You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20:16-17
The Eighth Commandment is one that addresses our integrity. We are commanded to tell the truth about others, and not to say or do things that would wrongly incriminate them or damage their reputation.
Gossip has always been a juicy temptation for humanity. It is easy to get engrossed in (and embellish upon) the drama of other people’s lives. What we fail to realize is that gossip, especially when it is exaggerated and involving sensitive issues, can be highly destructive and damaging. God commands us to stay out of the rumor mill. He commands us to refrain from assassinating another’s character or incriminating an innocent person by spreading lies about him or her.
Those, then, are called slanderers who are not content with knowing a thing, but proceed to assume jurisdiction, and when they know a slight offense of another, carry it into every corner, and are delighted and tickled that they can stir up another’s displeasure [baseness], as swine roll themselves in the dirt and root in it with the snout. This is nothing else than meddling with the judgment and office of God, and pronouncing sentence and punishment with the most severe verdict. For no judge can punish to a higher degree nor go farther than to say: “He is a thief, a murderer, a traitor,” etc. Therefore, whoever presumes to say the same of his neighbor goes just as far as the emperor and all governments. For although you do not wield the sword, you employ your poisonous tongue to the shame and hurt of your neighbor…
For we ought never to deprive any one of his honor or good name unless it be first taken away from him publicly.
False witness, then, is everything which cannot be properly proved. Therefore, what is not manifest upon sufficient evidence no one shall make public or declare for truth; and in short, whatever is secret should be allowed to remain secret, or, at any rate, should be secretly reproved, as we shall hear. Therefore, if you encounter an idle tongue which betrays and slanders someone, contradict such a one promptly to his face, that he may blush thus many a one will hold his tongue who else would bring some poor man into bad repute from which he would not easily extricate himself. For honor and a good name are easily taken away, but not easily restored. – explanation of the Eighth Commandment from Luther’s Large Catechism
As Luther explains, there is more to the Eighth Commandment. It implies that we should avoid presenting others in a negative light and dragging their dirty laundry out for all to see, whether the rumors are true or not. We should assume the best of those around us, and we should actively work to avoid causing injury to others by our words.
Luther’s explanation of the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Commandment can be found here. The Ninth and Tenth Commandments address the desires of our hearts.
The Ninth and Tenth Commandments are pretty straightforward also. Don’t have a desire for someone else’s spouse. Don’t be obsessed with having other people’s stuff.
Those two Commandments can best be expressed as, “Be happy with what you have.” It’s not necessarily bad to admire someone else’s spouse- he or she might have qualities you would treasure in your own spouse, or to admire someone else’s car, because you aspire to a better model than you already have. Our friend’s kitchen cabinets might inspire our own kitchen remodel for instance. But covetousness becomes destructive when it becomes an overwhelming desire to have something or someone who is owned or bound to another. God commands us to be thankful that those around us have good gifts, as well as for us to be thankful for the gifts He has given us.
Therefore we allow these commandments to remain in their ordinary meaning, that it is commanded, first, that we do not desire our neighbor’s damage, nor even assist, nor give occasion for it, but gladly wish and leave him what he has, and, besides, advance and preserve for him what may be for his profit and service, as we should wish to be treated. Thus these commandments are especially directed against envy and miserable avarice, God wishing to remove all causes and sources whence arises everything by which we do injury to our neighbor, and therefore He expresses it in plain words: Thou shalt not covet, etc. For He would especially have the heart pure, although we shall never attain to that as long as we live here; so that this commandment will remain, like all the rest, one that will constantly accuse us and show how godly we are in the sight of God! –explanation of the Ninth and Tenth Commandments from Luther’s Large Catechism
The purpose of the Law is to hold up a mirror to our face, so that we can see how much we sin and fail. Jesus knows we sin and fail. The good news of the Gospel is that He came to earth and died on the Cross to save us from our sins. It is only in Christ that we can look to God and obey His commandments- God’s own rules given to us for our protection and well being.