The Sixth Commandment: Don’t Kill


Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20:13)

We can discuss here what it means to “kill” and whether abortion, capital punishment, war, and so on, are violations of this commandment. Regardless of the outcome of this discussion, the end result will be the same:

Life is sacred. We do not have the right to take it away arbitrarily.

This commandment is summarized nicely in the Declaration of Independence by saying that all men have a right to life. Because God said, “Don’t kill”, that means, everyone gets to live their lives.

I want to extend this commandment along the lines that Jesus did. He said, not only don’t kill, but don’t even get angry with each other! I believe this is very wise counsel. If we can tame our passions to the point where we wish no harm on any others, then we are doing quite well indeed.

I would encourage everyone, everywhere, to take the subject of ending life very seriously. Until you can see why it is OK to kill on the battlefield, don’t kill on the battlefield. Until you can see why it is OK to kill a murderer, don’t kill a murderer. Until you can see why it is OK to kill in self-defense, don’t kill in self-defense. And until you can see why it is OK to kill an unborn infant, don’t kill an unborn infant.

There are valid explanations and logical reasons why killing in some of the above cases is totally justified. Indeed, we see in the Bible that the same God that commands “Don’t Kill”, commands “Kill.” The explanations are clear, of course, and they are easily found. And the logical conundrum of killing to keep the commandment “Don’t Kill” are easily solved.

However, until you see the solution, don’t kill. That’s a very good default to start with.

And that’s why we do not take killing lightly in our country. Nor should we ever take it lightly! What more important decision can any one person or any society make than whether we should kill an individual or not?

My personal understanding of this law leads me to the following conclusions. You’ll have to navigate your own course and its end on your own.

  1. Killing in war is justified. A soldier who kills as part of a war is not a murderer, provided he is following his orders and the rules of engagement to the best of his ability.
  2. Killing a murderer is justified. Killing certain other kinds of criminals may be justified depending on the crime. (Rape is one of those crimes.) Of course, we can’t determine guilt on our own, and neither can we execute the criminal. These are state functions.
  3. Killing in self-defense, or in defense on another’s life, is justified.
  4. Killing an unborn infant is not justified, except when the life of the mother is in danger, and only if the mother wishes it. Preserving the life of an unwanted child from rape or incest is questionable, at best. If the mother wishes it, abortion is probably acceptable in those cases.

Why this should be a commandment is perfectly clear. God gave us life, and preserves us. If we love God, then we won’t work against Him by taking away those lives that he gave. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we wouldn’t kill anyone any more than we would commit suicide.


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