What is the Sixth Commandment?


Introduction

The answers below come from Luther’s Small Catechism. The Lutheran church numbers the commandments differently than most Protestant denominations1, which is why the title of this article refers to the sixth commandment, but the answers below list indicate fifth.

Sixth Commandment

  • You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13 ESV).
  • You shall not murder (Deuteronomy 5:17 ESV).

You shall not murder. What does this mean? 2

We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.

What does God forbid in the Fifth Commandment?3

  • God forbids us to take the life of another person (murder, abortion, euthanasia) or our own life (suicide) (Genesis 9:6; Matthew 26:52).
    • Bible narratives: Cain murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). David murdered Uriah through others (2 Samuel 11:15). Killing through carelessness (Exodus 21:29; Deuteronomy 22:8). Judas killed himself (Matthew 27:5).
    • ABORTION
      • The living but unborn are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception. Since abortion takes a human life, it is not a moral option except to prevent the death of another person, the mother (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalms 139:16).
      • Bible narrative: John the Baptist leaped for joy while still in his mother’s womb. In doing so, John the Baptist and Elizabeth, by the Holy Spirit, acknowledged the unborn Jesus as Lord (Luke 1:41-44).
    • EUTHANASIA
      • The severely handicapped, infirm, helpless, and aged are persons in the sight of God with life given by Him and to be ended only by Him (Proverbs 6:16-17; Proverbs 31:8; Acts 17:25).
    • SUICIDE
      • My own life is a gift of God to be ended only by Him (Jeremiah 31:3; Luke 12:22).
  • God forbids us to hurt or harm our neighbor physically, that is, to do or say anything which may destroy, shorten, or make his or her life bitter (Deuteronomy 32:39;  Romans 12:19).
    • Bible narratives: Joseph’s brothers harmed Joseph and made the life of their father bitter by their wickedness (Gen. 37:23-35). The Egyptians made the lives of the children of Israel bitter by hard labor (Exodus 1).
  • God forbids us to keep anger and hatred in our hearts against our neighbor (Matthew 5:22; 1 John 3:15; Matthew 15:19; Ephesians 4:26).
    • Bible narratives: The Jews showed their anger against Stephen (Acts 7:54). God warned Cain against anger (Genesis 4:5-7).

Does anyone have authority to take an other person’s life?4

Yes, lawful government, as God’s servant, may execute criminals and fight just wars (Romans 13:4)

What does God require of us in the Fifth Commandment?5

  • We should help and support our neighbor in every bodily need (Romans 12:20).
    • Bible narratives: Abraham rescued Lot from his enemies (Genesis 14:12-16). David protected the life of Saul (1 Samuel 26:1-12). The good Samaritan helped the man who had fallen among thieves (Luke 10:33-35).
  • We should be merciful, kind, and forgiving towards our neighbor (Matthew 5:5,7,9; Matthew 6:15; Ephesians 4:32).
    • Bible narratives: Jesus showed mercy to the 10 lepers (Luke 17:11-19). The centurion was kind to his sick servant (Matt. 8:5-13). Joseph was forgiving toward his brothers (Genesis 45:1-16).
  • We should avoid and assist our neighbor in avoiding the abuse of drugs and the use of any substance that harms the body and the mind (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Footnotes

  1. Why Are The Ten Commandments Numbered Differently?
  2. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529)
  3. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 52.
  4. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 53.
  5. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 54.

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