Midweek Lent 4 March 29, 2017
8th Commandment Pastor Pautz
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We continue to look at the Ten Commandments during our Lenten Midweek services, so that we can say that God's holy Law is good.
In addition to the treasures of your own body (5th commandment), your spouse (6th commandment), and your earthly possessions (7th commandment), you also have another treasure which is your good reputation (8th commandment). The 8th commandment is the focus for tonight. Please turn to page 323 in your hymnal:
What is the 8th Commandment? You shall not give false testimony against your neigbhor.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.
Let us pray: Dear Father, here you teach us to be true to each other, to avoid all lying and backbiting, and gladly to hear and tell the best about others. And so you have established a wall to protect our reputation and innocence against wicked mouths and lying tongues. These you will not permit to go unpunished. Amen.
This commandment is given to protect you in three ways
First, in civil jurisdiction/standing. A jurisdiction (standing is the legal term) is an area of responsibility that you are given before the law. If someone steals your car, you have standing to press charges or not. It is your call.
Second, extending to spiritual jurisdiction, this commandment is broken against all Christians. Why? Because the world judges that Christians are wicked people. You don't ordain women, so you are wicked people. You do no bless all marriages, so you are a wicked people. You must bear that sentence. Why, because you are Christian and you can't make people observe God's good and holy Law.
The Lord forbids all sins of the tongue. These are the things you say that hurt someone's reputation. In order to protect your neighbor, God gives this commandment. The most detestable sin of the tongue is talking behind someone's back.
Suppose you have something against someone else. Like what? I don't know, let say you saw someone at work steal office supplies and knew he was selling them on eBay for his own profit. Under what circumstances, in light of the 8th commandment, may you talk about this publicly?
You need two things to go public. First, you need evidence that will hold up in public. Second, you need jurisdiction/standing to act on that evidence.
Having clear evidence puts most gossip to an end. You gossip because they don't have evidence. You gossip because there is nothing you can do to correct a problem, so instead you say bad things about the person and hurt their reputation. However, without evidence that would hold up in public and in light of this commandment, you are to let a secret sin remain in the dark. You are to remain silent. Suffer the injustice and uphold your neighbor's reputation, unless you have jurisdiction/standing.
What is jurisdiction/standing? Take a look are your daily vocations; your daily callings as listed in the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism.
Are you a pastor or hearer of the Gospel? The pastor has jurisdiction/standing to forgive sins before the whole congregation and members of the public that are present. The rest are to remain silent but receive what is given. But that same pastor does not have jurisdiction in a neighboring congregation.
Are you a governing authority or a citizen? The governing authority has jurisdiction to create laws or have them enforced in his city or county or state or nation? The citizen does not have jurisdiction. You cannot make new laws or enforce existing laws yourself. You are to remain silent.
Are you a husband or wife? Well then you have jursidiction/standing to make decisions together regarding your marriage. Where will you live? Will you buy a house or rent? Will you go out for a romantic dinner this Friday night or night? But that same husband or wife does not have standing with another man or woman. Among others, you are to remain silent.
Are you a parent? Then you have jurisdiction/standing to discipline and raise your children but only your children. You have no jurisdiction/standing to discipline or raise the other kids on your block. Among them, you are to remain silent.
So, under the 8th commandment, you probably do not have much jurisdiction/standing among other people. You are tempted to talk behind the backs of others because of your low standing, but you are to remain silent.
The good news is this: The Lord has placed someone who does have jurisdiction/standing in every possible situation. There is not a situation in which someone is given to has jurisdiction/standing to fix a wrong. This is by the Lord's design.
The good news is this: You are not God. But God has perfect jurisdiction over heaven and earth and He takes care of all creation. He also has jurisdiction/standing over sin and death like this: Our Father sent Jesus give up His standing before the Father and take on the lowest standing possible – the bearer of your sin.