Murder: What It Is and Why We Do It
The gun is raised, the trigger is pulled. The knife flashes and is plunged into the flesh. The fist is clenched and the blow fatally applied. Death by murder. What is murder? And why do we do it? Should we ban the instruments of murder? Remove from our society all things used in murder? The gun, the knife, the fist? Careful. Just as Adam and Eve in the garden pointed the finger at others for what they themselves did, so we can point to others and to things, for blame.
A man lies dead in a field. Murdered. Another man walks away, thinking no one saw him kill his brother. Yes, his brother. The first murder occurred, tragically, between brothers. What did Cain use to kill his brother? The Bible does not tell us, but we can be sure that it was not any modern device. Perhaps it was a stone, a large stick, a knife, or his bare hands. But can we be sure that the only instrument Cain used was a tangible one? Listen to what the Bible says about this first murder, “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”
It is perhaps significant that the Bible does not relay to us what physical instrument Cain used to murder his brother, but it rather stresses the condition of Cain’s heart toward God. Cain was wrathful toward God. He was angry. And he took his anger toward God out on his brother.
The Word of God tells us that the instrument used in murder is not of great significance. What is significant is the heart. Jesus tells us: “ For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” Matthew 15:19. I think that we can all assent to that. We may say it in different ways, but if we are honest with ourselves, we are going to come up with the conclusion that physical murder starts in the heart. It doesn’t start with a gun, knife, a fist, etc. Banning items used in murder is not practical or logical. If we are going to ban all items that folks use to murder others, we are going to have to ban not just fire arms, but knives, cars, alcohol, ropes, etc. That still leaves fists, hands, feet, and yes, the heart. Even if we could ban the heart, if the heart wants to murder, it finds a way.
But have we addressed fully what murder is? Murders are brought to our attention in the news. Some murders do not receive this media attention. Regardless, murders happen every day. Though this is true, we usually do not dwell on them unless the media does, or unless, tragically, someone we love has been murdered. I would be remiss if I did not bring up the murders of babies through abortion. Just like Abel’s blood, their blood cries out from the ground. To further complete the picture, we also need to mention the murders committed through genocide that happen throughout the world.
But still, is that all there is? Is the picture truly complete? Have we completely fleshed out what murder is? No. We came close to it when we said that murder starts in the heart. But is murder always physical? Again, the answer is no. The Word of God says that when we have hatred in our hearts toward others, we are murderers. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15. So just because we have not broken the sixth commandment – Thou shalt not kill (Greek, apokteino, meaning “murder”) in a physical way, Jesus says that when we are unjustly angry toward someone, we are in danger of being judged by this commandment as a murderer, “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:” Matthew 5:21, 22.
Sometimes this anger toward others plays out in physical murder, as in the case of Cain and in the case of many others throughout all time, and sometimes it produces the hidden murder of the heart. We are all guilty of at least the second scenario.
Physical murders in society should be addressed. Some are addressed properly in this world, and some are not. Some are not addressed at all. In any case, the blood of the victims cry out from the ground, and God hears it and will address physical murders in His own time and way.
God also hears the murder in our hearts. If we listen very carefully, we can hear it, too. We should tremble when we realize that simply the thoughts of our hearts condemn us. God, the judge, looks not on the outside, but on the inside, “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Yes, we can point the finger at the young man who sinfully pulls the trigger, at the drunk who abuses his wife, at the bully who beats up the small kid, and at those who murder their babies through abortion, but we must stop pointing to the instruments of death (guns, alcohol, knives) as the culprit, but rather point to the heart of those who wield these instruments. Furthermore, we must point to our own hearts, as we are guilty as well. Who or what can change our hearts? Can regulations and laws? As Paul, the apostle, cries out: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Romans 7:24
A man hangs dying on the cross, the victim of hearts of hatred. The instrument was the cross, but the source of hatred was the heart – the hearts of those who cried out for him to be crucified and the hearts of all of us, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:” Acts 7:15
Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, our nature is to hate God and His ways. Just as Cain took out his wrath toward God on his brother, so, too, we took out our hatred toward God on His Son. Is there deliverance for this heart of hatred toward God and His Son? Yes. It is in the death of His Son, foreordained by God, that we find life and forgiveness. We meant His death for evil, and God meant it for Good. God does indeed work all things together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. The sin that dwells within us was crucified with Jesus on the cross. Jesus took these sins upon Himself, paying the penalty that we owed to God for our sins. We are no longer guilty for our sins, and are re-born into a new life through His resurrection. We are washed and made clean and given a new heart, one that desires to love God and walk in His ways.
Murder. It is heavy business. It weighs on the heart and controls our actions, and puts us in hell. Jesus says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
May you flee to Jesus for relief of your heavy sin burden. He is faithful and just to forgive those who come to them seeking His mercy. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9