21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:21–22, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to inspect our attitudes toward others and the words they prompt us to use (Matt. 12:33-37). Brotherly kindness and love (attributes Christians add to our faith, 2 Peter 1:5, 7) go far beyond not murdering a person. The apostle John assures us that “whosoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Jesus expects citizens of the kingdom to follow a path that leads from hate to harmony. Unjustified anger, contemptuous words, and hateful conduct bring a judgment that endangers the soul. So, we must be careful how we speak to others and speak of them to others. We must remove animosity, contempt, bitterness, malicious speech from our hearts and mouths (Eph. 4:31). Kindness must prevail to be a faithful follower of Jesus (Eph. 4:32). Remember, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Prov. 15:4). Furthermore, the perverse tongue condemns the soul.
“He was thirty-two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one’s sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” (2 Chronicles 21:20, NKJV)
Thus is the summation of the life of a particularly wicked man, Jehoram, king of Judah. He was a murderer who killed his brothers after the death of their father, king Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 21:1-4). He was an idolater, having married the daughter of king Ahab (Athaliah), he led Judah astray into pagan worship (2 Chron. 21:6, 11; 22:2). During Jehoram’s reign, Edom and other nations revolted and plundered Judah (2 Chron. 21:8-10, 16-17). Jehoram suffered an ignominious death following a two-year, incurable disease (2 Chron. 21:12-19). Everyone, it seems, was glad to see him go. No achievements of his reign were recognized. No state funeral was held in his honor, for nothing about him was honorable (v. 19). No one grieved his death. What a tragic legacy! And, the worst of it is Jehoram died condemned in his sins. What sort of legacy will you leave when you die? Let it be a life well lived for Christ and others. Let it be a life faith, holiness, service, and devotion to the gospel of Christ. Let it be a legacy of righteousness that will speak long after your departure (Heb. 11:4). Be a Christian, faithful and true to Christ, and it will be so.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15:19, NKJV)
Murder is the outward display of a heart full of malice and hatred. The first recorded murder sprang from the angry heart of Cain, who hated his brother Abel (Genesis 4:4-8; 1 John 3:11-15). While the outward results of hatred versus murder are usually quite different, the sin of hatred is just as evil. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:14-15). Both the slaying of an innocent person (murder) and hatred of a brother produce spiritual death. Cultivating love for one’s neighbor guards against the sin of hatred as well as the ultimate acting out of that hatred – murder. “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2–3, NKJV)
James continues to bring our focus to the driving motives behind conflicts and battles with others. Selfish cravings never satisfy one’s desire to be satisfied and fulfilled. Lust leads to fights and battles with those we believe are preventing us from acquiring our desire. Murder and greedy yearnings are never satisfied through hateful actions that deprive others of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When one’s motive is to “spend it on your pleasures,” others will be treated as disposable rather than with decency and respect. Asking God to help us achieve our goals when evil motives reside in our hearts is a hypocritical and futile approach toward God and toward life.
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14–15, NKJV)
The apostle John had just described the children of God as those who “practice righteousness,” making an application that loving one’s brother is the epitome of this righteous conduct (1 Jno. 3:10). The brethren of whom he speaks are fellow Christians. One’s passage from spiritual death into spiritual life is assured by practicing love toward fellow Christians. As Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, the Christian who hates a fellow Christian is a murderer. A heart filled with hate has death abiding in it; not eternal life. To detest and disregard our brethren assures that we “abide in death” and will not pass into eternal life. (Oh yes, a Christian can sin and lose his soul!) This is a powerful motive to love each other as He has love us, and by obeying the Lord, abide in His love (Jno. 13:34-35; 15:10).
8 Now 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 killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:8–9, NKJV)
Cain tried to evade the force of God’s question by lying to God and implying he was not his brother’s guardian. Cain hated his brother and murdered him “because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 Jno. 3:11-15). Hatred destroys life (“whoever hates his brother is a murderer”, 1 Jno. 3:15). Love protects life (“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”, 1 Jno. 3:16). Remember that you are your brother’s keeper. Not only are we to love and protect our fleshly brothers and sisters, but even more so, our brethren in Christ. Guard and protect your brethren, do not hate them. Out of love be a protector of life, not a murderer, because “you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jno. 3:15).