Today, I am continuing the series on, Reading the Bible. This post looks at the purpose of the commandments.

The sixth commandment tells us, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). While this seems to be an unequivocal directive, we find there are times when murder is permitted, such as self-defence (Exodus 22:2), during warfare (Deuteronomy 20:16-18), and capital punishment (Exodus 21:12-14). These verses also make provision for accidental deaths.

However, these are rare occasions and not the norm. The commandment recognizes that life is valuable and we are to protect life as far as possible, sometimes to our own detriment.

Likewise the ninth commandment, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16) seems to be an unequivocal commandment.

God calls his people to a high level of truth-telling. The emphasis here is on not destroying someone’s reputation through character assassination, perjury or the like.

Elsewhere we are told, “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:11-12).

Likewise, Paul tells the Colossians, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9). The theme is to live in harmony with one another. In order to develop good relationships, we are to be people of integrity whose words can be trusted. Paul also encourages us to, “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) which is a sign of maturity.

These exhortations are about building relationships where we can be honest with one another and experience a deep sense of companionship. We can belong to a community of believers where we go beyond sharing at a superficial level and discover the support and encouragement of other believers.

Next time we want to look at times when Christians have lied and yet kept the commandment. One example is Christians who hid Jews during World War 2.