October 24, 2017

Open Mic: What If?

From Chaplain Mike.

A difficult conversation today brought to mind Luther’s Small Catechism and what it has to say about the Eighth Commandment:

The Eighth Commandment.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

What does this mean?

Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.

Our Open Mic question today is a practical one:

How do you think your life and mine would be different if we lived by this standard? What would it be like in Christian congregations? How might our relationships with our neighbors and the world in general change?

I know the first thing I would do—cry out to God for mercy, using Isaiah’s prayer: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…” (Isa 6.5)

Your turn.

Comments

  1. One thing that I really appreciate about Luther’s Small Catechism is that Luther has both a “negative” and a “positive”. The “negative is “that we may not …” and the positive “but defend him, speak well of him …”.

    As for following this: “Lord have mercy on me a poor miserable sinner”.

  2. Not to quibble, but can the 8th commandment really withstand Luther’s gloss?

    Yet James’ epistle makes the same point about reining in the power of the tongue, and see Paul in I Corinthians 13 and elsewhere. Were we to follow such advice, our lives (and consciences) would be considerably less stained. How well I need to take it.

  3. Well, for starters, Rush Limbaugh would be out of a job. (Shameless potshot, I know)

    But seriously, no one needs to remember this more than me. Too many times I push people away because of my words.

  4. Back during Advent, someone in my community mentioned that he was ignoring the news for a while in an effort not to fall into the sin of gossiping. He noted that this was what a great deal of “human interest” and celebrity news seems to spend its time doing.

    I hadn’t thought much about it before, but it’s true: there’s a great deal of idle speculation and myth-spinning in both the media and in face-to-face human communities. We take it for granted, but it probably does more harm than most other sin combined.

    • So true! That’s a big reason I’ve stopped watching local news and only read local papers – this way I can skip all the gossip-type stories and celebrity news.

      Since the damage caused as a direct result of gossip or bad-mouthing our neighbors is so rarely seen it’s easy to rationalize doing it. But I wouldn’t at all be surprised if you’re right that “it probably does more harm than most other sin combined”!

  5. Martin Luther’s interpretation is interesting but, to me, seems to overinterpret the Scripture. Sometimes God means exactly what he says in a very literal fashion, no more and no less. The Commandment says nothing about defending the neighbor, speaking well of him, thinking well of him or “putting the best construction on everything.” All those things are good and consistent with other parts of the Scripture but is this really what the 8th Commandment says?

    • Neglecting to tell a whole, complete and utterly factual story is as damaging to our neighbor and to the truth, as an outright lie. Such as withholding evidence.

      • Good comment! I appreciate your thoughts and can’t disagree with them in a vacuum, I just don’t agree that this is a correct interpretation of this passage. I’m a long time attorney with a few seminary courses under my belt so I claim no theological expertise. In law there is a doctrinecalled stare decisis which generally applies a narrow meaning to cases rather than a broad meaning. I probably err on the side of this legal doctrine in my interpretation of Scripture.

        I think a lot of evangelical churches study scripture on a verse by verse basis and with this “micro” approach, use the small passage of Scripture as an excuse for a small morality play while ignoring the major themes of Scripture. It’s very easy to look at a few verses and then jump to the “significance” while ignoring the “meaning”. The “significance” is the application to our lives. Everything you have said makes sense in terms of an application.

        I’d like to hear how the plain text of the commandment means something more than it says, either from a theological, cultural or historical context.

        • Tom, I think what Luther has done here is to take into account “the major themes of Scripture,” at least the ethical ones. By drawing out the positive aspects of virtuous speech as well as the negative commandment, he has brought NT morality to light. His approach reminds me of Paul in Eph. 4.

        • “I probably err on the side of this legal doctrine in my interpretation of Scripture.”

          Oh, so you ARE a legalist….bad joke..bad joke…

          Tom, I think Mike’s on target here. Luther is simply bringing out all shades and hues of the 8th commandment by exhorting and admonishing mike like Paul did.

