Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Meditation on the 8th Commandment

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we don not lie about, betray or slander our neighbor, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
A story is told of a young man during the middle ages who went to a monk, saying, “I have sinned by telling slanderous statements about someone.  What should I do now?”  The monk replied, “Put a feather on every doorstep in town.”  The young man did as he was told.  Then he returned to the monk, wondering if there was anything else that he should do.  The monk said, “Now go back and pick up all the feathers.”  The young man replied, “That is impossible! By now the wind will have blown them all over the town.”  The monk replied, “So has your slanderous word become impossible to retrieve.”
Next to one’s own body, spouse, and temporal possessions, we still have another great treasure that God wishes to protect – honor and good reputation.  As Solomon says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”  We cannot do without a good reputation, for it is intolerable to live among people in open shame and contempt.  Once someone’s name has been tarnished, it becomes almost impossible to restore it.  If we learn something juicy about someone close to us, it becomes almost impossible to forget, yet we have no right to share it, unless called to do so in court.
To bear false witness is nothing other than the work of the tongue.  It doesn’t only mean that one should not share false things about one’s neighbor, but not even sharing true statements about one’s neighbor.  For if we are unwilling to go before a judge with the same information then why should we be willing to share these unkind statements with others.  Unless our speaking results in the building up of his reputation, one should keep his mouth shut.  Yet we cannot handle this.  We would rather make ourselves look better than suffer the praise and adoration of one’s neighbor.
There are times when the Christian is called upon to admonish his neighbor, yet we would rather keep silent.  Jesus says that if your brother sins go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he repents, you have gained a brother.  Unfortunately, I fear that we are all too comfortable either keeping our mouth shut or too busy sharing the faults of our neighbor with those who have no reason to know.  Instead we should only act when we have the reformation and love of our neighbor in mind.  The same still rings true as we were told when we were kids, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
The law and its power have no means to rehabilitate.  It only condemns.  “Don’t lie.” it says, yet we lie anyway.  By the grace of God, there is forgiveness for liars like us.  Forgiveness does not come about by giving it our best shot, but only by the love that has been shown to us in Jesus Christ.  “Father forgive them” Jesus said, “for they know not what they do.”  Jesus yearns to give of Himself to you, so that you quit relying on your imperfect works and trust only in that which Jesus has already done.  Only then can you truly begin to love our neighbor without the fear of the law.
Almighty God, You have sent the Spirit of truth to us to guide us into all truth.  Rule in our hearts, we pray, by Your grace and power, that we may be truthful in our thoughts, words, and actions.  Keep us, merciful Lord, in Your fatherly care and protection, that no fear or sinful ambition may make us deceitful in our speech or behavior.  Cleans us, we ask, from everything false and wrong, and bring us into the freedom of Your Good News in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Meditation on the 7th Commandment

You shall not steal.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or goods, nor get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his goods and means of making a living.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “he doesn’t need that” or “he could do without that”?  Sometimes it’s hard not to think those thoughts when surrounded by people who have plenty.  It often turns into an argument with yourself about how you deserve those things much more than the other guy.  Besides, we know all of his faults and it’s just not fair.
I often have to remind myself that I’m not someone else.  I am who I am and there is nothing I can do to make me into someone else.  Each of our callings have their rewards, not all of which are monetary.  God demands that I work for my daily bread and beyond that it is up to Him to provide the increase.  If no man works, neither shall he eat.  Yet, everyone is guilty of stealing in thoughts, words, and actions.  Man has stolen from others by failing to provide for those in need, he has mismanaged time and left things undone that should be done, and he has stolen by treating his belongings as though they were solely for his own benefit.
The Psalmist wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. The world and those who dwell therein.”  It’s humbling to note that everything which man claims as his own all belongs to God.  It is not our own things or time that are being misused, rather it is God’s things and God’s time that is being misused.  Everything we have is on lease from Him.  He still owns it.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.  Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, do it all to the glory of God.
Unfortunately, our actions often only show how we would like to glorify ourselves.  Our actions place us in the role of the creator, not the created which we are.  We assume that we answer to no one but ourselves.  Ultimately, though, we all have to answer to God.  It is God who says, you shall not cheat your neighbor, your employee, or your employer.  It is God who says we should always have the best interest of everybody else’s belongings in mind…not the best interest of ourselves.  The psalmist says we are His people, it is He who made us and not we ourselves.
Has anyone always thought of his fellow’s property instead of himself?  Has anyone always used the goods entrusted to his care for the benefit of his neighbor?  No normal human ever has, nor can we.  We were steeped and covered in sin when we were born, and for each sin we are deserving of death.  A punishment which is far to painful for us to withstand.
Yet, we have a gracious Lord, who desired to love us, in spite of our sin.  He sent His Son to be perfect in our place, even going without in order to help others.  And not only did he do right on our behalf, but God inflicted upon Him the punishment which our sins deserve.  Jesus willingly paid a price greater than we can imagine so that God would not hold us accountable for our sins.  May the comfort of that gift encourage you to give to others as you have been generously given.
O Lord our God, You have commanded that we should receive Your may blessings with thankful and generous hearts.  Give us your grace, we pray, to use all of our talents and abilities for Your glory and for the good of others.  Help us to respect the gifts and possessions You have given to others, so that we might encourage all people to trust Your mercy and love in Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray.  Amen.