Summary: Most Christians go their whole life and do not break some of the commandments, but it is not likely that anyone even gets through childhood without breaking this one. We talk so much about other people. We are all mini versions of the National Enquirer.
An unusual trial took place in London in 1670. The
defendant was none other than the founder of Pennsylvania,
William Penn. He was the leader of the Society Of Friends,
known as the Quakers, and he was charged with inciting a
riotous, seditious assembly. Parliament had made the
Quakers an object of persecution, and the judges were in
accord with the conspiracy against this religious minority.
The jury was ordered to agree on a verdict of guilty before
the trial began. Fortunately, the jury had a mind of its own,
and returned the judgment, guilty of speaking aloud on
Grace Church Street. For this, of course, there was no
The judge was outraged, and refused to accept the
verdict. He sent them back to reconsider. When they
returned again with the same verdict in writing, the judge
lowered the boom on them and said, "You will not be
dismissed until we have a verdict acceptable to the Court,
and you shall be locked up without meat, drink, fire and
tobacco, and no one may communicate with you. We will
have the verdict, or you shall starve." The jurors in
defiance, after several days of imprisonment, reversed their
decision to not guilty. The judge became increasingly brutal,
but could not break them. The Court finally dismissed the
jury after fining them forty marks per man, and
imprisonment until paid. William Penn was jailed on a
contrived contempt of court charge, and returned to the
This historical incident demonstrates that loyalty to the
truth does not always lead to immediate justice.
Nevertheless, it is the only hope of ever having justice at all.
Those who refuse to bare false witness in obedience to God,
rather than lie in obedience to the state were actually the
greatest friends of the state, for when all such people are
gone, the state has no future, but that of enduring the wrath
The courts require witnesses to swear to tell the truth.
They make it a crime not to tell the truth. So the truth is
absolutely essential to any system of justice. Every nation
has recognized this, and that is why perjury is universally
condemned and severely punished. God knew Israel could
not be a united people, and a representative of the God of
justice, if truth was not honored among them. Therefore, we
have the ninth commandment, which makes the preservation
of truth one of the basic principles necessary for a good
society. The whole legal, social, and moral fabric of society
will unravel in utter chaos without the thread of truth
running through it.
This is another reason why Americans have good reason
to fear for the future of our nation. The credibility gap is a
big topic in our day. It means that there is so much lying
going on that we don't even know for sure if the credibility
gap is a fact or a lie. Spurgeon said, "If all men's sins were
divided into two bundles, half of them would be sins of the
tongue." Just listen to a partial list of the sins of the tongue.
Lying, calumny, slander, misrepresentation,
contumely, insult, scurrility, railing, detraction,
whispering, backbiting, false witness, deprecation,
vilification, insinuation, abuse, tattle, insolence,
sneering, taunting, jives, jeers, defamation, libel,
satire, sarcasm, lampoon, censoriousness, slashing
criticism, surmising, attributing motives, and last
but not lease, gossip.
That is an impressive array of weapons which the tongue
has to use in the battle for evil. These weapons are not just
used by politicians, but by everybody. Paul writes to the
Christians at Corinth in II Cor. 12:20, "I fear that perhaps I
may come and find you not what I wish.....That perhaps
there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness,
slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder." The church has
never been without its storehouse of sins of the tongue.
Therefore, the study of the ninth commandment is directed
at ourselves, and not just those of the world. Let's consider
This is a voluntary violation of an oath. The
subtlety with which men can bare false witness is amazing.
A case reported in a popular magazine revealed how even
the truth can be used for bearing false witness. The case
dealt with a will that was being contended based on the
deceased not being right in the head. Testimony was given
that he put his head between the curtains dividing the living
and dining room and cried, "Baaa, I'm a billy goat." This
way true, but as further probing brought out, it was while
playing with his grandchildren. True statements designed to
mislead are just as much lies as outright falsehoods.
No system of law will lead to justice when perjury is a
common practice, and this seems to be the case in our land