Murder of the Heart

Ask 10 people which of the Ten Commandments they have not broken and all 10 will likely tell you that they haven’t broken the 6th Commandment—”You shall not murder.” By that they mean they have not committed the physical act of taking someone’s life in cold blood. Turns out, there’s more to the 6th Commandment than most people realize. 


We all have an inner Pharisee that wants to let us off the hook when we do wrong. The Pharisee is concerned with outward appearances, actions, and looks. The Pharisee is convinced that it is okay to be angry and hate his brother as long as he doesn’t follow through and murder him. The Pharisee says that it is fine for him to lust after and even fantasize about another man’s wife, as long as he doesn’t actually act on his fantasy and as long as no one else knows of the affair in his heart. Don’t like your wife anymore? The Pharisee has a solution for that too. Just divorce her. Moses said divorce was okay. 


The Pharisee listens to the teachers in his culture instead of the Holy Spirit. In so doing, he misses the heart of God in the Ten Commandments. God’s heart in His command not to murder is not just that His people would refrain from the crime of murder, but that they would love one another and value human life. His command not to commit adultery is not just that His people would not cheat on one another but that they would value His design for the family, the fundamental human institution. The righteousness that God requires is heart-deep. 


Jesus made this truth clear in the Sermon on the Mount. He confronted the Pharisee’s teachers head-on when He declared, “You have heard it said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder’… but I say to you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to the judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; whoever says ‘You fool’ will be liable to the fires of hell.”


Have you ever harbored anger in your heart against someone? Have you ever insulted someone’s intellect (called them a “fool”)? Have you ever unjustly attacked someone’s character? I suspect we all have. Do you understand what Jesus is saying here? In this passage, He convicts every human being for the sin of murder. 


God will accept nothing less than heart-deep righteousness, that results from heart deep repentance, by the precious gift of God. It is not enough to appear righteous. Appearances might fool the people around you, but God is not fooled by appearances. He looks right through and sees your heart. If there is anger in your heart, He will find you out and you will not escape His righteous judgement. 


So, what does one do to escape this judgement? First, recognize that you are guilty. Put a sock in the mouth of your inner Pharisee. Better yet, expel him from your life altogether. He will only cause you more trouble. Next, plead for God’s mercy. He tells us that He is a God who is rich in mercy, slow to anger, and abounding in grace (Exodus 34:6). Next, trust in Jesus and the sacrifice He made on your behalf. The Bible says that when we have faith in Jesus, God counts it to us as righteousness (Galatians 3:6-9).


The righteousness that comes by faith in Christ is heart-deep. With His righteousness we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which allows us to know the heart of God. He also empowers us to love God and love others as we should. It is in loving God and loving your neighbor that the whole law of God is fulfilled (Galatians 5:14). Will we still fall short of God’s heart? Yes. But where our sin increases His grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20) when we are found in Him by faith. We can be sure that He will sanctify us and conform us into the person he created us to be in Christ (Romans 8:29-30).