“As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to those of his household.” (Martin Luther)
The Eighth Commandment
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, or say anything that might ruin his good name and reputation; but we should defend him, speak well of him, and explain all his words and actions in the best possible way.
Bearing false witness against one’s neighbor is not a big problem?
It’s a HUGE problem in politics, advertising, internet services, national and international trade—and it all comes from perverse hearts. The child of God laments his own dirt first of all–whereby we sinners bear false witness, disrespect our neighbor, and allow ourselves other slippage from God’s will.
It’s a problem of the human heart and spirit simply because humans are in love with sinning. The love of sinning generates all sorts of dishonesty and deceitfulness–including this sin of bearing false witness against others. It takes the Holy Spirit to keep us from slipping back into this generic, elemental sin. Lord, have mercy on us!
If we wonder whether all species of deception are included, “not only is lying prohibited but false and unfounded evidence in general; and not only evidence before a judge, but false evidence of every kind, by which the life, married relation, or property of a neighbor might be endangered” (Keil-Delitzsch Commentary, Pentateuch, II, p. 124).
God puts it to us point-blank: “Do not lie to one another” (Colossians 3:9); “Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25); “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren” (James 4:11).
Protecting the good name/reputation of others is not small change, as Shakespeare noted: “He that filches from me my good name robs me of that which enriches him not, and makes me poor indeed” (Othello, III, 3).
Scrolling back to the main point: this sin doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere; it’s generated in the dark corners of a crooked heart. God knows our innards better than we do: “Let none of you [even] think evil in your heart against your neighbor…” (Zechariah 8:16-17).
Let’s admit to the sin of thinking that we are superior to the other fellow—and thus thinking less of him. Our self-indulgence of demeaning the other fellow makes us feel better about ourselves—and that’s plainly sinful pride, one of Satan’s favored deceptions.
It doesn’t require a PhD to know that pride and false witnessing are twin sins! No excuses, please!
So what’s to do? Let us repent, pleading Jesus’ righteousness to sweep away our sin-dirt and beseeching the Holy Spirit to preside over our hearts.
Then let us put this good resolve into practice, knowing that loving others is the key to our keeping this commandment—for loving others enough to protect their good name against slander bolsters their stance with family, neighbors, employer, and with the public in general. That’s what we want for them as well as for ourselves.
We will protect others from slander, defamation, and gossip when the Spirit cultivates in us the attitude that Jesus sponsors: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
When we put ourselves in the other fellow’s shoes, we come to realize that he doesn’t want to be slandered any more than we do; he wants his actions seen in the best possible light just as we want others to view ours; he wants his mistakes to be forgiven just as we want ours forgiven. Our neighbor needs help just as we do—to enjoy good relationships with others.
It’s not that anyone deserves better—for nobody merits charitable treatment—but rather that we are all sinners and all beggars in need of charity.
By the way (and perhaps it’s a main point, after all), you may have noticed that the first and foremost of Satan’s trickery was to bear false witness against God!
He maligned God’s person and defamed God’s character with a bald-faced lie to His children. When Adam/Eve fell for it, they committed the primordial sin–the sin of disbelieving/discrediting God.
The angels wept, and God raised His fist. He would not surrender His children to Satan, to perish via their disbelief in/of His inherent goodness and love for them.
How to go about doing it?
First off, He would bring humans to see Satan as their enemy, changing their companionship with Satan into animosity against him. Cameraderie would be changed to dislike; friendship to hostility. “I will put enmity between you and the woman…” (Genesis 3:15).
Next, God would send His great Champion to squash Satan’s control over humans: “I will put enmity…between her Seed and your seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).
Satan has a nemesis, and He’s Jesus, our Savior. Hallelujah!
In sum: our heavenly Father brought restoration to His dear children with the Truth about the Seed who would undo the murder done to their souls, restoring them to Life and resetting their Way-ward compass—all of which is encapsulated in Jesus’ wonderful declaration: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).
Indeed, the Eighth Commandment carries rich food for our souls.
All praise be to Jesus for rescuing us from Satan’s false witness against our heavenly Father, for strengthening and nurturing us via the Truth of God’s Word, and for forgiving all the iniquity we commit in thought, word, and deed against our neighbor.
Lord Jesus, please stay by our side today and always! Amen.