The Sixth Commandment
Text: Matthew 5:21:48
The sixth commandment was very clearly stated. God said,
“You shall not murder.”
As far as the Jews were concerned, this commandment was not violated unless a literal murder was committed! Were they not right in interpreting this commandment literally?
FINDING LOOP-HOLES IN THE LAW
Jesus knew that the Jews were always trying to find loop-holes in the Law. In their interpretation of the sixth commandment, as long as no murder is committed, they felt that they had fully kept the law.
There were no specific laws that prohibited the cursing of people in anger. Thus, they felt that they could not be hauled up for questioning if they swore at people and called them “Fools”.
This approach amounted to little more than finding loopholes in the Laws of God. Did this approach honour the Laws of God? As far as Jesus was concerned, this was a totally erroneous way of understanding the law.
UNDERSTANDING AND INTERPRETING THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered His way of interpreting the Mosaic Law. He did not just interpret the letter of the law. He taught His disciples how to appreciate the spirit of the law! This was the key problem! The Jews chose the former approach, and were thus always looking for legal loopholes. As long as the law could be said to have been kept, even in the wooden-literal sense of the word, they felt that they had kept the law.
Jesus’ approach was the exact opposite. One does not look for loopholes. One prayerfully and humbly considers the spirit of the law and then seeks to obey it. The law may have been stated simply, and loopholes may indeed be found, but that was not how one should regard or understand the Laws of God. One should revere God’s laws and ever seek to keep them, rather than break them!
THE WAY OF THE ANCIENT PSALMISTS
Jesus’ way of understanding the Law of God may be found in the writings of the psalmists of old. No one took a legalistic, wooden-literal approach. Instead, each psalmist approached the laws of God with the greatest sense of reverence and love. Let us consider the following texts written by different psalmists.
The Psalmist David
“The words of the Lord are pure words,
Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,
Purified seven times.”
If the words of God were indeed pure, it follows that one should discard and reject any attempt to interpret the Word of God legalistically.
The Psalmist Asaph
“For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their
That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;
And may not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not set its heart aright,
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
Psalm 78:5, 7-8
The psalmist Asaph was astute in his observation of the previous generations. Their forebears had unfaithful spirits and were thus constantly rebelling against God. The laws of God were thus given so that this sinful tendency could be arrested!
The longest and the most profound psalm was written by a psalmist who did not disclose his name. Nevertheless his words conveyed well the proper regard that one should have towards the laws of God.
“My heart stands in awe of Your word…”
The believer should combine awe with love for God’s Word.
“Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.”
TEACHING PEOPLE HOW TO REGARD AND LOVE GOD’S LAWS
The purpose of Jesus was clear. Yes, He had to refute the erroneous approach of the Jewish scholars of His day. However, that was not His goal at all. His desire was for His disciples, indeed for all believers, to have a right regard for God’s laws. The Word of God was meant to be meditated upon, prayed over, and its precepts obeyed with the whole heart! This was the lofty goal Jesus set out to accomplish as He taught!