        • Tom H

          Keep in mind what Luther was trying to do. At the time of the Reformation, even many priests were illiterate and ignorant of the scriptures. The plight of the common people was worse. Luther rolled up all of the Scriptural teachings pertinent to a particular commandent into one pithy statement so he could teach the sum of the Christian faith in a direct and simple way.

          Also he followed the example of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus takes the commandments against murder and adultery and ‘fills them out’ so to speak with prohibitions against hatred and lustful thoughts.

        • Think of it as dicta, not a legal opinion.

          • Boethius, alas! I am human, and vain of my own opinion, and naturally prone toat least five out of the seven deadly sins (envy and covetousness are the only two I can say are not mine, and that’s no virtue on my own part), and take things personally, and am very bad at handling criticism.

            So yes, there are people I dislike, which is a failure of love in me.

        • Okay, I know I’m asking to get jumped on with this, but remember: Luther may have been one of the first Protestants, but he was also one of the last Catholics.

          He is saying here more or less what I learned from the nuns when they taught us our catechism; offences against the eighth commandment include gossip, slander, backbiting and calumny, spreading rumours. Moreover, the positive side of the injunction means that if we hear someone being slandered or gossiped about, we must stick up for them, uphold their good name, and put the most charitable interpretation on their behaviour. Which means that if Mrs. Smith says “Oh, I saw Joe Jones staggering in the street this morning – isn’t it shocking for a man to be drunk so early in the day!”, then we are obligated to say in defence of Joe that unless she knows for a fact that he was drunk, and not (for example) suffering an attack of giddiness or a diabetic crisis or the like, she cannot assume that abuse of alcohol is responsible. And even if she does know for a solid fact that he was drunk, she should not repeat such tittle-tattle.

          I’ve actually had a concrete example of this to struggle with; having picked up a juicy piece of gossip about someone I don’t like, the temptation to pass it on – even though I have no means of verifying if it’s true or not – in order to expose that person to ridicule was really hard to beat down. Until that particular instance, I would have said “Oh, no, *I’m* never going to engage in malicious gossip!”

          If it wasn’t for the nuns when I was twelve teaching me better… 😉

          Anyone interested in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this can follow this link:

          http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a8.htm

        • MAJ Tony says:

          IOW, their use of scripture is “tree-based” and doens’t take into account the fact that the “trees” (verses) are part of a minor eco-system known as a “woods” (book) which in this case is a part of a major eco-system known as a “forest” (bible). No tree standing alone tends to have much impact on the ecosystem, major or minor. BTW, I thought stare decisis (fr. Lat. “to stand by decided matters” was mostly related to legal precedent. I guess what you’re saying is the precedent is defined, and thus applied, narrowly.

    • Slandering someone at work, school, or church is basically lying about someone’s character to make him or her look bad. Besides, not defending the good name of your neighbor is the breaking of the 2nd greatest command given by our Lord (love thy neighbor as yourself).

  6. Martin Luther’s gloss does fit the spirit of the commandment, however. Note that Luther didn’t say, lie through your teeth to make your neighbor seem to be someone noble and heroic, when he is in fact quite mean. He seems to be suggesting something closer to speaking less and speaking gently — assuming the better of the possible explanations, rather than speculating endlessly on the negative. Human nature tends to focus on the negative and sensational, often making a big deal out of a small truth or a complete fabrication. This is false witness in the informal sense (the formal sense would, I suppose, involve attacking someone before a gov’t or court of law). To avoid it, we have to substitute a positive social activity: speaking constructively.

