Living the Eighth Commandment

Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on August 26, 2012, the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost.  The text for this sermon is Exodus 20:16, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”


Dear Friends in Christ,


The eighth commandment of God is being flagrantly violated in our society and it often is being done by so-called people of faith.  What is the eighth commandment?  “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  That’s the New International Version translation.  Another translation reads, “You shall not lie about your neighbor.”


The world of politics and its use of mass media are making violation of the eighth commandment acceptable and even preferable in our society.  We in Virginia are being pummeled by the constant political ads that come on television and radio and the internet and by the mail. 

Both the Obama and the Romney campaigns are spending millions and millions of dollars to create messages that they think will get their candidate elected. And here’s the danger:  most anything seems fair game to say about the other side, whether it is true or not.


I think back to my days in confirmation study in grades 6-7-8.  We studied the 10 commandments, memorized them, and the memorization included the explanations of Martin Luther.  I think it is time for a refresher course for all people of faith in what God expects of us, not what the world says is okay.


Martin Luther explained, “We should so fear and love God, as not to belie, betray, slander, nor raise injurious reports against our neighbor – but apologize for him, speak well of him, and put the most charitable construction on all his actions.”










I conducted my own experiment this past week in listening to 2 channels on cable television.  A number of folks around here have told me that they listen to either CNN or to Fox News because they see them as unbiased.  Here is what I now believe: neither is unbiased and in fact Fox is a mouthpiece for conservative Republicans and CNN is a mouthpiece for liberal Democrats.  One of the big clues to this, for me, is the choice of which attack ads are  put on the air.  Someone has said that the eighth commandment is God’s urging us to take people at face value without imputing to them bad motives beyond what they say or do.   I wish that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and Barack Obama and Joe Biden could just state what they want to do and tell us their philosophies and not engage in character assassination.  Does anyone here agree with my thinking?


In the Large Catechism, which Martin Luther intended for parents and teachers, it cites scripture that is helpful for understanding why it is preferable to speak well of others and not to tear them down.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:12 (The Golden Rule), “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”  James 3:5 reminds us, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what great forest is set on fire by a small spark…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s image.”


Luther did not include Philippians 4:8 in his Large Catechism, but I think it equally applies.  Paul writes: “Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – think about such things.”


Why has negativism and spit on your opponent politics become so acceptable today?  Further, why do some of us here relish this way of operating so much that we allow it to invade our homes day after day?  Folks it’s divisive and brainwashing.  It even creeps into the church when folks are evaluating sermons through the lens of their political beliefs.  Some folks even at church associate just with folks they know agree with them politically. 


This church welcome all people.  Our unity is in Christ Jesus alone.  My hope and prayer is that we can help bring about this wonderful understanding to others in the wider community.  It’s biblical, it’s Christ-like, and it’s very loving and respectful. 



How can we at Resurrection live out this understanding and  be in harmony with what the good Lord expects of us?  Here are a few suggestions:


1.      Speak well of others and cut out gossip and slander from your life.

2.      Choose radio and television and reading materials with discretion, avoiding those that

violate the 8th commandment constantly.

3.      Don’t forward bigoted and insensitive e-mails to your family and friends.

4.      Park all political agendas at the door when you come into God’s house.

5.      Pray equally for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.  They are both good men of faith. Ask God to help us and the whole nation discern who should be elected.


Yes, as good Biblical and Lutheran theology reminds us, we live in the world but we are not of the world.  Our allegiance is to the Lord of Heaven.  Our actions on earth need to reflect that allegiance and we are called to be the salt of the earth, the conscience and example for how to live according to God’s commandments.


This day may God inspire us and grant us grace to so live.  Amen!