If you have grandchildren that live close enough to be seen on a regular basis, count yourself fortunate. Terry and I have seven grandchildren to this point, but each of them live hundreds of miles away from here. The youngest of them was born in September in Paducah, Kentucky, but I have not yet been able to see her and hold her because the distance – along with my schedule – have prohibited it.
But, since there is a window of opportunity these days, Terry and I have planned out visitation possibilities. Last weekend was the first. We decided to visit with our fourth son and his family in Williamsburg, Virginia, which is around a seven-hour drive from here. Jeshua and Megan have two daughters, Elena and Elora.
So, I get to playing a game with Elena last Saturday. She is excited to play it with me. I am having fun playing it with her. With a little bit if Paw Paw help, she is beating me in the process. She is laughing and giggling, particularly when I say, “How are you beating me so badly?”
But, then I say something stupid, “You must be cheating! You are a cheater!”
Her happy countenance fell like a ton of bricks, and she ran crying to her mother who was standing nearby. It obviously hurt her feelings because I called her a cheater.
Megan helped to smooth things over. I could see the relief on Elena’s face as Megan explained, “Now, Honey, you have to be nice with Paw Paw. He is just an old man who has said something he did not really mean.” Looking at me with a wry smile on her lips, she asked, “Isn’t that right, Paw Paw?” I was flabbergasted with wordlessness.
After Mom brushed her hair gently for a few moments, Elena soon felt comforted enough to return to the game.
Now, I had two responses. First, I felt conflicted at the mother’s explanation. It would have been useless to argue the point, for sure.
But, then there was God. He convicted me of a specific sin I had just unwittingly committed. I had just broken the Ninth Commandment, which is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” By referring to Elena as a cheater, I had called her something that she was obviously not.
There have been times when God has purposely highlighted Scripture to me in certain moments to bring it into a clearer focus. This was one of those times. And, though the circumstances may not be altogether noteworthy to you, it nonetheless brings pause to consider a Scriptural point that perhaps we often times overlook.
When we bear false witness against someone, we say things about them that are not true. In doing so, we malign their character in such a way or in such terms that is not warranted. We lie about them with hurtful terminology.
It is explained to us about the Ten Commandments that they teach two important guidelines for living: first, living to relate rightly to God, and, second, living to relate rightly with others.
As far as the Ninth Commandment is concerned, we cannot relate rightly with others around us if we verbally besmirch them with untrue characterizations. A vicious cycle is created when we carelessly bear false witness against someone, and they take issue with it. This, oh, most certainly, explains why there is so much societal tension. Family tension, too, when one considers the breakdown of relationships within the context of that venue.
We should perhaps consider a more serious observance of this Ninth Commandment. We should take very much care about what we say about other people. The Apostle Paul gives this consideration an important perspective when he says, “And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
In other words, if what we say about someone cannot be honoring to the Lord, we best not say it. We are reminded to practice putting on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and longsuffering.”
In the mean time, I was humbled to the dust playing a game with my granddaughter, learning that Commandment Number Nine is for Paw Paws, too.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.