  7. JoanieD says:

    I had not heard of Luther’s “Small Cathechism” until spending time on this blog ,but whenever I have read things about it or from it, I am impressed. I like what Luther had to say about the 8th Commandment very much. When I was in the fourth grade, I learned the lesson of the 8th Commandment very well. I was speaking badly of a friend to another friend while in a bathroom stall. I didn’t know that the friend I was speakly badly about was in still another stall! I remember how horribly I felt when I saw how hurt her feelings were. I don’t know that I said something “false” about her, but whatever it was I said was hurtful. After that, I really tried not to speak badly of people at all. BUT…when I hear things like during the Rwandan Civil War between the Tutsi and Hutu people and some men went into an orphanage and took whatever food was there for the children, I said BAD things about those people! I fantasized about the horrible things that should be done to those men. I guess it would have been better to pray for those men, but that was not my first thought. I know that is an extreme example, but I guess it is when I see people being unfair and cruel to others that I get angry and that I would say unkind things. Probably not many of you would say that is a bad thing, but if it is not done in love, it’s not a good thing.

    I guess the situation we are more familiar with is when people get in our way, interrupt our plans, or just make us feel somehow “less than.” It’s those people that we are apt to not “speak well” about. And it’s those situations that I should watch out for.

    • Joanie, I don’t think you should be too hard on yourself about expressing anger toward those who practice genocide or steal food from orphans. In his letter to the church in Galatia. Paul had some very angry words for those Jews who were subverting the purity of the gospel — going so far as to suggest that they castrate themselves. I think there is such a thing as righteous anger — an anger that arises from a love for truth and your fellow humans. But you are right. It’s in those matters of petty slights and common human imperfections — things well within the scope of the grace and mercy Christ has instilled in us through the Spirit — that we most often fail to practice love in our speech.

      • JoanieD says:

        “…going so far as to suggest that they castrate themselves.”

        Hey, RonP, it was something very similar to this that I wished on those men stealing orphans’ food!

  8. Among other areas, this applies to the area of forgiveness. Part of what this means is giving the benefit of the doubt (if you’ll pardon the modern colloquialism). We often fail to forgive because we exaggerate the offense our neighbors commit against us. In other cases we resort to cynicism and minimize the damage caused. Forgiveness means an honest look at our neighbors and their actions, without exaggerating or minimizing their impact, and it also means being willing to follow the Savior’s example of forgiveness.

  9. less b.s. (b**** s***) and more s.b. (simple blessings)

  10. I always wondered why the Apostle Paul said that those who practice “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy” will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20-21). Now that I look at the broader application of the Eighth Commandment I know why Paul said that in his letter.

  11. You might have fewer pastors stressed out if those words were taken to heart. Yes, I am talking in part, but only in part, about myself. I think that every Sunday, week in and week out, I have at least one person come up after worship with a complaint. Most Sundays I have more than one. And, you would be surprised at the list of things with which people are not satisfied. Often they are not even aware that I have had or will have another person come up with the exact, but opposite, complaint.

    All too often, those complaints have to do with a person or persons. I hear how the choir missed too many notes or was not adequately prepared. I hear about how an altar boy was fiddling during the sermon. I hear complaints about people who are complaining during coffee hour. You get the idea.

    I would love to hear balanced well thought out suggestions rather than complaints about volunteer lay people in ministry. I would love to have truth being spoken in love. I would so enjoy us supporting each other, even through our mistakes. I suspect that if this were true, I would have less stress in my life.

    I even suspect that if this were true, I would have less of a tendency to engage in the identical behavior to that which I decry. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

  12. Oh how we fail……

  13. Yahoo! had a post on their home page that discussed people were less honest when they where in dark rooms, seemingly because they assume they weren’t being watched. Read a few blogs on the internet, and you can see how many get downright mean when they think they are anonymous.

    Should I do better at following this commandment? Of course. But imagine if Luther’s explaination of the 8th commandment took over the internet. Web 2.0 would be a completely different experience.

