11/08/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:20 – “#9: Speak Helpfully”

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Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #9 Speak Helpfully”

November 8, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

The Ten Commandments display was recently removed from the Alabama Supreme Court building.

There was a good reason for the move. You can’t post

Thou Shalt Not Steal,
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,
and Thou Shall Not Lie
in a building full of lawyers and politicians without creating a hostile work environment.

 

We have invested two-months looking at the Ten Commandments. In The Gospel according to Mark we read where Jesus said (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important Commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’

And in the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

We have a tendency to really concentrate on the “secondGreat Commandment, and even ignore the “first”. We emphasizeloving our neighbor” (which is a very good thing), but when we do that to the exclusion of firstloving God with everything we are” we run the risk of misinterpreting what “loving our neighborreally means.

So, a quick recap of the first four of the Big Ten, about “loving God”, are:

  1. You shall have No OTHER godsanything other than God that we allow to take first place in our lives is out of order!
  2. You shall Make no IMAGESany image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
  3. HOLY be Thy nameGod’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
  4. Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence

Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God (love God above/before anything else), and our cares and concerns will be taken care of.” We are re-stating this every week because without our remembering it, even the next six commandments can be wrongly emphasized.

After we learn how to love God first, He says to love our neighbors. How do we love our neighbors?

  1. We Give HONOR until it’s deserved – starting with our parents
  2. We Respect LIFE – to the best of our ability
  3. We are to be FAITHFUL in our marriages – and in every relationship
  4. We are to be GENEROUS so that “stealing” isn’t even a temptation for the poorest among us.
  5. And …

Today we look at Commandment No. Nine. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Probably better memorized as “No lying!” How do we love our neighbors? Do not give false testimony about them!

I looked in my old Nave’s Compact Topical Biblenot just a Concordance where you look up a word and find where that word is located in the Scriptures, but this book groups ideas together and tells you where you might find that “topic”, or idea, discussed in Scripture. This version is not even exhaustive – it just gives some sample places. An exhaustive Topical Bible would be several volumes long.

So I looked up “lying/false testimony” and it also led me to “gossip” and “slander” and “grumble”.

The Women’s Lighthouse Circle, a couple of months ago, was asked by their President, what command in the Bible was the most often repeated. The answer? “Fear not.” But I would guess that this topic, “false testimony”, lines up as a close second place.

And, “False testimony” is MORE than simply lying, right? Name some other ways we might give “false testimony”:

  • Half-truth
  • One-sided truth
  • Any comment that is meant to deceive
  • When we talk behind someone’s back
  • When we share a “prayer request” in the form of gossip

When we were children, I’ll bet every one of us heard our parents tell us something like: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And probably most of us have passed that along to our children as well.

It is good advice – but sometimes really hard to follow – because we’re also told to always tell the truth. And sometimes the truth is not nice. “Does this dress make me look fat?Husbands, how do you obey both of those rules at the same time?

I have learned that a better grown-up version of that rule is: “If you can’t say something HELPFUL, don’t say anything at all!

The “truth” might be that the dress does indeed make her look fat – but if admitting that will only hurt her feelings, or start a fight, it’s probably not HELPFUL. If she’s about to go to a photo-shoot, and she wants to look thin, maybe an “honest” response is the best! You see?

So, if I have a complaint about the way my boss is treating me, or a friend, or a fellow church member, I can just complain about the person to others in the group – or I can find a way to make the situation more healthy.

  • Should I just be quiet – because talking/gossiping/grumbling/slandering is not HELPFUL?
  • Should I bring this complaint/concern to the Lord in prayer? Because honest praying is HELPFUL.
  • Should I bring this complaint/concern to the proper person (maybe the person we have a complaint about), so we can find a HELPFUL solution together?

I think we all know the damage that is caused when we are around people who are always critical. We know because we have all been the victim of that. Right? Take a moment and remember when you were the one being talked about, but not being helped by that talk.

Now, just for a moment, remember the person you felt was responsible for that back-biting conversation (do not look at him right now!). Do you recall what you, and maybe several others in your group, thought of that person? Do you remember thinking how miserable she must be to always be that critical? Do you recall wondering how bad his childhood must have been to become such a pain in everyone’s backside? Do you recall wanting to shut that person out of your secrets and your personal dreams for fear that she might just break them apart with her harsh words? Do you recall wanting to return his meanness with some of your own?

How does a habit of “giving false testimony” hurt the one doing it? For starters, even if this is someone we really do like, we become more closed off and people, especially those on the “outside”, distance themselves. Relationships are fragile enough without putting this strain on them.

How do we love our neighbors? I believe this “no false testimonyCommandment is really all about how helpful we could be. When we speak, speak helpfully!

Steps to becoming more “helpful”:

  1. PRAY for God’s involvementLord, please intervene. Lord, please show me my role in this. Lord, please step into this with me, I need Your patience, Your grace, Your strength, Your wisdom.
  2. Look for POSITIVES I believe it was Gerri who once shared that a former pastor or friend of hers thinks of others as “trying to do their best, given their life skills and circumstances”.
  3. Speak only that which moves toward being HELPFUL Lord, if this will not be helpful to the situation keep my mouth closed – if it will be helpful, help me to say it well, lovingly, with grace.

Yes, we are still sinners, and we will still speak hurtfully from time to time – I am among the biggest of these sinners. That’s why God has given us the gift of apologies and forgiveness. And God offers the grace of forgiveness to all of us. But He also holds us to the standard set forth in Scripture. And every time we do not give in to any temptation of “slander”, we give glory to God, we honor our neighbor, we respect the life that we encounter, we act generously to those around us, and we speak words of helpfulness and health.

Remember why God gives us these commandments:

  • To talk about how much we need a Savior
  • To topple down our selfish desires to speak against each other
  • To tell us what God’s character is – and therefore, as people created in the image of God, who claim to be followers of Jesus, what our character ought to be as we grow more and more into His likeness

And God’s perfect grace and offer of complete forgiveness is waiting for all who acknowledge our need, confess our failure, and repent toward loving God better. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”, because it was “while we were still sinning that Christ died for us.” (John 3:16, Romans 5:8)

Do you need to believe this Good News today? Are you at a place where you are understanding this truth for the first time? Or even for the 100th time? It’s as simple as saying, “Thank You Jesus, I do believe. Help me, today, with where I don’t believe enough.

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got;

and love your neighbor as yourselfgive honor until it’s deserved! Respect life! Be faithful! Give generously! Speak helpfully!

We can do this by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!

We have heard plenty of debates over whether these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church. If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls.

Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever.

Psalm 119:175 speaks our prayer: Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. Amen.

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 7.

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