The Sixth Commandment

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Let us examine ourselves today in light of the sixth commandment. The sixth commandment is, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). It sounds simple enough, and we are all, I’m sure, quite satisfied that we have never violated it. But the Psalmist says that God’s commandments are “exceedingly broad” (Ps. 119:96). That is, they have a very wide application. Jesus shows us how wide in the Sermon on the Mount when he says,
“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 fire of hell” (Matt. 5:21-22).
He shows us what we should have already known. The commandments not only deal with the behavior of the body but with the behavior of the heart as well. The sixth commandment not only deals with the act of murder itself, but also with every inward thought, intention, and motivation that might lead to the act, might be precursors to the act, even if the act is never committed. Jesus specifically mentions anger (and from other passages we know he has in mind unjustified anger; or justified anger that exceeds proper limits). St. John mentions hatred. He says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 Jn. 3:15).

We may summarize God’s will for us in the sixth commandment by saying that we are not to act unlawfully against our own or our neighbor’s health, life, or well-being by any willful or negligent behavior, nor harbor any malice in our hearts toward anyone

And so let me ask you: have you committed murder in thought, word, or deed? That is, have you spoken or acted violently toward anyone? Have you struck anyone? Have you wished harm or death to anyone? Do you harbor hatred or malice in your heart toward anyone? Do you endanger people by negligent or reckless behavior (careless driving; work situations)?

Have you committed character assassination by slandering anyone, saying what is false about him or her? Or by saying what is true, exposing someone’s true faults when there is no need to speak of them?


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