  14. If you trace the act of bearing false witness to its root in fallen human nature, then I would say that root is a condition of heart and mind in which you value self-interest above both the truth and the well-being of your fellow humans. To state it in more biblical terms, bearing false witness is the result of both a failure to love and honor God (as the source of truth) and a failure to love your neighbor as yourself. So the positive opposite of bearing false witness is speech motivated by and arising from both a love for truth and love for your fellow human beings. And I think that it is love-motivated speech that Luther is refering to in the later part of his definition.
    However, it’s in cases where our love for the truth (or what we believe to be the truth) and our love for our fellow humans comes into conflict that we Christians tend to get into trouble. Of course the most common examples of this kind of conflict throughout Christian history have involved doctrinal, theological, or ecclessiological disagreements. And looking at the myriad of divisions within Christendom, I’d have to say that the love of truth (or what each side of the argument believes to be the truth) has been upheld at the expense of the love of our brothers and sisters in Christ more often than not.
    While I would say love of truth rightfully trumps love of neighbor in situations where only one or the other is possible, I think we Christians have far too often failed to make every effort to uphold both together. We let differences of belief or opinion lead to various forms of false witness, such as demonization, slander, and gossip. And while we may do this in the name of truth, we’re actually both failing in our love for each other and undermining truth at the same time. I would also add that we too often allow legalistic nitpickiness and general contentiousness to masquerade as a genuine love for truth.
    So, to answer Mike’s questions, I think that if we Christians did a better job of obeying the eighth commandment then there would be a lot more love and a lot less division within the universal Body of Christ. As far as our relations with the world and secular culture, we’d probably get a mixed bag of greater respect from those who value honesty and increased hatred from those who prefer lies to truth.

  15. Doesn’t the 8th Commandment pretty much have lawsuits and civil/court matters in mind – i.e., where a neighbor has wronged someone or been wronged, one is not to lie about him/her if one is called/asked to testify concerning the matter? Isn’t it a bit of a stretch to apply it the way Luther does? While I’m sure there are other Scriptures that could be used to support speaking well and nicely of others, I’m not sure the 8th Commandment is a proper proof-text for this.

    • Eric,

      We can add gossip, hearsay, and rumors to this list as well. It could be what we say about our neighbor or about our fellow Christian at church. How often do we say “Pastor, there something you need to know about . . “? It’s more than just a “lawsuit” matter. It’s how we review our neighbor.

    • I don’t think the 8th commandment is about the things you mention, either.

      It’s like the “you shall not have two sets of weights/measures” law. I.e., it’s primarily about being honest in one’s testimony about a matter that is brought before the priests or judges re: a wrongdoing.

      While one can apply just about any Scripture to any situation, I think it may be wrong to do with the 8th Commandment what Luther is doing here, if it indeed was primarily about what I described.

      • Eric,

        When you take into consideration how Jesus refers to the commandments (eg. Matthew 22:34-40) it seems the court of law not what our Lord has in mind when he issues the 8th commandment (or any of them).

        Luther’s presupposition is that Christ (and his overall rescue plan) is the center of all Scripture. This allows us to see the Law in light of the Gospel…and provides not only the vertical righteousness that we receive from Christ alone (see Galatians 2-4) but also the horizontal righteousness on how we are to treat our neighbor (see Galatians 5-6).

        This perspective really gives substance to what Jesus is saying in Matthew 22.

      • I think it’s fair to observe that a number of the things said here are not part of the “letter” of the commandment. That said, it seems reasonable that throughout Christianity this commandment has been interpreted to encompass much more.

        In a similar vein notice many of Christ’s “you’ve heard it said before… but I say to you statements” as well as Paul’s enlarging on commandments such as the one about not muzzling the ox while reaping.

        • Eric, I think the 10 Commandments are more like “constitutional’ law–the big principles–rather than “case” law, the individual working out of legal principles in a particular setting. I believe this is the way they are presented in the Bible as well. The Ten Words are engraven in stone by God’s own hand and announced publicly to all Israel. The many, many laws that are later recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers describe specific settings in which the law is applied.

          For example, this commandment, “You shall not bear false witness…,” is given specific application in a passage like Leviticus 19:16-17–“You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.”

          • I have heard that Jewish theologians consider the prophets and the writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecc. etc.) to be commentary on the first five books of the Law.

  16. will f. says:

    Mark says:
    March 3, 2010 at 10:40 pm
    I always wondered why the Apostle Paul said that those who practice “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy” will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20-21). Now that I look at the broader application of the Eighth Commandment I know why Paul said that in his letter.

