Being Instructed by the Ten Commandments
The Eighth Commandment: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
The LORD God gives us the gift of a tongue. With a tongue, we can speak, talking with God and with each other. With the tongue, we are given to bless God and one another. As baptized children of God, we are called to use our tongue for good. We use it properly when we use it to speak the truth. As the Lord puts His Word in our mouths and upon our lips, we are being instructed in the use of our tongues for the benefit of others. The Holy Spirit teaches us, “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice” (Psalm 37:30).
Christ is the Wisdom of God, and His Word make us wise. He teaches us to speak up for those who do not have a voice. He call us to give true testimony about our littlest neighbors in the womb (the unborn babies who cannot speak for themselves). We are learning to pray on behalf of others. We are learning to explain the words and actions of others in the kindest way. We are learning to defend others. We are learning to speak well of others who are not present to speak for themselves.
But we are tempted to transgress with the tongue. The evil spirits seduce and trick us to use our tongues for falsehood and foolishness. The devil deceives and entices us to “tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation” (Small Catechism, The Eighth Commandment). Satan is the father of lies. It is his nature to speak lies to us, betray us, slander us, and hurt our reputations. He wants us to be like him, dwelling in darkness and deception. His desire is to lead us to speak with the tongue of a serpent and mislead others. As he accuses us of sin, he trains us to accuse others of sin. The old evil foe would like us to give false testimony against our neighbor. In fact, the devil convinced the chief priests and the religious leaders to look for people who would give false testimony against Jesus. Why? They wanted to stop Jesus from speaking the truth. They desired to judge Jesus, condemn Him, and kill Him.
The Apostle Peter describes the false testimony against Jesus in this way: “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:23–24). With these words, we see two things.
First, we see Jesus as the example of the perfect man who was not overcome by the temptation to transgress with his tongue. He was like a mute man who did not open His mouth to quarrel with those who rebuked Him. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth….and there was no deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7, 9).
Second, we see Jesus as the silent sacrificial lamb. He is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins (John 1:29). He bears our sins in His body, including the sins committed and omitted by our tongues. By His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). We are beginning to die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24).
But in our day to day lives the tongue is not easy to tame. We have teeth to trap the tongue and lips to seal our mouths, but the tongue still manages to escape. We need Jesus to speak up for us. Through the Gospel, we are assured that He is our Advocate with the Father. As the resurrected and ascended Lord, Jesus continues to use His tongue for our good. He is the High Priest who blesses us before the Father. He makes intercession for transgressors. He defends us, speaks well of us, and explains everything in the kindest way.
He also pours out His Spirit upon us as we hear His voice in the Word of God. The Holy Spirit enlightens us to pray: “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” (Psalm 34:13). The Holy Spirit even teaches us by giving our tongues this prayer: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3). He also teaches: “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle’” (Psalm 39:1).
We are learning to bite our lips and resist the temptation to transgress with our tongues. The Holy Spirit calls and guides us to use our tongues to confess our sins and proclaim the praise of Christ our Savior. Through the power of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is renewing us and restoring us into the image of Christ, the perfect man who uses His tongue for the benefit of others.
Father, You have given us the gift of our tongues. Keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit. Keep watch over the door of our lips and set a guard over our mouths. Put Your Word in our mouths that our tongues may declare Your praise; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier serves as pastor at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Los Alamos, NM