Skip to content

Catechism Class – Murder.


Catechism Class

L/D40A, Q105

Exodus 20:13, Thou Shalt Not Kill – You Shall Not Murder.

Q105. What does God require in the sixth commandment?  

A. I am not to dishonour, hate, injure, or kill my neighbour by thoughts, words, or gestures, and much less by deeds, whether personally or through another; rather, I am to put away all desire of revenge. Moreover, I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself.    Therefore, also, the government bears the sword to prevent murder. 

 We have reached the sixth commandment, found in Exodus 20:13 Thou shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not kill

To listen to this lesson as a PODCAST click:

Now, before we look at the answer the catechist gives to question 105, we should define our terms.  For this we need to read Romans 13.1-7.  But first, a psalm of praise…

 The AV simply says, ‘Thou shalt not kill,” but some of the more modern versions are more specific, “Thou shalt not murder.”  This is important, for murder is specifically forbidden by the commandment, and is punishable by death.  Genesis 9:6,  But not all killing is forbidden by the Bible, as we have just read.  

  • There is legitimate judicial execution by or on behalf of the state.  A man who takes the life of another man must forfeit his own life, – thats a biblical principle, but does the hangman or executioner who carries out the death sentence then forfeit his own life too?  Certainly not.  So there is an allowance for ‘judicial killing,’ for the lawful authorities to punish a murderer by putting that murderer to death.  Such KILLING is NOT MURDER.  
  • There is also a ‘JUST WAR’ – whereby soldiers may take the life of others in an opposing army, in order to preserve peace and order and defend their freedom.  We see this in Romans 13:2    
  • What about ‘self-defence?’  What if you are at home and a burglar enters your home and attacks you to rob you, or worse, and you manage to defend yourself and in doing so you strike him a lethal blow?  Is that morally wrong?  Is it deserving of death?

So, while not every instance in which life is taken is to be considered as murder, we must not MURDER anyone.  

  • Murder and Manslaughter.  Of course there are different categories or degrees of murder.  We might speak of the difference between murder and manslaughter.  For example, one man may set out deliberately to kill someone, as terrorists do, while another man may set to go for a drive in his car, be distracted by a text on his phone, veer across the road and crash into an oncoming vehicle, resulting in the death of the other driver.  He didn’t SET OUT to murder someone, but that is what he did.  Murder by negligence.  What about murder by negligence?  Failure to maintain a machine which someone is working at, and which become the cause of his death.  
  • Abortion.  It wasn’t an issue in the day of the catechist, and so it’s not specifically mentioned in the catechism, but in the bible abortion is murder, and so falls under the ambit of the sixth commandment. Read Psalm 139. David talks about how we are conceived in sin, Psalm 51. Have you heard the expression, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth?”  We call that ‘the law of limited retribution.’  In Exodus 21:22-25, where that law is given, it is given in the context of abortion.  Of damaging a baby in the womb, – in effect abortionists are committing murder, and they too should forfeit their lives.  Exodus 21:22  

Finally, we should also ask, what does it mean that a man or woman who takes a life shall have his own life taken away?  In the strictest sense, that must mean the death penalty.   How do we carry that commandment out in modern society, where we have a professional police force, a forensic and judicial process, a jury system in which miscarriages of justice have been all too frequent.  Do we retain the death sentence, or do we take away a person’s life by locking them away for the rest of their life?   That’s a huge debate, and one for another time… 

So, let’s return to the catechism. Where our instructor deals with this in three questions and answers, and in this lesson we shall see the first of these, and ask how obedience to the sixth commandment will affect our attitude to:-

1 Our neighboursLev 19:17, 18; Mt 5:21, 22; 26:52

We will never do anything to hurt another human being. Hurting my neighbour can include dishonouring them, hating them, injuring them and of course, killing them.   We do well to remember that we are all related, for everyone of us can trace our ancestry back to Adam and Eve, who were made in God’s own image.  In us, of course, that image is distorted by sin, but it is still there, and because we are so created, every single human being has dignity and deserves respect.  But, how might I hurt my neighbour?  The catechist is expansive.  We hurt people by our thoughts, by our words, gestures and deeds.   If we are being really manipulative, we might not hurt a neighbour ourselves, but we may incite others to do so, perhaps by spreading false rumours, Chinese whispers.  The catechist makes sure that we know that getting others to do our ‘dirty work’ is just as reprehensible as doing it ourselves, and perhaps even more so, for while we manipulate others, we are usually pretending to innocence ourselves, and that’s hypocrisy.  The catechist says, ‘whether personally or through another.’  Of course, all of this begs the familiar question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’  That important question answered by Jesus in Luke 10:25-37  

2 Ourselves.

This commandment and its implications presents a huge challenge to any Christian believer.  It is so ‘counter-cultural.’   It will challenge our attitude to others.  rather, I am to put away all desire of revenge. In some religions, the concept of ‘honour’ is important, but not in Christianity. We are to live humble lives, not seeking our own honour!  So, instead of seeking revenge for perceived hurts, we will readily offer forgiveness, indeed desire for revenge will be ‘put away.’  Prov 25:21, 22; Mt 18:35; Rom 12:19; Eph 4:26. It will challenge our attitude to our own lives and well-being.  Moreover, I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself.  Mt 4:7; 26:52; Rom 13:11-14.

3 Our Rulers.

Therefore, also, the government bears the sword to prevent murder. Mt 4:7; 26:52; Rom 13:11-14.  We have already read Romans 13, and the Lord has appointed our rulers, our military, our police, etc, to bear the sword, to legitimately take up arms for the good of society, with the purpose of doing what is good and right, to keep order, and prevent the breakdown of society, and stop murderers from going about their evil business.  And that is the case, even if that government itself is totally immoral and godless in its ways.  When Paul was writing to the Romans, the Roman Empire, ruled as a police state by Caesar, was ruthless cruel and vehemently anti-Christian – yet Paul tells us to be good citizens, even in those circumstances.  Romans 13:6  

Our next lesson will look at Q106-107 and consider the root of murder – which lies deep in the human heart.  

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: