Description: Othello's anger and actions were based on a lie. Not only Lago's lie about Desdemona but Othello trusted his happiness in her rather than God.
We Don’t Have to Kill Anyone
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
If we trust God, we trust him for everything in our lives. We trust him for everything in the
present and we trust him for everything in the future. We trust him for every situation that we’re
in and we trust him for every situation that we’ll ever come into. I know this will kind of shock
you, but because we trust God for everything it means we don’t have to kill anybody. That’s the
commandment of course we’re studying today in our study of the life of faith, you shall not kill.
In fact, if we trust God for everything you don’t have to kill anybody. That’s really why we do
kill. It’s why we do anything that is disobedient to God, it’s because we don’t trust him. It’s
why Jesus emphasized the inner attitude, the heart attitude that lies behind an outward act. In
fact, every sinful act, or sinful thought, or sinful word comes because we don’t trust God
completely for our own lives.
So, you remember, Jesus put the emphasis not on the killing but in the inward attitude.
In Matthew 5 you find him speaking those words that we’ve read before. Matthew 5:21, “You have
heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to
judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to
judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’
shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there
remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go;
first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
You can see there that Jesus ties the outward act not just to the anger in the heart that begets the
actual murder but to the lack of that positive attitude that is the fruit of trusting God
completely. That’s the attitude outlined in Verse 24, “Leave your gift there before the altar and
go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” In other words, he
ties murder not just to anger but to the whole lack of that attitude of heart reconciliation to
everybody else in the world, that is the fruit of trusting God for everything.
In other words, he ties it right back to loving your neighbor. He says that murder isn’t the
problem; even anger that produces murder is not the problem. What is the problem is your lack of
love for your neighbor. That’s really the difficulty. This is the basic attitude that the second
five commandments deal with. The first five commandments deal more with our love of God and those
who are in authority over us in his name. But the second five deal with our love of our neighbor.
That’s the attitude that is found right back in the Old Testament. It’s often talked of “love your
neighbors” as if it’s something new but it isn’t. It’s back in Leviticus 19:18.
Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own
people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Loving your neighbor, the
first result of that is a desire to preserve their existence rather than destroy it obviously. God
is saying, “If you trust me as your God and Father you’ll want to preserve the life of your
neighbor.” Then the opposite is true even though we hate to think of it, “But if you don’t trust me
as your God and Father you’ll actually end up wanting to eliminate your neighbor.”
Now how could you possibly want to eliminate your neighbor? Well, if you think that your present
happiness is in some way dependent on your neighbor then every time they seem to do anything that is
going to adversely affect your happiness, you’ll actually want to eliminate them. I mean, we don’t
dream of murdering them because that means we have to spend a lot of years in prison. As Jesus
points out it’s not the act really that counts, it’s the thought. If you don’t trust God for
everything in your life, your heart will not be filled with his beneficent love towards them. Your
heart will not want the best for them.
It will not always be endeavoring to lead them into that best and the resulting neutral attitude
that will take place in your heart is capable of producing murder when the favorable moment occurs.
So just think through it. If you’re not trusting God for everything in your life then really, in a
sense, all you lack is the opportune moment to do murder.
Or, if you could possibly do it without the grave results of spending half your life in prison or
ending up in the electric chair. But if you don’t trust God for everything in your life and you in
some ways trust your neighbor and think that your happiness or your life depends on what they do
then sooner or later, as sure as anything, at some time or another, you’ll want to eliminate them
and then it may show itself in anger, or it may show itself in critical attitude. It rarely shows
itself as we know, in murder but it will express that desire to get your neighbor out of your way.
Of course, what Jesus and what his Father is emphasizing is that that occurs because your heart is
not filled with God’s beneficent love towards them. Your heart is not filled with God’s desire for
them. If it was, there’d be no room for anger or there’d be no room for a critical attitude, or
there’d be no room for anything but a desire to lead them on and bring them up to the highest and
best that God has for them.
I asked Irene to get the quotation book because of course, that kind of fixation with a neighbor in
a wrong way is the heart of Shakespeare’s play, Othello. Othello was a black man, a moor and was a
very efficient general and he fell in love with a beautiful lady called Desdemona and then one of
his lieutenants Iago insinuated, “insinuare” in Latin, and insinuate is to curve or wind in. So,
you insinuate your way in and Lago insinuated his way into Othello’s mind. He suggested to him that
Desdemona was unfaithful to him and was being unfaithful with his other lieutenant, in fact his main
man, his first lieutenant Cassio. Of course Othello ended up killing Cassio unjustly because in
fact, Desdemona was not unfaithful to him at all, nor was Cassio. Othello ended up killing Cassio
and then of course of all things killing Desdemona. That’s when – there’s that dreadful line in
Shakespeare, “Oh Iago, the pity of it, the pity of it.” A very tragic moment.
But what I’d like to read to you even though the old Shakespearean language makes it difficult at
times in the blank verse to understand it is this attitude that took over Othello. I’m sure you
can identify with it. It just took his whole being over. “This woman has betrayed me, this woman
that I trusted. She’s white and I’m black and this woman has been unfaithful to me and she knows
that I shared all the personal secrets of my life with her and she has betrayed me.” That gets a
fixation on his mind. Of course, if you read the play carefully you find that Lago would insert
little deals from day-to-day. You might know of, “Well, I saw her holding his hand today. Well, I
saw her looking at him a certain way today.” Until of course, this became a fixation in his mind.
That can happen when we’re not trusting God for everything.
Othello, of course, was not trusting God for this side of his life. So he says, “Had it pleased
heaven to try me with affliction, had he rained all kinds of sores and shames on my bare head,
steeped me in poverty to the very lips, given to captivity me and my utmost hopes, I should have
found in some part of my soul a drop of patience. But alas, to make me the fixed figure for the
time of score to point his slow and moving finger at, yet could I bare that too? Well, very well.
But there, where I have garnered up my heart where either I must live or bare no life, the fountain
from the which my current runs or else dries up to be disguarded thence.” It plays in his heart for
Desdemona, of course. “Or, keep it as a cistern for foul toads to knot and gender in! Turn thy
complexion there, patience, thou young and rose lipped cherubim, — Ay, there, look grim as hell!
…O thou weed,” this is Desdemona of course, “Who art so lovely fair and smellest so sweet that the
sense aches at thee, would thou hast never been born.” [Othello, Act 4, scene 2]
If you’re not trusting God for all of your life and for all of your future, and for all of the
details of your present but you are, in fact like Othello, in some way depending on some person,
feeling that some person, some neighbor has the power to make your life happy or unhappy; if you’re
not depending on God totally and rejoicing and praising him each day so that your heart is filled
with a total confidence in him that he is able to work all things according to the counsel of your
will; if you’re not like that — then anger will find a place in your heart. A fear of other people
will find a place in your heart and you’ll have something coming from your heart towards your
neighbor that is not love and it will eventually end up as real as murder. That’s what Jesus is
In a way it’s found in that old phrase — there is no holiness that is safe which is not
enthusiastic. In a sense, there’s no safety in saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t care too much for
that person. I mean, I don’t hate them but I’m not head over heels in love with them. I mean, I
could live without them.” In a sense that is not a tenable position for a child of God. The only
tenable position for a child of God is one where your heart is utterly dependent on your father,
utterly trusting in him for every detail in your life, and rejoicing and praising him each day so
that your heart is filled with a confidence in him, a confidence about your own life that overflows
as a beneficent love for other people.
In other words, it’s almost a constant flow of healthy clean water that comes out from the center of
your heart and it encompasses everybody and is like a stream that flows down a mountain. It comes
to an obstacle and it flows over it, it doesn’t stop, or it flows around it, but it keeps flowing;
it isn’t stopped. The sweet water keeps flowing and that kind of love guards you against murder and
guards you against anger.
The heart of sin then is the lack of love. It’s not even the anger; it’s the lack of love. Failing
to trust God so that a benevolent wish for each one’s wellbeing flows from your heart, that’s the
real sin. That’s why even the Old Testament lists several attitudes that lead to murder and they
list them as being as harmful as murder. Exodus 21 is the obvious one. Exodus 21:14-18, that is
just rank, plain, blunt, deliberate violence that first of all leads to murder.
Exodus 21:12, “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.” That’s Verse 12.
Verse 14, “But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him treacherously, you shall take him from
my altar, that he may die.” So that’s simply willful malice towards a person that is like murder.
Verse 18, “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does
not die but keeps his bed,” that is as bad as murder, where you deliberately want to do another
But also it’s interesting the Old Testament lists another thing that you find in Deuteronomy 22:8
which we would normally not think of as being able to be found in the Old Testament. We would think
such a fine sentiment as this could be found only in the new. Deuteronomy 22:8, “When you build a
new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon
your house, if any one fall from it.” It is really a high point of social responsibility we would
say in the 20th Century. In other words, carelessness is the same lack of love that brings about
the death of another as deliberate violence towards a person is. You can see how it ties up when
your trust is in God the Father and you’re rejoicing and praising him all day, then your heart is
filled with love, concern with other people, desire to preserve other people’s life. That deals with
the whole business of carelessness where you’d build a roof without a parapet so that somebody could
fall over it.
It is interesting. I don’t know about you, I think it’s been a failure in my perception to think
that, “Oh well, now carelessness that isn’t lack of love. I mean, carelessness is just because
you’re not very practical and you don’t think of things too often and that’s why you can be careless
and maybe cause another person some inconvenience.” And I must admit I would probably begin to be
worried if I caused another person pain. I’d be very worried if I caused another person’s death,
but still there was at the bottom of my understanding a sense that well now carelessness is not
really as bad as murder.
Yet it is very interesting that the Old Testament and Jesus himself emphasizes it’s the attitude of
heart towards your neighbor that brings about murder, or harm, or pain. It may bring it about
through anger, through deliberate vengeance and malice, or it may bring it about just through
carelessness, but it all stems from the same problem — your heart is not filled with an outgoing
beneficent love that the Father has for each person. That’s the only thing that will lift you along
when other people seem to be doing things that will adversely affect your other life.
So it is amazing, isn’t it? It is amazing to find that verse, “When you build a new house,” you
could really write it into the building codes of the cities and still be ahead of most of them,
“When you build a new house you shall make a parapet for your roof.” Why? “That you may not bring
the guilt of blood upon your house if anyone fall from it.” You’re responsible. It’s a wall, a
So, it’s important to see that love is something that encompasses even this business of carelessness
or carefulness. Then, of course, the other one is Leviticus 19:17-18, “You shall not hate your
brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him.”
So often we’ve tied anger in the heart to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 but in fact it’s right back
there in the earliest revelation that God has given in the Old Testament, “You shall not hate your
brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him.
You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall
love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
In other words, it’s the same emphasis if your heart is not filed with the beneficent love of
others, and then your heart is open to hatred and open to bearing a grudge. When we bear a grudge
towards another we are really in a sophisticated way wanting them eliminated. We want them out of
the way and when we do that we are, in fact, wanting their death. We’re certainly wanting them out
of our way, I mean let them live somewhere else, but we want them out of our way. God says, “No,
you shall not kill.”
Of course, for us the importance is not the “not killing” but what prevents that attitude is a trust
in God. Because the reason we have a grudge against a person, the reason we are critical of a
person, the reason we hate a person, the reason we want a person out of the way, the reason we want
to kill a person is because in some way we think they can adversely or are adversely affecting our
lives and when you trust God completely for your own life then that attitude is not possible.
And why should we trust God? Well, I just went through the trouble of looking up the great verse,
you know, because it is such a protection and a guard for us against these things. It’s Psalms 139
which we’ve read before but it is a great basis for our faith in God’s providential care of us and
of his ability alone to overrule anything that others might do to us. Psalms 139:13, “For thou
didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for
thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was
not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the
earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days
that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
There is only one person controls your life, there’s only one person governs what happens to our
lives. It’s not this person or that person, it’s not our mother or our father, it’s not our friend,
it’s not our brother or sister, it’s not our husband or wife, it’s not our associates, it’s not our
customers, it’s God himself. He will overrule all that any man or woman can do to us and we can
trust him completely for everything. So, when we do, then we want each other person to experience
the same thing that we have and the same restful trust in God, and the same confidence, and the same
quietness and peace. Most of all we want them to come into their fullness because actually the
worse thing about murder is expressed back in Genesis 9:6.
Genesis 9:6, it’s the reason given in the Old Testament for not murdering or the reason for capital
punishment actually. Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.”
Why? “For God made man in his own image.” If you murder, you murder God’s image. If you want a
person out of the way, you want a potential picture of God out of the world and when your heart is
filled with a beneficent love for others you want to build up the image of God in that person. You
want the person to come into the highest they can possibly come into. When you do that, you side
with all the angels of heaven. When you want the other person out of the way, you side with all
the angels of hell who want to destroy God’s image wherever they possibly can.
So, in a sense the only way to avoid the tragedy of Othello, where your mind becomes fixed – it’s a
fixation. It’s like Othello, his mind has a fixation, “Desdemona is unfaith to me.” Your mind gets
a fixation on this person. A fixation of irritability, or impatience, or hatred, or malice, or just
wishing they were clear of you. When that takes place, then you are no longer anything but a harm
to them and a hurt to them. You’re no longer any benefit to them. You’re no longer a minister of
Christ to them.
But even worse than all those things, that’s taking place because you’re not trusting the Father
that he can overrule these things and that he can so fill you with an overflowing joy and love of
him that your heart can express that to even this person. So the Father’s will for us is a high and
holy one, well above murder.
Let us pray.