Text: Fifth Commandment
In Luke 10 a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test. He asked our Lord what good thing he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked this expert what the Scriptures say and he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said he was right. If the man did that perfectly, he would earn eternal life. But this lawyer wasn’t done with Jesus. In order to justify himself, he asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
This is when Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable features a man falling among robbers, being beaten, and then left for dead. By chance, a priest passes by the man, doesn’t help. So, too, a Levite. Finally, a Samaritan came by the man and had compassion on him. He bound up the man’s wounds, placed him on his own donkey, took him to an inn and cared for him. In this, the parable also demonstrates for us the meaning of the Fifth Commandment. The Fifth Commandment teaches that we should fear and love God by not hurting or harming our neighbor, but, instead, helping and supporting him in every physical need.
Let’s go ahead and read the Fifth Commandment together.
You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.
Another thing that Jesus teaches through the parable of the Good Samaritan is that all people should be considered our neighbors. The lawyer, a Jew, would’ve felt that it’d be okay to not show concern or care toward a Samaritan. The Jews and Samaritans were enemies. Jesus demonstrated by making the Samaritan the “good guy” in the parable, that, instead, all people are our neighbors, since all people are made by God.
This is what the Holy Spirit says all the way back in Genesis 1. On the sixth day of Creation God spoke, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Then, He formed man from the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. To create woman, God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took a rib from him and formed Eve from it. So, it says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Human beings were created by God in His image, the pinnacle of His good creation. God created us to have dominion over the earth, and to live in fellowship with each other and our God.
As God formed Adam at Creation, so He continues to form each and every person in their mother’s womb. In the midst of his complaint to God, Job acknowledged,
Your hands fashioned and made me…Did You not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews.Job 10
King David praised the Lord in similar words,
You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.Psalm 139
In the calling of Jeremiah, the Lord testified,
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.Jeremiah 1
All human life, each and every single human being, is created by God – even now – in His image, and, therefore, is of intrinsic worth. Because each person is created by God, all people are to be treated as our neighbor.
Therefore, our Lord forbids in this commandment the taking of human life. Our heavenly Father, alone, makes the decisions concerning life and death, and He does not give that authority to any of us as individuals. The Fifth Commandment prohibits us, first, from murder, but it includes much beyond that. We are also forbidden by this Commandment from engaging in actions that would cause harm to our neighbor – even if they don’t die. We are also held responsible by this Commandment for our neglect. When it is within our vocation and ability to come to the physical aid of our neighbor, and we choose not to, we break this commandment. Our Lord teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that anger and hatred against anyone is also breaking this Commandment. He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder…’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”
Instead of harming our neighbor, whether it be by murder or other forms of endangerment, or by neglect or hatred, our Lord would have us help and support our neighbor in every physical need. Whenever it is within our place and our means, we should be ready to come to the aid of our neighbor. This could mean providing them food, clothing or shelter, or support that leads to those things. This Commandment should also direct us to use our words and actions in support of the needs of others. The Holy Spirit teaches us in Proverbs saying, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” The Lord teaches in the Fifth Commandment that we should fear and love Him, by not harming anyone in their body, but help and support our neighbor in every physical need.
Now, because we are meditating on the Fifth Commandment today, we should speak on a few topics yet that other Sundays might not afford. There are two topics that fall under this Commandment and seem to increasingly be in the news. These are abortion and euthanasia. Physician-assisted suicide we might also speak of. These things are violations of the Fifth Commandment. They are forbidden by God. They are egregious evils that must end. The Scriptures clearly teach that all human beings are individual creations of God Himself and, from the moment of conception, possess a soul, are precious to God, and should also be to us. No human life is to be willingly discarded or ended, neither the unborn child in the womb, nor the great-grandmother in the memory care unit, nor ourselves. We would do well to learn from our fathers in the faith who, when a child or an elderly person was left out to die in ancient Rome, would take them into their homes to raise and care for.
Even though we’ve spoken mostly of things forbidden today, there is comfort to be had in this: you and I are precious to God the Father. It is He who knit us each together in our mother’s womb. It is He who cares for us and feeds us each day. It is for us that He sent His Son to die. It is we who are most dear to Him – we, and all people. Therefore, let us take comfort in God’s loving care for us, and show that love to those who are in need in our lives.
Let us pray:
Lord God, by Your Law You guard and defend every human life from violence and destruction. Give us wisdom never to hurt or harm our neighbors in their bodily life and give us hearts of mercy to help and support them in every physical need; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.