Summary: Honesty is always the best policy

“Lying” Exodus 20:1-16

I wanted to read this story, which by the way actually happened, just to show you how God works in strange ways.

“Alice Grayson was a single mother in Arizona and she really wanted to fit in with a local church she had begun to attend; but the problem was, the people were kind of the uppity crowd. So, she jumped at a chance to volunteer to bake a cake for the Ladies’ Group bake sale. And then she forgot all about it; but she remembered the morning of the bake sale and after rooting through her cupboard she found an angel food cake mix and she made it while she was rushing around drying her hair, getting dressed and helping her son pack for camp. But when she took the cake out of the oven, the center dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured.

And she said, "Oh dear, there’s not enough time to bake another cake." Well, baking this cake was so important to Alice because she wanted so bad to fit in with these people and being inventive, she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake and she found it in the bathroom. It was a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in the center of the cake and covered the whole thing in icing. And not only did it look beautiful but she thought it actually looked perfect!

Then, before she left the house to drop the cake off at the church, which was on her way to work, she woke her daughter Amanda and gave her some money and told her to be at the bake sale the minute it opened at 9:30 and that way she could buy the cake and bring it home. Well, the problem was, Amanda forgot all about it and when she finally got to the sale, she found out the cake had already been sold. So, she grabbed her cell phone, called her mom and told her what had happened.

Alice was horrified and she felt everyone was going to know and what would they think of someone who filled a cake for a church bake sale with toilet paper? She felt she’d be ostracized, talked about and ridiculed. And so, all night Alice lay awake; thinking about everyone pointing their finger at her and talking about what a loser she was.

The next day, she promised herself she’d try not to think about the cake and besides she had been invited to a fancy luncheon type bridal shower at the home of a friend of a friend, so she thought she’d go and try to have a good time. At first, she didn’t want to attend because she knew the hostess who was a snob from the church and more than once she had looked down her nose at Alice because she was not only a single parent but she wasn’t even a member of one of the founding families from the area like she was. But, since Alice had already sent a card saying she’d go; she couldn’t think of a reasonable excuse to stay home.

So, she went and the meal was elegant, the company was definitely upper crust and then to Alice’s horror, the CAKE she made was presented for dessert. Alice felt the blood drain from her body as soon as she saw it and she was about to go tell the hostess all about what had happened but before she could get to her feet, the Mayor’s wife said to the hostess, "What a beautiful cake!" And the hostess said, “Thank you, I baked it myself." Alice smiled and thought to herself, "GOD is good."

“And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

As I said last week, in the Ten Commandments we find an expression of the moral nature of God. And since God is a God of order, He demands that our lives be orderly; and that begins with our honouring or showing respect for our parents; and the way we respect our parents is also demonstrated by the way we respect the rest of the authorities God has established in other areas of our lives.

God is also the giver of all life and He demands we value the lives of others and so He says, “Thou shalt not murder.” God is also a faithful God and He tells us to model the relationship that exists between Christ and His church through our marriages and He says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” God is a God of love and love is giving and God wants us to demonstrate His love; so He says, “Thou shalt not steal” because stealing is the opposite of giving. And today, we’ll see that God is also a God of truth and because He places such a high premium on personal honesty He tells us, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” And simply put, we are not to lie to our neighbours and we certainly are not to lie about them.

In Deuteronomy 32: the Bible describes God and says, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.” God is a God of truth and that means; God is all about the truth. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man that He should lie.” Titus 1:2 repeats this when it says, “In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” and then Hebrews 6:8 says, “It is impossible for God to lie.” So, if anybody ever asks you, “Is there anything God can’t do?” say yes, “He cannot lie.”

I remember when I first got saved, there were several kinds of Bibles published and some of them were aimed at specific people groups like the “Hippy Bible” “The Businessman’s Bible” or “The Student’s Bible” but one of them was called, “The Promise Bible” and this Bible had over 1800 promises that were highlighted and these promises were all made by God who cannot lie.

So, truth isn’t just important to God but it’s the foundation of who He is. God is truth and any lie that’s told for any reason goes against anything and everything God stands for.

