What Does the Bible Say About Hurting Others?

Hurting others is unfortunately a common occurrence in our fallen world. We see violence, abuse, bullying, discrimination, oppression and many other forms of hurting others each day. As Christians, what does God say about how we should think about and respond to hurting others? The Bible provides much wisdom and insight on this important topic. In this comprehensive overview, we will explore key biblical principles about hurting others and how God calls us to live.


The Bible makes it clear that we are called to love others, including our enemies. We are not to seek revenge against those who hurt us but to forgive them. However, hurting others is clearly portrayed as sinful and against God’s standards of righteousness. There are consequences for hurting others, both on earth and eternally. As Christians, we must resist the temptation to hurt others, even when we feel justified in doing so. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and treat others as we would want to be treated.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hurting others is portrayed as sinful throughout Scripture
  • We are called to love others, including our enemies
  • Revenge is forbidden, we should forgive those who hurt us
  • There are earthly and eternal consequences for hurting others
  • We must resist the temptation to hurt others even if we feel justified
  • Loving our neighbor as ourself prohibits hurting others

With this foundation established, let us explore in depth what the Bible teaches about hurting others. We will examine specific verses and passages that provide wisdom and instruction for Christians.

What Does the Bible Say About Hurting Others?

Old Testament Teachings on Hurting Others

The Old Testament provides the foundation for understanding how God views hurting others. The Ten Commandments established clear standards for how the Israelites were to treat fellow human beings.

Do Not Murder

The sixth commandment given to Moses states plainly: “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13, NKJV) Murder is the ultimate act of hurting another human being. God explicitly prohibited this heinous sin as part of his holy standards for his people. Life is precious and created in God’s image. Murder is a grave offense against God’s standards.

Do Not Bear False Witness

The ninth commandment instructs: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) Bearing false witness involves hurting others through dishonesty, misrepresentation or slander. Harming others’ reputations or attacking them falsely with our words is sinful according to God’s law.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

Leviticus 19:18 contains the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This principle was considered a summary of God’s laws toward others. Intentionally hurting others clearly violates the call to love our neighbors as ourselves. We should treat others with the same care and respect we would desire for ourselves.

Exodus 21 on Personal Injury

Exodus 21 lays out various laws regarding personal injury and harm caused to others. For example:

  • An owner of a dangerous ox that killed someone would be put to death himself (v. 29)
  • Assault leading to injury brought punishment proportionate to the harm caused (vv. 18-19)
  • Killing someone in a fight brought the death penalty (v. 12)

These and other examples show that God took intentional harm against others very seriously. Harming another person brought swift and severe consequences under God’s law.

Do Not Take Revenge

God’s law prohibited personal vengeance and retribution:

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18, NKJV)

“Say to them: ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (Ezekiel 33:11)

These and other passages demonstrate that God did not intend for individuals to “pay back” those who hurt them. Rather, they were to trust that God is just and will ultimately make all things right.

Summary of Old Testament Teachings

From the Ten Commandments to the OT Law, we see clear prohibitions against murder, false witness, and intentionally harming others. Loving others was central to obeying God. God severely punished those who assaulted and harmed others. Revenge and retribution were forbidden, as God desires people to turn from evil and make things right. Overall, the Old Testament portrays hurting others as a grave sin.

Jesus’ Teachings on Hurting Others

Jesus took the Old Testament commands about harming others even further. He emphasized loving enemies, leaving judgment to God and condemning religious hypocrisy that leads to hurting others.

Love Your Enemies

In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus took the Old Testament command to “love your neighbor as yourself” even further:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven… Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us is Kingdom living. It reflects the very heart and character of God. This revolutionary command leaves no room for harming even those we may consider enemies.

Turn the Other Cheek

Jesus also instructed his followers not to retaliate against violence:

“But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also…But I say to you, do not resist an evil person. But whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” (Matthew 5:39)

Our natural inclination may be to strike back when hurt or offended. But Jesus commanded a different response – nonviolence, mercy and extending grace. This undermines the cycle of revenge that easily perpetuates harming others.

