The Works of the Flesh: Murder - Real and Imagined

by Kent Heaton

The blood of Abel (Genesis 4) still cries through the ages of centuries as a sad reminder of man's inhumanity to man. The early world was destroyed because "every intent of the thoughts of [man] was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5) as men filled with rage against their fellow man shed man's blood. Following the flood the Lord told Noah, "Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Genesis 9:5-6).

Murder is suggested in the actions of the works of the flesh as "enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying" (Galatians 5:20,21) drive men to kill one another. Jesus said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders" (Matthew 15:19). The challenge of the deeds listed in Galatians 5 is not only the sin itself but what the sin leads to. The taking of human life has always been condemned by Jehovah when the actions are unrighteous. David murdered Uriah for his lust of Bathsheba (II Samuel 11); Naboth was falsely accused and murdered by Jezebel for a vineyard (I Kings 21; II Kings 9:26); Jesus accused the Jews of murdering the prophets (Matthew 23:31,35); and even Jesus was killed by unrighteous men (I Thessalonians 2:15).

When God spoke to Noah in Genesis 9, He established forever the condemnation of those who take the lives of other men. The Ten Commandments clearly forbade the killing of men for unjust cause (Exodus 20:13). Penalties were swift and severe for murder in the Law of Moses (Exodus 21:14; Leviticus 24:21). The Lord will punish the murderer (I Timothy 1:9; Revelation 21:8). It would seem obvious that murder (the taking of life) is repulsive and forbidden - yet while we would never suggest our part in such deeds, we find another aspect of this hatred.

"Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:15). Jesus taught the same principle in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26). We cannot worship God with this kind of heart. When hatred and malice dwell in the heart of a person there can be no hope of eternal life.

Murder is imagined in this sense that while no physical life is taken, the feelings of hate reign in the heart. This will defile a man (Matthew 15:19,20). We like to say that we are to "love one another but not like one another." This represents an attitude of disrespect for others and for God. Prejudice, jealousy and envy will lead to murderous thoughts in the heart. "For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things" (I John 3:20). Albert Barnes wrote, "The private malice, the secret grudge, the envy which is cherished in the heart, is murderous in its tendency."

Those who allow the spirit of Satan to fill their hearts will not inherit the kingdom of God! That is not a maybe; that is a reality! We should heed the warning of the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 7.