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Insights from Pastor Steve

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Harry Sanborn, played by Jack Nicholson in the 2003 movie, “Something’s Gotta Give,” is a wealthy New York philanderer with a 40-year habit of dating women under 30. He is dating Erica Barry, played by Diane Keaton who believes she is now his one and only. She catches him dining with another younger woman. Distraught at being caught, Harry rushes out of the restaurant pleading to Erica, “I have never lied to you, I have always told you some version of the truth.”

To which Erica replies, “The truth doesn’t have versions, okay?”

She is right. Especially in a court room, where one who is testifying affirms, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Perjury, “bearing false witness” in the eighth commandment, forbids lying in a courtroom. Lies are destructive. Ananias and Sapphira lied about the amount of money they had donated. Caught in the lie, the story goes, Ananias “fell down and died” (Acts 5:1-11). The author of the book of Acts illustrates to his readers the disastrous consequences of a lie; a lie destroys individuals and communities.

Luther expanded on the eighth commandment, reminding us of the power of words. Put the most charitable construction on all of your neighbor’s actions, he wrote in his explanation to the commandment. Words can comfort and console, can encourage and defend. Words can also injure and cripple. The words “I love you,” spoken by parents to children, individuals to one another, create possibility, trust and hope.

It was with a word, “Let there be light,” that God created (Genesis 1). The evangelist John writes, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1). “Words are sacred. They deserve respect,” writes the author Tom Stoppard, “If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”

Attributed to Solomon is this proverb, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

Language is being abused by many in power today. Lies are told with utter abandon. The eighth commandment is being ignored. We must therefore be vigilant in our use of words, deliberate in words we select, careful not to be misunderstood by carelessly chosen words. The carelessly spoken words have led to devastation.

The Psalmist’s prayer is to be our prayer, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Listen to Erica, “The truth doesn’t have versions, okay?”