It’s interesting to see how lying actually played a part in the very first sin. The very first lie was told by Satan, when he said to Eve in Genesis 3:1, “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” And after her response it says in verses 4 and 5, “And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” So, the first lie was when he said, you’re not going to die and then the second was when he said, you’re going to be just like God and he gave her the impression that God was somehow holding back on something good.

So, Satan lied and then when she believed his lie, she and Adam ate the forbidden fruit. Now listen, let me ask you a few questions about this fruit. What did it taste like? Was the flavour good or was it bitter? Was it juicy or dry? What colour was it? Was it the same on the inside as it was on the outside or was it different? You see, although eating this fruit was the key to their sin; it was irrelevant as soon as they ate it.

And then they immediately realized the consequences of their sin because their eyes were opened in a way they never were opened before and after they made themselves some clothes they were confronted by God. First, we see Adam tried to shift the blame onto Eve and he tried to free himself of any responsibility by saying it was all her fault and then Eve did the same thing by pointing to the serpent. Now, Adam was right because it was her fault, and Eve was right because it was Satan’s fault but no matter who pointed to who; they were all guilty. Listen, it all began with Satan’s lies and then it evolved into everyone blaming everybody else for their sin. So, if people ask you if you believe in evolution say, “Of course I do. The Bible teaches it in Genesis 3 where sin was in the heart of one couple and spread throughout the whole human race.

And it’s still going on today. Instead of people admitting they’re sinners they say things like, it’s hereditary, it’s cultural or it’s all part of the evolutionary cycle.

Jesus said, it all began with Satan who He called ‘the father of lies’ in John 8:44 and it’s obvious that Adam and Eve didn’t take all that long to pick up on his lying ways. And as they say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” and Satan is still lying to us today.

Did you know that one of Satan’s biggest lies is all about heaven? To the non-believing crowd he denies heaven even exists and tells them there’s nothing to look forward to and there’s nothing to miss, so you’ve got nothing to worry about. And then to those of us who know we’re going to heaven, he’ll say, “Heaven’s so boring and all you’re going to do is sit around on clouds all day playing harps for the rest of eternity. And not only that but you’re going to have to spend all your time listening to all the dull and tedious people you spent your life trying to avoid on earth.

When I was a youth pastor one of my responsibilities was to run a senior’s group and we had about 60-80 people every Thursday morning and most of them were believers and there were also a few non-believers who just came for fellowship.

I remember one couple who I thought were married but they were actually brother and sister and they very nice people but they had the gift of going on and on and on. One day, they cornered me after the meeting and he began to explain what he would do if he had ever won a lottery and then he also explained that he would never buy a ticket; so, I had to imagine that God had somehow placed this winning ticket in his hand.

And then, he went on to say that he had five places where he would put the money, assuming that it was a million dollars. He said he would give two hundred thousand to foreign missions, two hundred thousand to church planting, two hundred thousand to Child Evangelism Fellowship, two hundred thousand to be split between various prison ministries and then he’d keep two hundred thousand to live on but he’d also have his will made out so that any extra money that was left over when he died would be split between the aforementioned ministries.

And just when I thought it was all over his sister began to tell me what she would do if God gave her the winning ticket because her interest in mission’s was a little bit different from his. And I’d like to tell you what she said but I think I went into some kind of coma. Now listen, the thought of getting stuck on a cloud with these two people who were believers, talking for all of eternity would not be heaven for me. But remember, everyone in heaven will be transformed and no one will be pre-occupied with all the little things that kept them so busy on earth. And do you know what the best part is? I’ll be transformed as well. And the people who’ve had to endure me in this life will really find me interesting because I’ll be both sinless and perfect.

Listen, Satan can make heaven sound as boring as he wants to; but God said, “Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor has the mind ever thought about the things that God has in store for us.” This tells us that we can’t even imagine how great it’s going to be. But in the here and now, God knows all about us, and He knows we’d rather not have people see us for who we really are and that we tend to spruce ourselves up a little for the sake of others. In other words, we lie.

Someone said, “The problem with lying can be summed up by the examples of three former US Presidents. George Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Richard Nixon couldn’t tell the truth and Bill Clinton couldn’t tell the difference. They say the most honest president who ever lived was Gerald Ford because he began by saying ‘I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.’ And basically, he was promising mediocrity and most people think he delivered it in spades. Maybe, he should have been more specific and told them he was an Edsel.

