Some Neglected Aspects of the Ninth Commandment – Part 4

This is a continuation of a series with Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 preceding.


Question 144 continues:

a charitable esteem of our neighbours; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name;

Esteem has to do with how we think of someone. What do we make of their words? Do we see their actions in a positive light? Do we see their actions in a negative light? Do we give them the benefit of the doubt? Charitable esteem does not make us blind to others’ sins, but merely means that the “filter” through which we hear, see, think about, and speak of them is one of charity. Charity is an older term (in the sense used in “charitable”), and in our modern usage generally means gifts or donations that we make, or organizations set up to help people in need. In older language “charity” carried the idea of “liberality in judging of men and their actions; a disposition which inclines men to think and judge favorably, and to put the best construction on words and actions which the case will admit,” (American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828, entry for “charity”).

Scripture praises this sort of “charitable esteem” stating that charity “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Further, we are taught to love, desire, and rejoice in other people having a good name as well as our self. Salesmen generally love getting people to buy into their products; they desire more and better commissioned sales; they rejoice when their products are sold, particularly in large quantities and at very favorable margins. And this is precisely what we are required to feel about the good reputation of our neighbor. Only in this case our gain is not financial, but a charitable gain by which we love our neighbor’s good name as we love our own. Examples abound in this regard, but one particularly strong passage about our attitude toward the good name of others is 3 John 3-4: “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Note the fulness and exuberance of joy the Apostle took in the good reports about others.

The Catechism continues:

sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities;

Every person has some weakness. The way that God created each man’s personality, body, temperament, etc. is good so far it is the workmanship of God. But when the good workmanship of God is joined to particular persons with sinful human natures, dwelling in a fallen world, there are sins and infirmities galore. The Apostles of Christ sorrowed for the infirmities of their congregants. For example, the Apostle Paul stated that “out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you,” (2 Corinthians 2:4). Note how loving others entails grief and tears over the infirmities of others, rather than exploiting them to forward our own goals (see also 2 Corinthians 12:21).

Covering the infirmities of others goes beyond simply the internal affection of sorrow, and relates to our speaking of, or repeating to others the infirmities of others, or even those that we think they have. Often, we justify repeating the infirmities, mistakes, sins, etc. of others by our motivation to “pray for someone,” or to explain their current conduct. Such conduct is divisive and hateful, as Scripture states in Proverbs 17:9: “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” Transgressions are to be covered and not repeated. Love covers these things, but hatred repeats them, even if we convince ourselves that we are motivated by good things. 1 Peter 4:8 identifies the same virtue: “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” Note how charity does not reveal “a multitude of sins.” This is very contrary to the general current of our cultural use of speech.


To continue reading, see Part 5.





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