Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Jesus deals with a number of commandments in this way, one of which is the prohibition against killing; a most basic ethical imperative. “Do not kill” – “Do not murder” seems pretty direct and easily understood. Human suffering grieves God’s heart and when inflicted on one man by another doubly so. Punishment is meted out to killers at varying degrees according to circumstances; intentional murder punished more harshly than negligent or accidental killing. This holds true even when one is forced to defend oneself from intruders or during war; if we are able to avoid lethal force – we should and must.
The command against killing/murder is a cornerstone of Western civilization’s stand on human rights. Harming human beings is an offense against God, the destruction of someone created in God’s image is heinous. (Which doesn’t mean we must allow others free reign to do as they please, but we must still acknowledge that they are beings created by and for Him; whether they acknowledge that fact and act accordingly or not.)
Jesus took this ideal a step further, pronouncing dire consequences on those who angrily speak ill and dismissively of others. The connection between this commandment and anger is easily recognized as most violent crimes are committed when one person is angry at another. (See Matthew 5:21,22) Besides which, words – in and of themselves – can be very hurtful, even destructive and have lasting consequences.
Jesus upped the ante on several Old Testament commandments in Matthew 5:6 & 7. In essence saying, “Moses taught us ‘Do not kill.’ I say, ‘Do no harm. Forgive others, love your enemies, don’t return insult for insult – evil for evil – Go the extra mile.’ Paul later enlarged on this theme by instructing us to, “…not think of yourself more highly than you ought…” Romans 12:3; but “…be willing to associate with people of low position.” (As if we should ever designate someone as such!) “Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everybody.” Romans 12:16-18 In so doing, we will “…not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
The injunction against adultery falls hard on the back of the command to not kill, hinting at the severity with which this betrayal is held. Sad to say, it is a common occurrence even as it violates our deepest trust and results in devastating pain in a variety of ways, inflicted on any number of people. In fact, it’s so common that prohibitions against it can be found in nearly every ancient as well as modern legal codes. In the Jewish legal system, this transgression was considered so odious that the offending couple were to be executed when caught.
Jesus, as he often did, redefined adultery. He recognized the “moment of maybe,”1the desire behind an act; decreeing that looking at a woman lustfully was tantamount to physical adultery; there being such a short distance between “doing it” mentally and emotionally and physically consummating that thought. This progression graphically explained by James when he wrote, “Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them. Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and when sin grows up, it gives birth to death.” James 1:14,15
The one time Jesus dealt directly with adultery, he is often misrepresented as – if not condoning – then shrugging it off as of less significance. Being “caught in the act” is a big sin according to Judeo/Christian reckoning. Jesus did not set aside scripture that identifies adultery as such, but pointed out that we all are guilty of sin in various ways. Besides which, this confrontation wasn’t orchestrated to decide legalities or even define morality, but to trap Jesus into saying something controversial and damaging to his reputation.
Contrary to what has been insinuated about this scripture, all sin is not equal. The “dismissive nature” Jesus supposedly displayed being rooted in the selective nature of the woman’s accusers. If she were indeed “caught in the act” – who was she “acting” with – and where was he in this melodrama of crime and punishment? Jesus did show mercy to this woman in this unbalanced show-trial of righteous indignation, but went on to correctly characterize what she had done as sin – and told her to stop. ( John 8:2-10 See also Leviticus 20:10)
The prohibition against stealing would seem to be self-evident, but its prevalence induced virtually every law code to include prohibitions against it. It encompasses what we “find”, the wages we pay, the praise or credit we deflect from others onto ourselves, etc. Its culmination found in Jesus’ “Golden Rule,” “…do to others what you would have them do to you,…” Matthew 7:12 Which for Jesus included “…lov(ing) your enemies.” Matthew 5:44 (See also Exodus 23:4,5; James 5:1-5)
It’s about character, honesty, and integrity. It’s about more than not taking but giving; blessing and caring for others. ( Matthew 25:34-36) Jesus specifically warning that, “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 (See also Matthew 6:19-21) That it is indeed “…more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35
1Quote and inspiration for this article taken from Adam Hamilton’s book Words of Life , subtitled, Jesus and the Promise of the Ten Commandments, Convergent publishing
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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