Sermon Notes on the 8th Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
What is your most valuable personal possession? Not your car, house, clothing, or wedding ring.
Much more valuable, can be stolen at any time. No laws against theft, no insurance.
What is it? Your reputation. What people think about you.
Can't buy. Only earned. Consistent good behavior and fairness.
Your reputation is priceless. God values too. This commandment. Takes a whole lifetime to establish. Takes a few careless words to destroy.
Example: If I say Jim Wright is a fine man, you agree or disagree. but If I say Jim Wright is a scoundrel, steals from plate, you think little of him, stop giving to God, and want him put out of the pulpit. You won't listen to his preaching, tell others your church has problems, they won't come. All this because of a few careless words.
America is obsessed with dirt. Check outs. Jessica and Nicks breakup, Jennifer, Brad and Anjolina. Poor Princess Di. Ten years. And they call this business. Apparently America wants to hear all the dirt.
God detests this, so he gave us this commandment. We should never say hurtful things about other people, no matter what. If we are hurt, the only person we should go to is the one who is responsible. We care about his soul that he repent and be forgiven. But oh no! We have to poison air with deceitful words. We show ourselves more evil than they.
Luther said if we really have been hurt, we should take it to the judge who is appointed by God to decide. If not, then bury it and forget.
It's not enough to just not say bad things. We are called upon to defend others. When they are run down, we speak up for them, or leave the discussion. Turn conversation by mentioning good things. Don't be deceived. Sooner or later you will be the topic of such discussion. Your reputation will be the one being dismantled. You should expect no better treatment than the one you give to others.
Some people have real problem with telling the truth. In life they missed important lesson. Once lie leads to another, until caught in a spider web.
There are laws against lying. Courts. Business report accurately. Retail represent products and guarantees.
But government doesn't regulate what comes out of mouths in our private conversations. You see to it.
Now we Lutherans are particularly vulnerable to violating this commandment without knowing it. I notice that my people know the other commandments and make a good effort. No other gods. Sabbath, authority. Sex. Stealing.
They know its wrong to lie, but if someone did something wrong, then it's open season to criticize them behind their back and sabotage their reputation. "Well, after all, it's the truth!"
Yes, it may well be the truth. But if every sin you ever did was put on public display, you'd have no job, no family, friends, and likely be driven out of town!
There's slander, and then there's gossip. Slander is when you say something about someone that isn't true in order to destroy his or her reputation. Gossip is when you pass on damaging info, true or false.
Psalm 141:3 says, "Set a watch over my mouth, O Lord, and guard the door of my lips." We fall into this sin so often and easily that left to ourselves there is no hope for ourselves. We fall under the condemnation of a Holy God who demands that we not soil our lips with unclean words.
Think of Jesus, how at his trial they said all kinds of false things—he's a rebel, insurrectionist, terrorist—plotted to tear down the Jerusalem temple itself, symbol of the nation. But he offered no reply. He trusted God's judgment.
So we can also trust in our heavenly father. There's no reason to ever tell a lie of any kind. There's no reason to pass on information that will hurt the reputation of someone else, unless we are sent by God to pass judgment on them in some official capacity.
And with your own reputation? Don't worry what other people think. Just strive to live a righteous life. Give a good witness to your faith in what you do and say. When you fail, confess your sins, to God and to those you harmed. Seek their forgiveness and go on, determined to do better next time.
There's a lot of hurtful things said in daily life. At work, especially in the family. Sometimes I can't believe how people talk to each other. Comments, accusations, words spoken in anger.
Forgive us, Lord. we hurt the one's we love the most. Show us how to express our love in words.
It's spring and plants are waking up. I see the daffodils and hyacinth. You wouldn't step on them and expect them to bloom, would you?
So also the people God has planted in our lives. We are all young plants in God's garden. It remains to be seen what we will become. Some will become tall strong trees. Others will be fruitful, providing nourishing good works to others. Some will bear beautiful flowers. Sweet smelling.
Treat people with care. Speak kind words, building up, not tearing down.
The Catechism says: Put the best construction on everything. Explain everything in the kindest way. Let the authorities sort it out. That's not our job. Trust God. Let your mouth produce good fruit, but if you can't, then remember Jesus' words, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
Proverbs 11:13 "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." In Christ all our sins have been covered over and buried. We are free. We all have the power now to protect the reputation of other people God loves very much. We can be the kind of place where people can experience the love of God. Let's all do that, with Jesus as our example.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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