While this commandment certainly affirms the value of telling the truth because God is truth; the primary application of this particular law was always used in the context of testifying in court. And for those of you who are taking notes, here’s my first point. (I’m finally getting to it.)

I Truth is foundational to the legal system.

The very nature of justice stands or falls on truth. The Jewish law code was called the Mishnah and it had strict rules for anybody who gave evidence in court. For instance, anyone who was testifying was not allowed to benefit in any way and that meant they couldn’t accept anything for their testimony. And everyone who testified also had to be interviewed independantly so there was no room for a conspiracy. There was also not to be any second hand accounts or hearsay evidence and that meant that only eye-witnesses could testify. And then Deuteronomy 19:18-20 tells us that anyone who was found to be a false witness would receive the same sentence as the one who was found guilty of the crime the witness had lied about.

So, needless to say, no witness would ever testify unless they were absolutely positive about what they saw because after they testified; they’d either have to take part in stoning the guilty party or they risked having the same thing happen to them. So, it really cost them something to tell the truth.

One of the interesting facts about Jewish law is that the man who refused to give evidence when he had evidence to give was considered to be just as guilty as the one he should have testified against. Listen to Leviticus 5:1, “And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.” It’s an important principle that if someone is either cowardly or careless; their lack of responsibility was considered to be as bad as the sin they ignored and they would be judged just as guilty as the one who sinned in the first place.

So, truth was foundational to the legal system and then second, we also see that:

II Truth is also foundational to any relationship.

I mean,you can’t have a relationship with someone who isn’t honest. After all, how can you trust anyone who is always stretching the truth?

I heard about a lady who went to the grocery store to get a chicken and she asked the guy behind the counter to weigh it. He did and he said it was five pounds. She said, she wanted something a little heavier and if he didn’t have it she’d go to the store down the street. Well, the guy didn’t want to lose a sale, so he said, “Let me see if I can find another chicken in the back.” He took the chicken to the back room and then brought the same one back out and said, “This one is six and a half pounds.” And she said, “Great, I’ll take them both.” Well, as the Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

A good example of how far people will actually go with lying is found in Acts 5 in the account of Annanias and Sapphira. Here was a couple who saw everyone else giving money to the church and they wanted everyone to think of them as big givers as well. So, they sold their house but it seems as though they had second thoughts and then rather than give all they got for the house, they lied to the apostles about how much they received.

We pick it up in verse 4 where Peter said, “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your control? Why have you concieved this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” People have often asked me, “Do you think this couple are in heaven?” And I’ve attempted to be very clear about this and so I say, “I don’t know.”

It’s interesting to see that the Bible actually give examples where lying seems to be hereditary. We see it in the life of Abraham when he lied about his wife. Let me show you what I mean.

In Genesis 12:10-20, it says, “And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, this is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, what is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, she is my sister? So I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.”

Listen, his lie of convenience ended up causing all kinds of suffering for the Egyptians. And then besides what happened here, we also see that his son noticed how lying worked for his father and he used the exact same lie a few years later.

In Genesis 26:1, “And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.” And then down in verse 6-10 it says, “And Isaac dwelt in Gerar: and the men of the place asked him, of his wife; and he said, she is my sister: for he feared to say, she is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon. And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife. And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, behold, of a surety she is thy wife; and how saidst thou, she is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, because I said, lest I die for her. And Abimelech said, what is this thou hast done unto us? One of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.”

And listen, the lying doesn’t stop here because later on we find Isaac’s son Jacob lied to him in order to steal his brother’s birthright and then Jacob’s sons lied to him about Joseph when they sold him into slavery and said an animal had killed him but listen, Jacob was so used to lying and being lied to; that he couldn’t even recognize a lie when he heard one.

And today, lying is so natural that we actually expect it. People say things like; “Your table will be ready in a minute. One size fits all. This will hurt me more than it hurts you. I’m sorry I’m late, I got stuck in traffic. Your check is in the mail. This offer is limited to the first 50 people who call in. It’s not the money; it’s the principle of the thing. I just need five minutes of your time. We service what we sell. Give me your number and the doctor will call you right back. Money cheerfully refunded. Or I’m going to start my diet tomorrow.” All these remind me of the quote by Mark Twain who said, “One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.”

