This is the second part of the Sixth Commandment taken from the book Ten Essential Words.

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As an example of how these commandments related to the kingdom of God, Jesus expounds on this Sixth Commandment prohibiting murder:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  (Matthew 5:21-22)

“You know the commandment,” Jesus begins, “and you know the penalty.”  The Sixth Commandment had been fairly clear up to this point, and everyone would have been familiar with it.  My guess is that Jesus even chooses the most straightforward commandment to make his point.  For it is his next statement that would be initially difficult to comprehend, “I tell you that anyone who has ever been angry is guilty.”  Forget the actual act of murder, forget intent and premeditation; anyone who has been angry with another person has violated this commandment.  Let me ask you a question: have you ever been angry with someone?  Ever?  Yep, me too!  According to that statement by Jesus, we are all guilty – and that is exactly the point Jesus is trying to make.

As has previously been suggested, debates around issues of interpretation of the Law were common at that time.  Different rabbinic interpretations had arisen over the extent of each commandment and what constituted breaking each commandment.  Arguments arose over the enforcement of these commandments, given Roman jurisdiction and Rome‘s own set of legal codes.  As can be the case today, the common person often got caught in the crossfire of many of these philosophical debates.  So Jesus took this opportunity to remind everyone of what was being lost in the midst of these debates: there was a difference between the legal enforcement of the commandments and the moral underpinnings of each commandment.  God was ultimately concerned with the moral underpinnings – the righteousness – underlying each commandment, and that is what would be important in God’s kingdom, regardless of who had legal jurisdiction over Judea at the time.

Jesus was making clear that most of these debates focused only on the external enforcement of the law, while overlooking the core of each commandment.  At their core, these were God’s standards for righteousness.  And when we peel away the external conformity of the commandments to the core, therein lies the problem: we are all guilty.  This would be a common theme as Jesus continued to unpack the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.

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I’ve been on a bit of a break from these chapter previews.  I ran a series this spring on the Fruit of the Spirit, as well as did some traveling.  So I’ll be returning to the chapter previews, as well as posting other news and thoughts surrounding the Ten Commandments.

The Sixth Commandment simply reads, “You shall not murder.”  The following is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of Ten Essential Words.

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What does it mean to be made in the image of God?  The creation story stressed some of the sacredness of this honor:

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:26-27)

 For starters, being made in the image of God differentiates human beings from the rest of God’s creation.  Plants and animals were pronounced “good” after God created them, but human beings were pronounced “very good” and given charge to manage the rest of creation.  Human beings were the only part of creation that was made in God’s image.

Karnak TempleThere may also be a more tangible aspect to being image-bearers of God.  In all other occurrences of the word image used in the Hebrew Scripture, it was referring to an idol or a statue.  As we have already seen, the Second Commandment explicitly forbids any of these images replacing Yahweh.  This same Hebrew word image would be used to describe the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar, which this king of Babylon himself commissioned and had everyone bow down to in the book of Daniel. “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3:1).  The purpose of such an image in ancient times was to make clear to all who laid eyes on it whom this land belonged to and who ruled this kingdom.  In Egypt, Karnak Temple still houses towering statues of Rameses II, among other pharaohs.  Rameses II also constructed an impressive monument at Abu Simbel – the border of Egypt and ancient Nubia – to state in no uncertain terms where Egypt began and Nubia ended.  Likewise, the image of Caesar could be found all throughout the Roman Empire.

So when the Bible says that we are made in the image of God, it is saying quite literally that we are living, breathing, royal statues making clear to all who is king and whose kingdom we belong to.  To be an image-bearer of God carries with it a job description: to announce the reign of God to the world around us.  Now to deface one of these royal statues would be to defy the ruler whose image the statue bore.  No doubt, the defacer would incur a stiff penalty.  So it would be this same level of offense to deface the image of God by taking the life of someone created in God’s image.