Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
What is the Eighth Commandment?
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
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.
A very helpful summary from Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord:
This commandment was given to protect one's name and reputation. Communicating in ways that do not uphold our neighbor's name and reputation break this commandment. The greatest violators are false preachers who, by their false doctrine, speak ill of God and His name. If we are aware of something negative about our neighbor, but have no authority to act, we should remain silent and not speak of it. However, when the proper authorities call upon us to speak to the matter, we will do so honestly. Also, if we are aware of something that requires the attention of public authorities, we will share it with them. Luther clearly states that civil magistrates, pastors, and parents must act upon hearing of something requiring their attention. Luther carefully distinguishes between secret sins and open, public sins. Secret sins should not be made public. However, when the error is open we have every right, even the duty, to speak publicly about it and to testify against the person involved. Speaking publicly about another person's public error or sin is not bearing false witness, nor it is a violation of Matthew 18. Luther concludes that putting "the best construction on everything" is a fine and noble virtue.
It may be helpful for us to think of the Eighth Commandment much in the same way we do of the Second Commandment. While the Second serves to protect the name and reputation of Almighty God, the Eighth serves to protect the name and reputation of our fellow man.
So, have you sinned against the Eighth Commandment? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I speak the truth or have I lied in any way? Have I told the truth in court or in school before authorities or before my parents when I knew the truth?
- Do I gossip or take pleasure in talking about the faults and mistakes of others?
- Do I uphold and defend the name and reputation of others?
- Have I judged others without being duly authorized to do so?
- Have I gladly and willingly found ways to explain in the best possible way the words or actions of those who hurt me?
- Have I defended my neighbor when things said about my neighbor have made others think badly of him or her?
- Have I flattered others, o put on a front to make them think of me differently from what is true?
- Have I slanted stories to my benefit or deceived others by withholding some elements of their story?
- Have I been faithful in keeping the secrets of another's heart entrusted to me in confidence?
Undoubtedly, the Eighth Commandment will reveal your need for a Savior, for that is the Law's work. But rest assured, your Lord would not have you be separated from Him, but places new words on your lips that confess Jesus is Lord. And in Him, there is forgiveness, life and salvation. Amen.