    I am having problems with seflish ambition and envy. Please, any advice on what I should do.

    • Do you profess yourself to be a believer? If so, do these sins characterize who you are as a pattern of life? All I can tell you is trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Recognize in your mind and heart that he is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and believe that he died on the cross to take away all your sins.

      • Oh, man! Mark, I am a professing believer, and I do trust in Jesus Christ, my only hope.

        Then Patrick Lynch says ‘avoid what makes you sin’ and that is something that I still find so hard. Not pursuing the things that make me stumble, so much of my identity has been bound up in them for so long….

        Textjunkie’s comment was helpful. I KNOW God’s opinion of me isn’t bound up to my career success–so why do these little setbacks rattle me so much? It must be because my identity as a success in my career is too important vs. my identity as child of God.

        I believe wholeheartedly, yet still find it so hard to change my deepset attitudes. On Sunday we sang a song at church that said something like ‘all my ambitions hopes and plans/I surrender into Jesus’ hands’ and I felt like such a phony, because I don’t think I’ve done that completely (although certainly moreso than in the past) and am not sure how to go about it.)
        This really disturbs me.

        • Gordon McNutt says:

          Take a short break from beating yourself up and read John 6:28,29 (that’s right kiddies, it’s Drive-By Scripture Time!). Then, if you still feel so inclined, go back to beating yourself up (maybe it will work for you and then you’ll be the first in the history of the world). Or you might just try this little prayer I learned in Sunday School:

          “Alright already, God! What do you want? Seriously? What exactly do you want from me? Because I’m sick of this! You hear me? I’m sick of it!”

          Works scarily well, in my experience. Or maybe I just need medication.

    • lindsey says:

      “I am having problems with seflish ambition and envy. Please, any advice on what I should do.”

      1. Repent.
      2. Believe that you are forgiven in Christ.
      3. Try to do better.
      4. If you fail (which you almost certainly will eventually), repeat steps 1-3.

    • Well, you could just make sure that you and your spouse and kids and house and job are richer and smarter and better-looking and more talented and bigger and better than everyone else(‘s) in your church and at your job and in your neighborhood and in your family and among your friends and enemies. Then you won’t have anything or anyone to be envious about, or any need for selfish ambition. 🙂

      Just make sure you don’t become a stumbling block for someone else who might now envy you or have selfish ambitions stirred up because of their envy of you or desire to compete with you.

      Seriously, though, “selfish ambition” and “envy” are just symptoms of a single cause – and until you deal with the cause/root, quashing or stifling or “getting rid of” these things will just cause that root cause to manifest itself in other ways and symptoms – e.g., anger, pride, etc.

    • Patrick Lynch says:

      Avoid what leads you to sin. If your beauty or your talents or your intelligence leads you to stumble, don’t pursue them anymore.

      “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

    • MAJ Tony says:

      I can’t disagree with anything anyone has said in reply to this point. I deal with some of these occassionally, like anyone. Every time, I find myself physically and spiritually drained as a result. Probably the best thing anyone can do as remedy and preventative medicine for the soul is to develop a good prayer life. Remember this: spend most of your time LISTENING and let God do the talking. Exercise your soul the same way you exercise you mind and body (or should). Suggest reading the 51st Psalm on a regular basis.

    • textjunkie says:

      You could try, when you find yourself thinking selfish thoughts or wishing you had what someone else had, to think of how God sees you. Ask yourself, “Is this what God wants for me? Is this in keeping with the commandments to love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself?” If not, then what can you do differently? Think of it from God’s perspective insofar as you can.