Listen, even when we tell what we call a little white lie; we are telling ourselves and everyone else that truth is only relevant when it’s convenient.

I saw a show on TV a couple of weeks ago called, “Lie to me” and they asked someone how they had spent their evening and the person listed four or five things they had done. And then they asked them to repeat all the things they had done backwards and when the person had a hard time doing it, they explained that when a person tells a lie they memorize the points forward but they never bother memorizing them in reverse. And the point is, you don’t have to memorize the truth because it comes naturally. I guess it’s like the old saying, “Anyone who intends on telling lies better have a good memory.”

So, truth is foundational to the legal system and it’s also foundational to any relationship, so, why do people lie?

III So, why do people lie?

I read in a survey that, “15 percent of women tinted their hair, 38 percent wore a wig, 80 percent wore rouge, 98 percent wore eye shadow, 22 percent wore false eyelashes and 93 percent wore nail polish. And 100 percent voted in favor of a resolution condemning any kind of false packaging.”

People have different reasons to lie. Some people lie because they’re angry and they get even with others by making things up or twisting the truth. This is why the scripture condemns gossip and slander because gossip and slander are usually founded on half-truths and if something is only half true than it’s half a lie. Proverbs 26:28, “A lying tongue hate those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” So, next time you’re enjoying listening to someone gossip about someone else; remember this; anyone who will gossip to you, will be just as quick to gossip about you!

Then there are some who lie because they’re afraid of getting caught in something and they tell a lie to escape the consequences of their actions.

Others lie to make themselves look good. And we call this boasting or bragging. They like to tell you about something that happened in a way that either makes them look smarter or better than everybody knows they are.

I knew a preacher who was well known for really twisting the truth and one day a friend and I were walking passed him on a lake where he was ice fishing and when we asked if he was catching anything, he said, “Just a cold.” As we got down the lake a bit my friend said, “He’ll be preaching this weekend and he’ll tell everybody how he caught the biggest fish ever known to man in the coldest temperature anyone has ever survived.” People stretch the truth out of a fear that people won’t accept them for who they really are.

Then there are a lot of people who don’t lie but they exaggerate. I heard of a preacher who was brought before his deacon’s board for exaggerating so much. And when they told him what they were concerned about this he said, “I’ve cried a barrel of tears over this.”

Last week I told you I played with a gospel band called; “Sweet Spirit” and how we had traveled out to the west coast and back. Well, the next year this group had a chance to do it all over again but I couldn’t go and the drummer had quit, so, out of desperation they put an ad in the paper looking for a Christian drummer who was willing to work all summer for free. And about two days before they planned to go, a guy called up and said he was not only free; but he also played six different instruments including the drums.

For some reason, he didn’t have a set, so, the guys in the band went out and bought a second hand set of drums. And the night before they were going to leave; they all sat down to practice and they found out this guy couldn’t play the radio. Well, they were in a tight spot because they had booked all these concerts. So, they took him along anyway; hoping they’d be able to teach him how to keep time but after a couple of weeks they had to cancel the rest of the tour because they said he was absolutely useless.

Listen, he wasn’t trying to ruin their lives; he just wanted to play in a band and somehow he thought that just hanging around musicians would somehow make him musical, but his lie cost them a lot of money and wasted all their time and energy.

Then there are those who lie to get ahead and in a world filled with advertisements there are often claims made that simply are not true. For instance, how many have heard the commercial that said, “Certs is a breath mint and it’s made with Retsin.” Now, that sounds great until you find out what Retsin is. You see, Retsin is a vegetable oil. And what would vegetable oil do for your breath? I mean; would anybody here gargle with Crisco? Then there are the makers of Mr. Clean who came out with a new product called “Top Job” and they said it was for the really tough stains. But the problem was; Top Job is just Mr. Clean with a different color of dye.

