IX – “Thou shall not bear false witness.”
“Thou shalt not bear false witness”…but, it is also simply “Thou shalt not lie.” Why did God say, Thou shalt not lie? Because you know when you lie, you cannot lie to yourself. We lie to others…We lie about others…We lie about ourselves, but we can’t lie to ourselves… Because we know the truth!
I want to begin by stating four famous quotes. I am sure that you have heard before, and I want you to think about what they all have in common:
“Read My Lips, No New Taxes.” – George H Bush
“I did not inhale.” – Bill Clinton.
“The American people have a right to know that their president is not a crook. And I am not a crook.” – Richard Nixon
“I will be devoting the rest of my life to finding the real killer of my wife Nicole and Ronald Goldman.” – O. J. Simpson
All four of them are some of the more famous violations of the ninth commandment.
The Bible tells us, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16 –19) It is interesting that when we read this, (a top seven list of the things God hates) that five of the things on that list have to do with lying.
And our never changing God carried that thought over into the New Testament when He led Paul to write in Ephesians 4:20–25 the implications of living as children of light. Listen to how much of this passage is devoted to truth and to avoiding deceit:
“You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
God hates a false witness because He hates injustice. The wording of this commandment focuses particularly on a court of Law, but it isn’t restricted to the courts. The Bigger issue in this commandment is truthfulness.
Dr. Scott Peck became well-known for his book, The Road Less Traveled. His second book was called, “People of the Lie,” and it detailed how, at the very core of evil, there is always lying. People lie to others in order to accomplish their plans. People lie to themselves in order to rationalize their behavior. It is no coincidence that Jesus calls Satan, “a liar and the father of all lies.” Yet, by contrast, Jesus said, “I AM THE TRUTH.”.. and the Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of Truth.”
Do you remember the old Lay’s Potato Chip commercial: “You can’t eat just one?” Lies are like that. Once you’ve told that first lie, it’s really hard to tell just that one. Because once you start lying, you pretty much have to keep it up by telling other lies.
I read a story this week about a woman who introduced her 35-yr-old daughter as being only 24. The girl asked why she’d done it and the mother said, “Well, I realized that I’ve been lying about my age for so long, it suddenly dawned on me that I’d have to lie about your age, too!” Sir Walter Scott got it right when he said, “O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
James Emery White, in a book called “You Can Experience an Authentic Life” cites these statistics: 91% of all Americans confessed that they regularly lied. People no longer seem to care about lying. We accept it. It doesn’t bother us. We don’t seem to get upset anymore when someone exaggerates, falsifies, fabricates, or mis-represents the truth. We live in a day when we’ve been bombarded with erased tapes, tampered evidence, illicit cover-ups, padded resumes, and exaggerated ads, to the point that we’ve pretty much given up on truth. The study found that in the past, people thought lying was wrong. Now, almost half of all Americans say it isn’t.
Superman claimed that he did his Superhero-thing for the sake of “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” The question is, are truth and justice still a part of the American Way? And more to the point, are truth and justice hallmarks of how we as Christians interact with others?
As Christians, we are to be truth-seekers and truth-speakers. When we falsely accuse someone of something, we have taken from them something that cannot be returned. Ask anyone who has ever been accused of dishonest business practices if they’ve ever lived down the false charge? Not to mention the false accusations of child abuse routinely leveled at parents in the midst of heated custody hearings.
And it’s not just false testimony about someone’s character that robs them of their reputation. Anytime we gossip about someone, even if it what we say is true, we are violating at the very least the spirit of the 9th commandment, if not the letter. Gossip is simply the vice of confessing someone else’s sins. James 4:11 says, “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against or judges his brother or sister, speaks against the law and judges it.” One of the biggest problems we have is that we are usually quick to tell what we have heard, even if we don’t know the facts!
Let’s all remember this, if they will talk to you about someone else, you just bet that they are talking to someone else about you! Remember, one of the things God hates is someone who stirs up dissension among brothers and sisters.
Perjury and gossip are covered by the 9th commandment and so is good old fashioned lying. There are many different ways to tell a lie. Next week I will post the seventeen kinds of lies…