  17. I think we’d make far fewer judgments and ask a lot more questions.

  18. Boethius says:

    In order for the commandment to be applied truth, it must apply to all situations including court testimonies and local gossip. Dietrich Boenhoffer spoke out against Hitler and Nazism. It was not rumor or false testimony. It was not slanderous. It was true that his “neighbor” was wrong. The issue is not to think positively about a particular person but to speak out against atrocities truthfully. Pray for them to stop acting badly. Try to reason with them to change their ways. Just don’t add to or subtract from your criticisms in order to win the argument. State the facts and only the facts regarding their behaviors. Speaking the truth in love sometimes requires a person, a Christian, to speak out against someone for the good of others.

  19. Yeah, I’d probably care what Luther said about this if he’d followed his own direction first.

    • He did struggle at times with his tongue, didn’t he? Me too.

      • Struggling with certain sins as a true believer and being characterized by them as a way of life as a false believer are two very different things. Luther may have struggled at times with his tongue but that just goes to show you that even with true born-again believers the flesh contends with the Spirit in an intense battle. This is also exemplified in the lives of Lot, Samson, and some of the Corinthian believers (1 Cor 3:1-3; 11:30) which the biblical witness appears to suggest that they were saved. However, if a person professes to be a Christian yet continues to be characterized by the sins listed in the Pauline vice list (Rom 1:29-31; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5; Col 3:5) coupled with the lack of doing what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) reveals that the person in question is not a truly regenerated believer and must be warned that he or she is not on the way to heaven but to hell.

        • Mark, your approach will steal assurance away from a multitude of sensitive believers. Our righteousness is in Christ alone, not in what we see in the mirror, or in what others say about us.

          • Mike, as much as a I respect your opinion, I must disagree. Just look at 1 John alone and you will see that assurance is partially dependent upon how we live as Christians.

            • Your interpretation of 1John fails to take into account that its warnings were written with regard to a Gnostic cult. They weren’t “false believers;” they didn’t believe in the real Jesus. Their libertine lifestyle reflected their cult beliefs. 1John does not question the assurance of those who have Jesus: “He who has the Son has the life.”

              • I realize that John was writing with the context that the gnostic antinomians had infiltrated the church he was writing to. However, that does not draw away from the fact that John tells his readers what true believers are supposed to look like: they acknowledge they are still sinners, they walk in the light, they do not hate their spiritual brothers and sisters, they do not love the world but instead do God’s will, they walk in the truth that Jesus Christ was truly in the flesh, and they do not sin as a way of life or practice. I don’t know about you, but John surely gives lots of tests to see if his readers are true believers or not. Paul also told the Corinthians to test themselves to see if they are in the faith. I don’t know why it is such a wrong thing to constantly examine ourselves to see if we are truly regenerate. In fact, I find it much more spiritually dangerous to give people who profess to be Christians a free ticket to assurance when they are actually on the road to eternal destruction.

                • We’re far afield from the post here, Mark. Let’s agree to disagree at this point.

                  I will be posting a classic iMonk post on assurance later today. Feel free to interact with it.

          • MAJ Tony says:

            Yes, but what would Jesus have told that person, AFTER saying He did not condemn them?

            To Mark and Chaplain Mike: this is one of the errors of extrinsic justification (which is the belief that God merely imputes, but does not impart, justification on men, as if God could not do as he willed.) Nothing we do will save us, but are we saved if our fruits do not evidence it? I would submit that you can’t steal assurance away, but based on Phil 2:12-13, you are assured of nothing if your fruits do not evidence it. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Those who are “working out their salvation in fear and trembling do so because God is working in them. God is not going to push Himself on anyone (can but won’t) so when we surrender to His Holy Will, He works in us accordingly, including as per Phil 2:12-13. To believe otherwise, is that not self-deception?

  20. One must recognize their weakness and wretchedness…and cry out for God’s mercy. I would ernestly pray for the spirit of God to cleanes me of all my wretchedness because in Me dwells no good thing.
    He has giving me Holy Spirit to help me through this process moment by moment…in abiding in Him and trusting Who He is as my Father that deeply love me.
    God is Faithful and hears the woes of my cries and the yearning to live a holy and pure life for Him Alone.
    We should never slander, speak evil of no one, defame others…
    But with the help of Holy Spirit lay our life down for other whom Jesus died for and created in His image and likness….Christ dwells in those who are redeemed and washed with His blood.

