This week we arrive at the Eighth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” And Luther’s explanation reads, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain his actions in the kindest way.”
This commandment can easily be glossed over. After all, on its face it does not seems as dire and sexy as the prohibitions against murder, adultery, and theft. And yet there is a good reason why the eighth is one of the ten!
James in his New Testament letter recognizes the damage that can be done with our tongue. He writes that even though the tongue is a small member of our bodies, it can do hellish work. He reminds his readers that a large fire can start with the single strike of a match.
Interestingly, God is interested in protecting our reputations! He knows that having a good reputation is essential if a person is to have a chance at friendships, at being gainfully employed, and of living as a trusted member of a community. So when we malign someone’s good name, the indirect damaged caused can eventually result in emotional and physical harm.
Also noteworthy is the Second Commandment which protects the Lord’s name, and the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer wherein we ask that we hallow God’s name. After protecting his own Good Name, God commands that we honor and do all that we can to see that our neighbor’s name be reputable.
This does not mean that we lie about the evil our neighbor does. God appoints authorities to deal with wrongdoers. And there may be instances in cooperating with these authorities that we need to bear truthful testimony. But this does not open the door to gossiping and being busybodies.
Most, if not all, of us are guilty of sinning here. We therefore should confess the same and ask for Christ’s forgiveness!
Since You Asked…
What is meant by the term “liturgy”?
(from the Greek, “work of the people”): more than a set form of service or one particular service, the liturgy is the whole body of texts and music used for the worship of God. The Lutheran Book of Worship is the liturgy of many Lutheran churches in North America. (from “Manual on the Liturgy” companion to the LBW, from Augsburg Pub.)
Our Lutheran liturgy involves the participation of all who are gathered: clergy, laity, and worship leaders along with the rest of the congregation. Worship is not a spectator sport. It is an act of reverence, and of offering praise and thanksgiving to our Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Liturgical worship helps us to share in this act.