2-3). But Jesus also said "do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." (Matt 5:39)

      The question of self-defence has always perplexed me. I have studied martial arts and I know how easy it is to kill someone. I really don't know how I would respond to somebody attempting to kill me. I would like to think that I would try to talk my way out of a situation if I could. If somebody is trying to steal something, let them have it. It can be replaced.

      One thing that is absolutely clear to me though is that if my neighbour is in a life threatening situation, it is my Christian duty to step in and defend my neighbour no matter what the cost.

      The laws of the land tend to be very specific when it comes to self-defence. Here in Australia the law states that you can defend yourself with reasonable force. But if the aggressor ceases their aggression then you must cease also, or risk becoming the aggressor yourself and thus be liable.

      Far better is the wisdom in Proverbs 15:18, "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute."

  8. "The natural heart rebels against the requirements of God’s law."
    "It was the law against which Satan fought in heaven, and those who are controlled by him will hate its principles. But let them remember that when they cast reproach at the law, they cast reproach at Him with whom the law originated. "(signs of the time)
    O that we may understand our need for Jesus.........


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