    By His grace, I am able to keep His commandments and only God alone can do this work of transformation….

  21. So Luther didn’t follow the Protestant ordering of the Ten Commandments? You write 8th Commandment and I think thou shalt not steal. It’s ingrained.

    • Lutherans use the same “numbering” as the Roman Church does. Of course, the Reformed and the Orthodox each have their own system as well. The Jewish Talmudic tradition is another. Of course we all know that the Jewish systems is the correct system since it was God who gave it to them in the first place.

      The sad fact is the many Christians cannot tell you want the 10 Commandments are.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments

      • JoanieD says:

        Thanks, Steve, for that link to the wikipedia page. I did not realize that Lutherans and Catholics do the 10 Commandments differently from Anglican, Reformed and Other Christian as shown in a chart there.

      • Thanks for the link. I find it interesting that Islam also has a similar collection of commandments. Perhaps God spoke through Muhammed as well …

    • David, I’d say rather that the “Protestant Ordering” did not follow Luther…or rather Catholic ordering the Commandments, as handed down by St Augustine. Hmm, Augustine…whom else would Luther have looked to for this? 🙂

  22. I’ve always viewed “false witness” in the light of personal disputes. Honest and just settlements (fairness is in the eye of the beholder) of disputes among neighbors is nigh impossible if each person is exagerating or even lying to make themselves out to be the bigger victim. A peaceful and orderly outcome is much more likely if there is honesty. I am currently studying Exodus in the Lutheran Study Bible and read about Moses judging the people and “false witness” would make his job incredibly tough.

    And if there is one area where a man might truly practice false witness, it is self-examination.

    The admonition of Paul comes to mind. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” – Romans 12:3 ESV

  23. some might say, “but if everyone defended everyone, then there would be justice.” This, of course, only applies if you think justice is the bad sinners getting what’s coming to them.

    If everyone spoke well of eachother, and defended eachother, then I think a lot of people would have the room to “grow” in their strengths and goodness rather than walking around feeling condemned by everyone.

  24. dumb ox says:

    Gerhard Forde probably summaried this commandment best in “Free to Be”. God takes names seriously. In baptism, he places his name on us. Defaming our neighbor’s name defame’s God’s name.

    I also like how gossip is typically addressed by this commandment. But Christians have tricky ways to bend the rules. We don’t gossip about our enemies; we just ask everyone to pray for their “needs” – which ends up being a laundry list of their failings and the skelletons in their closets. I think we also tend to think that repeating something that is factual is not gossip. If it brings shame to our neighbor’s name – even if it is true – it is the equivalent of murder.

    In right-wing politics, anything that forwards a “richteous” cause is acceptable. It becomes ok to drag an opponent through the mud if they are on the wrong side. I have seen Christian activists personally attack conservative candidates in primaries, simply because they were not the particular conservative endorsed by that group.

  25. Good discussion! After further research, it looks like the “small catechism” is designed for youth and the unededucated.

    I appreciate the opposing points of view but it seems that Luther’s explanation of the 8th Commandment is an extrapolation or “preaching point” rather than a literal, accurate interpretation of the 8th Commandment. It’s easy to take any passage from Scripure and extrapolate an application that may well be consistent with the way in which followers of Christ should live their lives.

    For me the question is, what did God intend to convey to the Israelites at the time the 10 Commandments were given on Mt. Sinai? The meaning of that commandment is probably narrower than the permissible applications. What did “false witness” mean in the applicable historical and cultural context?

    The “gloss” that Luther put on it is still good stuff but not necessarily the meaning of the Scripture at the time it was given.

    Luther fell far short of the application many of you are giving. His comments concerning Jews were vile and hateful. I guess Luther isn’t much different than most of us. We are sinners saved by God’s grace through no merit of our own. Nevertheless, I think there is a danger in attempting to make the “significance” of Scripture broader than the “meaning”.

