You shall not kill.
The Commandment is addressed to each man, and applies to his own life and the life of his neighbour.
1. His own life he is forbidden to take. He is commanded to care for it. Man does not own himself, has no title in his own life as before God, has no right to destroy it, but should take good care of it, for it belongs to God. We are here forbidden to brood over our troubles. It is wrong to cultivate a melancholy spirit, or a rebellious one. We should strive against these natural tendencies which threaten life and dishonour God. God requires us further to have that high regard for our lives which shall lead us to guard and maintain them in the best possible condition. We are to become familiar with the laws of health, and obedient to them. The Commandment tells us how we shall dress. Adornment should be subordinate to comfort. Thin shoes and bare arms venture out to a late party on a winter's night; a severe cold sometimes follows, and a speedy death. We say, What a mysterious providence to take one so young! Do we not know that the laws of providence are in favour of good health and long life, and that sickness and death often come directly from our disobedience of these laws. This Commandment directs us in the conduct of our business. In gaining our living we are not needlessly to risk our lives. We are to be masters of our business, not mastered by it.
2. God requires further that each one shall hold the life of others sacred as well as his own. He is forbidden to take it. He is commanded to care for it. The contentious spirit is to be checked in its small beginnings, for its natural tendency is to hard feelings and deadly hatred. Our pride is not to be cultivated, for an over-estimate of our own importance is sure to be cut to the quick by the slights of others, and arousing into anger will cherish the desire for revenge. High temper quickly flies into anger when provoked, and often acts and speaks in the heat of passion, adding fuel to its own flame and striking fire into other hearts. It is said that Julius Caesar won many victories over his own spirit by the simple rule never to speak or act when provoked until he had repeated slowly the Roman alphabet. We are to beware of having any prejudice against our neighbour. We are to think of him kindly, and speak of him and to him kindly, no matter what he thinks of us, or how he speaks of us or to us, or even if he will not speak to us at all. All private grudges and neighbourhood feuds, if they stand at all, must stand under the frowning face of this Commandment. Neither can cool indifference to our neighbour's welfare find any place in our hearts under this law of God. In the social arrangements of the day lives are often placed in the charge of others. Those having this charge should pay special attention to this Commandment. The owner of a tenement house, if he regards this Commandment at all, will seek the health, comfort, and welfare of his tenants. Builders of roads, bridges, and houses, if they regard this Commandment at all, will seek not only good wages, but mainly to do good work, that men's lives may be safe. This Commandment directs us to be good citizens and to seek the health and welfare of all the members of the community where we dwell. The sanitary arrangements of city, town, and village, are commended to our attention. We may not neglect them without guilt. The sacredness of life enjoined in the Commandment covers not merely the bodily life, it lies specially in our spiritual life, in the image of God. Is life worth living? asks the worldly philosopher, as if there was some doubt about it. Worth living? Surely it is, since our spiritual life though fallen may be brought into a shape worthy of God our Father. Herein we see the highest realm of this Commandment, the true sacredness of life. We are carefully to avoid in ourselves and in our influence all those things which would have any tendency to destroy the soul.
(F. S. Schenck.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt not kill.