Once again, our words are front and center. Like many proverbs, this one’s an imperative — something we’re instructed to do. But this directive is offered with a rhetorical question.
We’re told “do not testify against your neighbor without cause.” While not required, this phrase would seem to suggest some sort of official legal setting.
It’s a good translation, but I’ll offer just a twist for better appreciation of the concept: “do not testify against your neighbor without good cause.”
In one sense, there’s always a reason why I might want to say something — I never really did like them; they hurt my feelings; they remind me of… But, if we’re honest, most of our reasons aren’t really good ones!
So, to emphasize the point, we’re asked the question, “Would you use your lips to mislead?”
Ideally, it’s just a rhetorical question — we should all say “of course not!”
Yet, the situation here — “testify against my neighbor without cause” — is probably not all that uncommon. We often find ourselves not happy about people, places or things and want to say something about it.
But the point of this proverb is the temptation to say something we know isn’t quite right. We’d say it because of our own feeling…not because of the facts.
I think the message here is to be honest with myself about my own feelings. Then I can be honest about what I say to and about others. I won’t be sorry!