Restoring Relationships

In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus urged making things right with others before bringing your gift to the altar. Seeking restoration of relationships and reconciliation after conflict prevents ongoing hurts between brethren.

Judging Others

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

We are called to judge ourselves, leaving ultimate judgment of others’ motives and behaviors to God alone. When we judge, attack or treat others harshly we often do more harm than good.

Religious Hypocrisy

Jesus pronounced some of his harshest rebukes against the Pharisees for religious hypocrisy that “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men” and made their proselytes “twice as much a son of hell” as themselves (Matthew 23:13-15). Outwardly religious people often harm others viewing them as morally inferior. But Jesus saw through outward appearances to the heart.

Summary of Jesus’ Teachings

Jesus took the Old Testament prohibitions against harming others to a radical degree – calling us to love our enemies, refrain from judgment, restore relationships, and avoid religious hypocrisy and actions that may cause others to stumble. His life modeled caring for the marginalized and outcast. The New Testament continues this focus on loving others.

Apostolic Instructions on Hurting Others

The apostles continued Jesus’ instructions to the early church on how believers must refrain from harming others. Their writings firmly condemned harming others while commanding love, grace and restoration.

Romans 12 on Living Peaceably

“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves…for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:17-19)

This passage summarizes the Christian ethic regarding harming others. We leave vengeance to the Lord, repay evil with good, and pursue peace with others as much as possible.

Love Fulfills the Law

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments … are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10)

Loving others fulfills the heart and intent of God’s law. Love does no harm to others, and therefore following biblical love fulfills what God desires.


The New Testament contains grave warnings about harming others and causing others to stumble:

  • “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (Mark 9:42)
  • “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! (Luke 17:1)
  • “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. (Mark 9:42)
  • ” And if anyone causes an offense to one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

These passages warn believers in the absolute strongest terms against causing harm to children and immature believers. But the principles logically apply to harming anyone made in God’s image. Such warnings should give us all pause about being careful to never hurt or lead others towards harm.

More Apostolic Instructions on Not Harming Others

The remainder of the New Testament teaches consistently about avoiding harm:

  • “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
  • “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)
  • “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)
  • “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)
  • James 3:1-18 strongly warns against the danger of the tongue and using it to curse others.
  • 1 Peter 3:8-9 commands: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing…”

From start to finish, the New Testament strongly prohibits speaking ill to or about others, spreading rumors, lying, angry outbursts, malice, bitterness, and evil of any kind. Christians are consistently called to compassion, grace, tenderness and blessing – even in response to mistreatment.

Responding to Hurting Others as Christians

Given the strong and consistent biblical commands against harming others from Genesis to Revelation, how must Christians respond when we become aware of hurting others? Several key principles emerge:


If we realize we have harmed others, we must sincerely repent before God. We should seek His forgiveness and ask Him to help us make amends.

Making Amends

Where possible, we need to take practical steps to repair broken relationships and correct lies, gossip or other sinful actions on our part. This may involve apologies, correcting lies we have told, asking forgiveness and changing hurtful habits by God’s power.

Guarding Our Hearts

We must guard our hearts against hatred, bitterness, desire for revenge and other roots of hurting others. We should pray for grace to forgive those who hurt us. Ongoing temptation to harm others must be resisted.

Walking in Love

Rather than hurt others, we are called to overcome evil with good, bless those who persecute us, love our enemies and serve others in Christlike humility. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16)


This comprehensive survey demonstrates that the Bible is unified in portraying hurting others as morally wrong and contrary to God’s standards. From the Ten Commandments through the New Testament, we are consistently called to love others, refrain from harm, leave judgment to God, seek reconciliation when needed and overcome evil with good. Jesus took these principles to radical heights in His teachings and example. When we hurt others either intentionally or unintentionally, we are called to repentance, making amends, resisting temptation and walking in love and forgiveness by God’s power. Putting these biblical teachings into daily practice is key to honouring Christ and blessing others as God desires.

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