Critics of Christianity sometimes point to passages in the Bible where God takes human life, and they ask, “Isn’t God breaking his own commandment to not kill?” If God can ignore the sixth commandment, then isn’t it hypocritical for him to expect us to obey it?
Does this argument really work, though? No. It fails in multiple ways.
First, the sixth commandment is not a blanket command to never take human life. It is a command to not take human life without proper justification. This can be clearly seen by reading the commandment in context with the rest of the Bible. God allows human life to be taken in self-defense and he upholds the right of the state to administer capital punishment. Clearly, then, the sixth commandment does not simply mean, “Never kill for any reason whatsoever.”
Second, the ten commandments were God’s commands to mankind, so they are not to be applied to God in the same way they are applied to us. God is infinite in being; we are not. God is the first cause of everything that exists; we are not. God is the creator (efficient cause) of human life; we are not. God is all-knowing; we are not. God is all-wise; we are not.
Third, since God possesses divine attributes that we do not possess, it is a gross error to compare God’s taking human life with our taking human life. As the guarantor of life after death, philosopher Paul Copan reminds us that “any harm caused [by God] due to specific purposes in a specific context would be overshadowed by divine benefits in the afterlife.”
This is a crucial point: God promises an afterlife for everyone. Only he can do that, as no human has that power. As the all-wise, all-knowing guarantor of the afterlife, he is uniquely justified in taking human life.
Analogously, we grant judges the power to send people to prison because they are in a unique position to know the facts of the case, and they are uniquely trained to know and administer the law. We don’t allow random citizens to sentence criminals, as they lack the knowledge and experience to imprison people in a just way. Power over human life is granted depending on the knowledge and wisdom of the one who would be in power.
Why can’t we kill? Because we lack God’s knowledge, his wisdom, and his creative power. We are finite beings who see through a glass darkly. That is why we leave life and death decisions to God.