The Fifth Commandment and Reckless Behavior

Thou Shalt not Kill. Many think we’ve probably got that one down. Most of us don’t routinely kill other people each day or even once in a lifetime. So, on to the next commandment! Well….not so fast.

First of all, Jesus warns that the heart of the 5th Commandment not to kill includes not only the act of killing but also the things that lead up to killing. He uses the example of holding on to vengeful anger (cf Matt. 5:22) and of hateful attitudes that depersonalize and dehumanize others (cf Matt 5:22). In some of these matters we may all fall short from time to time. We may not actually have killed but our anger or hatred can be such that some one “might as well be dead for all we care.” We can get to the point where we stop reverencing the dignity of another’s’ life and in this we have transgressed the heart of the 5th commandment according to Jesus.

A second and even more common way we might transgress the 5th Commandment is reckless behavior that endangers the life of others. The most common form of this is reckless driving and also “distracted driving.” Excessive speeding and erratic lane shifting, blowing through stop lights, texting while driving, excessive chatter and banter with other passengers, drunk driving and so forth are all ways we can endanger the lives of others. The catechism teaches the following regarding reckless behavior:

Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reason, he acted in a way that brings about some one’s death, even without the intention of doing so. (CCC 2269).

The following video is difficult to watch. It is NOT for the faint of heart. But it is meant to strongly admonish especially the young, but also the not so young, that distracted driving can have awful consequences. If we are not serious about driving safely then we are reckless and endanger the lives of others. This is a violation of the respect for life demanded by the 5th Commandment.

Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell

st-francis-with-skullTraditional Catholic theology has distinguished the “Four Last Things” : Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. We are admonished to meditate upon these things frequently. We WILL die, be judged, and spend eternity either in Hell, or in Heaven (likely after some time in purgatory). All men are appointed to die once, and after that face The judgment (Hebrews 9:27) A remarkable video was just posted  of a song by Johnny Cash on the topic of judgment. Here are some of the words:

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Go tell that long tongue liar, go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut ’em down.

We will all one day die, or as the song puts it, be cut down. We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (cf 2 Cor 5:10;  Heb 4:13; 1 Peter 4:5).

The reality of judgment and the possibility of Hell bothers a lot of modern Christians who have had God’s love emphasized to the exclusion of just about everything else about God. For example that He is Truth, and utterly Holy, that nothing unholy can tolerate His presence and so forth.

How to explain the possibility of Hell to a generation with a rather simplified notion of God? Perhaps the word “respect” can help. God want to save us all and have us live with him forever. This is clear in Scripture. But God has made us free and wants us to freely love Him and accept His invitation. This is His respect for our freedom. Now everyone want to go to heaven as they describe it. But NOT EVERYONE wants to go to real heaven which is God’s Kingdom in perfection. You see, in heaven, God’s Kingdom,  there is love for the truth, love for chastity, love for the poor, love for justice, love for one another, mercy and forgiveness are esteemed and God is at the center. But NOT EVERYONE wants these things. Not everyone wants the truth, wants to be chaste, not everyone wants to forgive and love everyone. Not everyone wants God to be at the center, they prefer that spot for themselves or some other idol. So God invites. But not all accept. In the end, God respects our choice and this is why there is Hell, it is for those who do not want what the Kingdom of God is. God still sustains the souls in Hell but he ultimately respects their choice to reject the Kingdom and its values.

So death is on the way, sooner or later we will all be cut down. What is it that you want??

Ponder this video: