Ninth Commandment: You shall not bear false witness.  

Exodus 20:16

I just received a phone call from the Chevrolet dealer who repairs my car.  He told me what the car needs.  So I said, “Fix it.”  Now this whole transaction involved both truth and trust.  And, yes, I trust him.  He also trusts me to pay him.  Simple, but oh so important for a society to prosper!  Trust demands truth!

The Bible makes it quite clear how lying – not telling the truth – entered world history.  It was in the Garden of Eden when the evil angel Satan lied to the first woman Eve.  God had told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil upon pain of death.  And when under temptation Eve told the Evil One God’s warning, he bluntly lied and said, “You won’t die…”.  That’s the first recorded lie in history!  And that is why Satan is called “the father of lies.”  (John 8:44)

Now let’s be clear here.  Every man has a conscience.  In the New Testament, Paul the apostle makes that clear in Romans 1:18. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them.”  Paul later adds that because men know about this God and His creation, “…they are without excuse.” In everyday terms let’s step into a courtroom.  The judge in charge awaits the court to “swear in” the witnesses, who are called upon to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…” with the usual final words “so help me God.”  In former days the witness laid his hand on a Bible as he took the oath.  There is, therefore, in what we would call “common grace”, a recognition of the difference between truth and falsehood.  It’s built in to mankind from creation.

In some cases, this process has a back-up procedure calling for the polygraph, also known as the “lie detector”.  While it’s not foolproof, it normally reflects physical reactions when one tells a lie.  One seeking to prove his innocence may request its use to help vindicate his telling the truth.

Interestingly the ninth commandment finds itself within the context of love for one’s neighbor.  And to support this mental framework, Satan is labelled in Revelation 12:10 “the accuser of the brethren.”  This ninth commandment makes clear that biblical love protects one’s neighbor’s good name.  Pause here long enough to recognize the danger and evil of gossip.  

 The ninth commandment, like all the others, is exceedingly broad. Beyond what we have covered already, consider as well that there are many ways to cheat.  Probably most of us have run into cheating in one way or another during school days.  Our oldest son, as a professor at Syracuse University, encountered a student who copied a published paper as his own in a class he was teaching.  It was easy to prove. The student had submitted a paper our son had written! Not too smart!  But it reflects the deceit of the heart of man.  And everyone has been “inoculated” with this condition.  But see it as not loving your neighbor as yourself!  Let that grip your conscience!  Love will not embrace lying in practice.

And before you bring up potential exceptions to this rule, we’re not going to deal with any of those in this article.  The principle herein stated in the commandment is focus on loving one’s neighbor.  Is it any wonder that our culture here in the West has lost this conscience for truth?! And it is a pervasive problem.  Last week as I was doing some shopping for a friend, I went for the breakfast cereal.  I saw what I was looking for, reached for a box, and suddenly realized the box was no longer as thick as had been.  From the front, it looked as it always had.  But its actual size of content was disguised to look as it always had.  Then I noticed all the boxes of all the producers were thinner.  I thought, “Welcome to today’s commerce!” Ananias and his wife Sapphira, in Acts 5, tried to fake the size of their gift to the church.  In short, they lied openly about the selling price of a piece of property. They were openly disciplined by the Lord with sudden death!  And be sure, the church learned that day the seriousness of lying against the Lord!  Someone has said, “Circumstances don’t make a person; they reveal a person.”  And Peter’s rebuke addressed their hearts.  Illustrations of such hypocrisy (play acting) color all of our relationships, but they don’t fool God!  I’m sure there are many, many people who profess Christ who are living a lie.  Some call Washington, D.C., the Swamp. More particularly, that’s the condition of the human heart! Now Jesus gives true believers a new heart.  That heart is ultra-sensitive to truth…and consequently to falsehood.  Jesus Christ gives a true believer a new heart!  He may struggle to keep his conscience clear…but he struggles.  He can’t live a lie!

by Ken G Smith

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