    • Jonathan says:

      When it comes to matters of doctrine, Luther was completely “unapologetic” (no pun intended) but when it came to his personal life, he would probably be the first to admit his failings.

      “Doctrine is the chief matter in which I am defiant, not only against princes and kings, but also against every devil, and indeed, apart from that there is nothing else that preserves, strengthens, cheers, and can make my heart even more defiant. The second matter, my personal life, I myself know to be sinful to such a degree it is not worth defending. I am a poor sinner and its fine with me if my opponents are pure saints and angels. Good for them, if they can maintain it. Not that I want to be that kind of person before the world and those who are not Christians, but before God and his dear Christians. I also want to be good before the world, and I am, so much so that they are not worthy to untie my shoelaces. They shall also never be able to prove by the truth that I have lived or acted towards anyone before the world such that I was not teaching them what is good. In short, I am not someone who is too humble, nor too proud, just as St. Paul says: “I can be exalted and I can be humbled, I can suffer poverty or have enough.” Phil. 2.3. For the sake of my doctrine I am very much too stalwart, unbending and proud to the devil, emperor, king, princes and all the world, but for the sake of my life I am also humble and submissive even to every child. Whoever doesn’t know that should hear it now.

      — Martin Luther, Reply to the King of England’s Blasphemous Letter. L. W. Halle. XIX. 510-11.

      Printed by C.F.W. Walther in Der Lutheraner, Volume I, Number 20 (May 1845), p. 80; Translated by Rev. Joel Baseley. Register to receive copies of Pastor Baseley’s translations of Der Lutheraner, for free.

      From Cyberbrethren.Com

  26. Just wondering if the discussion of this commandment is , perhaps, a subset of “speaking the truth in love”. If that’s the case, then I would not want to put forward that we are always to be speaking in defense of anyone, even our Christian brother or sister. Sometimes they ( and we ourselves) are on the wrong side of the truth. One big problem: those of us that are big into TRUTH tend to think we are everyone’s doctrinal gatekeeper and scorecard, so speaking the truth often gets very bloody and uncharitable, and we blame it on our “stiff-necked” audience.

    I think love requires that we approach every opportunity case by case. Maybe it’s time to defend. Maybe it’s time to rebuke. Maybe it’s time to shut up and say very little or nothing at all. Remember Fr.Ernisto’s post on the cranky folks and the priest airing their laundry to him weekly ? Or was that “weakly” ?? I’m sure the good Father could have lived quite happily without the list of these faults. But this situation is not at all the same as those speaking up about injustice, even in the church, or calling out flagrant, systemic sin.

    I’d recap by saying beware of extremes and using a one-size fits all application of the commandment. Sometimes being “positive” is code for “gutless” and unwilling to confront. sometimes “prophetic” is code for overly harsh and tremendously unhelpful. The SPIRIT moves as HE will, and has us speak both encouragingly and confrontationally, as the need fits. I write this as one who loathes confrontation, so for me, that’s an area to grow in.

    some random Friday thots; have a great weekend Wilderness neighbors
    Greg R

  27. Celeste says:

    Regarding Rwanda, that is an excellent example of false witness working the opposite–we always assume false witness means saying bad things against people, it also includes sanitizing information to not be “mean”. My sister was in Mozambique at the time. Many many people died and suffered because the accurate report of atrocity was not relayed(for various reasons), essentially it wasn’t till bodies were clogging the rivers downstream in “nice” areas was anything “done”. Evil needs to named. I’ve seen all sorts of damage go on in churches as well because people wanted to be “nice” and sweep things under the rug.

  28. dumb ox says:

    “Everyone wish everyone’s discrediting, demotion, and ruin; everyone is an expert in the confidential report, the pretended alliance, the stab in the back. Over all this their good manners, their expressions of grave respect, their ‘tributes’ to one another’s invaluable services form a thin crust. Every now and then it gets punctured, and the scalding lava of their hatred spurts out” – C.S. Lewis, preface to “Screwtape Letters” (1961 edition).