Listerine was the first over-the counter mouthwash ever sold in the United States. It came out in 1914 and in 1921 they were saying it was a cure-all for common cold problems like sore throats and coughs and it was a dandruff preventative, an anti-shave tonic and a safe way to protect your self from cuts, bruises, wounds and stings. Listerine faced all kinds of false advertisement lawsuits and the Federal Trade Commission ordered the company to spend $10 million in corrective advertising and they said this product was no more effective in treating colds than gargling with warm water.

Even then, the mouthwash giant didn’t learn their lesson because in 2005, the company was slapped with another lawsuit. This time because Listerine claimed it was as “effective as floss” and they tried to prove this by rigging their clinical trials. So, if you have any Listerine at home, when the bottles are empty just fill them with warm water and you’ll save yourself a trip to the drugstore.

Did you know that ‘Preparation H’ has never been through any kind of medical testing? No one knows what it is or what it does. Listen, people lie: to get ahead, to look like their ahead and to keep their heads, but regardless of why they lie; it’s wrong.

I heard a story about a major company who were looking for a new Marketing Director. And after a lot of advertising and many applications, three candidates entered the final selection process. The first one in for the final interview was asked a simple question: “What is 2+2?” He was surprised, thought about it for a bit, wondered if it might be a trick question and then he simply answered 4. The Managing Director looked at the Board, shook his head and thanked him for coming, but they said he wasn’t the candidate they were looking for. The next one came in and again he was asked this simple question: “What is 2+2?” He paused, thought about it for a bit and then replied that statistically it was a number between 3 and 5. The Managing Director smiled and Board was quite impressed but he was thanked and ushered out. The last candidate was also asked the same question: What is 2+2 and without batting an eye he asked: “What do you want it to be?” And they hired him on the spot.

So, some lie out of fear; to avoid punishment. Then there are those who lie because they’ve found lying works and they can get away with whatever they want by lying. And then some learn to lie from others because they see that it’s the easy way to get along.

IV As Christians we’re indwelt by the Spirit of Truth and that means we need to be concerned for the truth and not just the raw truth but truth spoken in love. And the reason I say this is because over the years I’ve met so-called believers who stand for, proclaim and shout the truth but when you really get to know them they’re actually hateful people. I mean they say they love God and have a burden for the lost but they can’t stand other believers. And as far as they’re concerned everybody but them are just a bunch of loosy-goosy liberals.

I had a friend who was saved in a church like that and he was telling me about the Youth Pastor. He said, “One night several couples from the church were at his house for a time of fellowship and all the men were all sitting in the living room while all their wives were in the kitchen making food.”

Well, the Youth Pastor started talking about godly submission and he said he was happy to say that his wife was in total submission. My friend asked him what he meant and he said, “Every time I snap my fingers my wife comes running ready and willing to do anything I ask.” Now, when you hear that you think, this guy has got to be kidding.

So, my friend said, “That’s kind of hard to believe.” And the guy said, “Watch this” and he snapped his fingers and his wife came running in from the kitchen and asked him if he called. He said, “No, I was just showing the guys something.”

Well, my friend couldn’t believe what he saw and he said,” Does she do that every time?” And the guy said, “Every time.” So, my friend said, “Do it again.” And he snapped his fingers and his wife ran in again and asked if him if he called.” And at that point my friend realized there was something wrong with that church and it wasn’t their theology but there was a certain kind of pride that permeated their thinking.

Listen, we need to be concerned for the truth but if being truthful makes us hateful then we’ve missed the point altogether. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us."

V Finally, I want you to see that God is so concerned with the truth that He can’t stand liars.

Proverbs 6:16-19, “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” Did you notice two of the seven things God hates are a lying tongue and a false witness who speaks lies. Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” Revelation 21:8, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Listen, God doesn’t want anything to do with liars because when we lie we’re following the example of the very first liar and that’s Satan himself; and we who are indwelt by the Spirit of Truth ought to be filled with the word of truth and when we speak we ought to be speaking the truth.

We hear so often that truth is relative, and that means is that what’s true for you may not be true for me, what’s true for Canadians may not be true for Americans, what’s true for Baptists may not be true for Pentecostals, but listen, if truth is relative, then nothing is true, nothing is knowable and nothing matters. There is no God and all religions are useless and that’s what the world wants you to believe; but listen, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.” He the way to get there, the only truth about what’s there and He is the source of eternal life which is why we all want to be there.