The Large Catechism
I.5. The Fifth Commandment
Thou shalt not kill.
We have now completed both the spiritual and the temporal government, that is,
the divine and the paternal authority and obedience. But here now we go forth
from our house among our neighbors to learn how we should live with one
another, every one himself toward his neighbor. Therefore God and government
are not included in this commandment nor is the power to kill, which they have
taken away. For God has delegated His authority to punish evil-doers to the
government instead of parents, who aforetime (as we read in Moses) were
required to bring their own children to judgment and sentence them to death.
Therefore, what is here forbidden is forbidden to the individual in his relation to
any one else, and not to the government.
Now this commandment is easy enough and has been often treated, because we
hear it annually in the Gospel of St. Matthew, 5, 21 ff., where Christ Himself
explains and sums it up, namely, that we must not kill neither with hand, heart,
mouth, signs, gestures, help, nor counsel. Therefore it is here forbidden to every
one to be angry, except those (as we said) who are in the place of God, that is,
parents and the government. For it is proper for God and for every one who is in
a divine estate to be angry, to reprove and punish, namely, on account of those
very persons who transgress this and the other commandments.
But the cause and need of this commandment is that God well knows that the
world is evil, and that this life has much unhappiness; therefore He has placed
this and the other commandments between the good and the evil. Now, as there
are many assaults upon all commandments, so it happens also in this
commandment that we must live among many people who do us harm, so that
we have cause to be hostile to them.
As when your neighbor sees that you have a better house and home [a larger
family and more fertile fields], greater possessions and fortune from God than he,
he is sulky, envies you, and speaks no good of you.
Thus by the devil's incitement you will get many enemies who cannot bear to see
you have any good, either bodily or spiritual. When we see such people, our
hearts, in turn, would rage and bleed and take vengeance. Then there arise
cursing and blows, from which follow finally misery and murder. Here, now, God
like a kind father steps in ahead of Us, interposes and wishes to have the quarrel
settled, that no misfortune come of it, nor one destroy another. And briefly He
would hereby protect, set free, and keep in peace every one against the crime