What's the Mouth For?
John of Damascus, Theologian and Hymnwriter
4 December 2018
Slander includes using our tongues to tell the truth, if the truth hurts another's reputation or exposes their sin to the world. It is not our task or office to "out" the sin of another person. God takes care of sin in His way, for He knows all. He uses the authorities that He has placed in the world, judges, police, prosecutors, and bailiffs to deal with known, public sin. If you make public what is unknown or not known for certain, you have made yourself judge, jury, and executioner. That's not your office.
 
Some years ago, a woman came to me for individual confession and absolution. She spent our time together telling me about her husband's transgressions. Finally, I asked her why she came for individual confession, because she was obviously the wrong individual. Our mouths should express our sin. We so easily find ourselves assassinating the reputation of others, because it is like shooting fish in a barrel. Of course, our neighbor has a great many and great character flaws, sins, depravities, errors, and failures. His logs are easy to point out. Perhaps we see such failures because of our personal familiarity with the same sins. We may not point out those logs we see in the other if we are living by the gospel. In the gospel of His only Son, God has ground those logs into dust and blown them away with the speaking of absolution, driving them away on the four winds sending them away as far as the east is from the west. Who are we to point out these scintilla? The log we should be dealing with is closer to us than our neighbor's and more susceptible to our action! We should use our mouths to confess our own sins rather than our neighbors.
 
God did not make our tongues to be avenging swords to disclose the sins of others. Vengeance is His and those to whom He delegates it by their office. Our tongues and mouths are to be ordered and disciplined so that they bless and do not curse, speak well of our neighbor and interpret everything in the kindest way. Let us use our tongues to bless God by speaking to the world of salvation in Christ. Here is the true use for the tongue and mouth: to deliver the message of the eternal gospel.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"People are called slanderers who are not content with knowing a thing, but go on to assume jurisdiction. When they know about a slight offense committed by another person, they carry it into every corner. They are delighted and tickled that they can stir up another's displeasure, just as swine delight to roll themselves in the dirt and root in it with the snout. This is nothing other than meddling with God's judgment and office and pronouncing sentence and judgment with the most severe verdict. For no judge can punish to a higher degree nor go farther than to say, 'That person is a thief, a murderer, a traitor,' and so on. Therefore, whoever presumes to say the same things about his neighbor goes just as far as the Emperor and all governments. For although you do not wield the sword you use your poisonous tongue to shame and hurt your neighbor (Ps 140:3).
 
"God, therefore, would have such behavior banned, that anyone should speak evil of another person even though that person is guilty, and the latter knows it well, much less if anyone does not know it and has the story only from hearsay.
 
"But you say, 'Shall I not say something if it is the truth?'
 
"Answer: 'Why do you not make your accusation to regular judges?'
 
"'Ah, I cannot prove it publicly, and so I might be silenced and turned away in a harsh manner.'
 
"'Ah, indeed, do you smell the roast?'
 
"If you do not trust yourself to stand before the proper authorities and to answer well, then hold your tongue. But if you know about it, know it for yourself and not for another. For if you tell the matter to others-although it is true-you will look like a liar, because you cannot prove it. Besides, you are acting like a rascal. We should never deprive anyone of his honor or good name unless it is first taken away from him publicly."

 Martin Luther, Large Catechism,
1.267-70
Psalm 140

Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually. They make their tongue sharp as a serpent's, and under their lips is the venom of asps.
 
Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men, who have planned to trip up my feet. The arrogant have hidden a trap for me, and with cords they have spread a net; beside the way they have set snares for me.
 
I say to the Lord, You are my God; give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O Lord! O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle. Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked; do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted!
 
As for the head of those who surround me, let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them! Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise! Let not the slanderer be established in the land; let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!
 
I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence. (ESV)
Prayer
O Lord, I confess and ask for grace, for I have spent my life so shamefully and ungratefully with lies and evil talk against my neighbors. All this, when I ought to protect all their honor and innocence even as I would like to have myself. Send me Your good Spirit that I might use my mouth to bless my neighbor with Your gospel. Amen.
 
For Pastor Charles St-Onge and Deborah, that they would be brought safely back to their mission endeavors from their travels
 
For Ileene Robinson, that the Lord Jesus would give her the breath of life by the power of His Holy Spirit
 
For Ross Johnson and the staff of LCMS World Relief, that they would be strengthened in their service to those in the midst of suffering and deprivation
Art: Raffaellino dell Garbo  The Annunciation (c. 1510)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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