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The 8th Commandment declares, "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." Luther sums this commandment up well by saying, "It is a particularly fine, noble virtue always to put the best construction upon all we may hear about our neighbor, as long as it is not a notorious evil, and to defend him against the poisonous tongues of those who are busy wherever they can pry out and pounce on something to criticize in their neighbor, misconstruing and twisting things in the worst way. This is what happens now especially to the precious Word of God and its preachers" (Large Catechism I.289). The 8th commandment is given to us so that we use our ears and tongues not to the ruin of our neighbor, but in order to build them up in Jesus the Christ.
Luther says elsewhere in the Catechism on this commandment, "It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others" (Large Catechism I.264). As usual, Luther hits it right on the head. How would you be if people were always looking for you to fail, searching out your past mistakes, digging up dirt on you, and criticizing everything you say and do? How would you be? You'd be paranoid, anxious, and worried all your days about how people view you and in this, you would also be worried about how God sees you. We want everyone to love us, speak well of us, and build up our reputation. We want people to put in a good word for us. We want people to glorify our strengths and forget our weaknesses. However, on the flip side, we seek opportunities to point out our neighbor's failures, short comings, and weaknesses, and we say we are doing it for the sake of our neighbors, for their betterment, as constructive criticism. Come one you silly gooses. You and I need to repent, because constructive criticism is good, but it is usually tainted with a love of gossip and the downfall of our neighbor. We need to be dead to using our ears and tongues to injure and offend our neighbor. Our ears and tongues need to be used to build our neighbor up by covering them in the blood of Jesus.
My friends, you and I don't put the best construction on our neighbor. However, Jesus puts the best construction on us, and we see Him doing this on the cross. On the cross, Jesus took all our gossip, itching ears, wicked tongues, and deceptive rumors and put them to death. On the cross, Jesus took all our transgression against the 8th commandment and paid the price for it. On the cross, Jesus built us up in His righteousness and exchanged our wickedness for His holiness. On the cross, Jesus did not speak venomous words against us, but cried out words of forgiveness for us. This is our comfort and assurance, that Jesus puts the best construction on us. He forgives us our failures, our gossip, our rumor weed days. We receive this love, this best construction, and faith then lives out in speaking in the best way about our neighbor and their predicament. Jesus continues still to put the best construction on us before His Father in heaven and continues to cover us in His blood in Holy Absolution. We do not have an enemy in Jesus who looks for our downfall, but a dear friend who puts in a good word for us unto all eternity. Jesus puts the best construction on us by building up a wall around us of His righteousness, so now the Father does not see our failures, but rather Jesus righteousness.
Peace be with you. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam be drowned anew so that you hear only the voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "I forgive you. I love you. I claim you as My own forever," Amen.