“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16
This one for me is tricky, because false testimony and gossip and retelling a good story and sharing concerns about a friend can all look about the same.
But I found several verses that can help remind me to think before I speak.
Proverbs 19:5 “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free.” Is the story you’re retelling the whole truth, do you know the other side of the story, or is this your own speculation, your spin. And does the story even need to be retold? Is this a story that should go no further?
Proverbs 11:13 “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Was this information shared with you because you were thought to be trustworthy?
Luke 6:37 “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.” Is your reaction to the story to judge or condemn? Do you think ‘that would never happen in my family’?
Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need.” Are you sharing a story to build up others, or is it just unwholesome talk coming out of your mouth? Have you considered the other person’s needs before you speak?
Matthew 18:15 “If you brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Is everyone in the middle of your argument? Do you love to recount the story of the transgression?
Luther writes the meaning as, “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.”
Is my manger full of past conversations that have hurt reputations or betrayed neighbors? Do I need to get rid of attitudes of judgement and condemnation when I think of stories I’ve heard? When I speak of certain people, am I thinking of their best interests and putting their situation in the kindest light possible? Is there someone I know in my circle of acquaintances that could use a defender?
Father, God, you have created man in your own image and we should not lie, slander or betray your precious creation. Give us strength to defend a neighbor, not put them down. Give us courage to stand up to gossip and be the trustworthy friend. Give us a heart worthy of Your Name. In Jesus’ name, amen.