Summary: When we lie we destroy our community and our relationship with God
Tonight I want to begin by stating four famous quotes. I am sure that you have heard them 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
Can you guess what all of these have in common? By looking back at these quotes you know that all three of them are some of the more famous violations of the ninth commandment, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
But they were not the first. Listen to Genesis 3:1 - 13.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all."
We read in Proverbs 6: 16 - 19 a top seven list of the things God hates. "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."
Have you ever noticed that nearly 30% of that list includes lying.
And our never changing God carried that thought over into the New Testament when He lead 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."
I doubt that there is another commandment, other than the first, which is so routinely violated in our culture these days. And it’s not just these days. You probably can’t find another topic so thoroughly covered in the Bible. Scripture’s prohibitions against lying, and its commandments to tell the truth, are found in both Testaments and in almost every book. Clearly, human beings have had a problem with telling lies when the truth would have done better since the very beginning.
The most direct application of the ninth commandment involves perjury in a formal judicial hearing. And the Law of Moses took perjury very seriously.
Listen to Deuteronomy 19:15 - 21.
God knew that when testimony is given in a court of law, more than fortunes are at stake. Lives may be on the line. But before you get to excited remember to restrict the ninth commandment to legal proceedings is to limit this law. It covers far more than the testimony people give under oath. This commandment seeks to protect the sanctity of a person’s reputation.
I am going to have to write a short note of apology to my High School Literature teacher this week for this but do you remember the Shakespeare play Othello? Well in Act III, scene 3, we read; "Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls; Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, ’tis nothing; ’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he who filches from me my good name, Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed."
I can’t believe that I used Shakespeare in my real job! Anyway our reputations are among the most sacred things we possess.
Solomon writes in Proverbs 22:1, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
When we falsely accuse someone of something, we have taken from them something that cannot be returned. Ask anyone whose 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 its 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.