Summary: Since truth exists we ought to seek the truth, tell the truth, live the truth, and share the truth with others.
"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." That’s what Sir Walter Scott said almost 200 years ago, and it’s just as true today as it was then. Yet that doesn’t stop most of us from lying, does it? The 1992 book The Day America Told the Truth found that 91% of us lie routinely about things we consider trivial. 86% of children regularly lie to their parents. 65% of married people lie to their spouses regularly. We lie about our weight, our income, our grade point average, our work experience, our age, even how many fish we caught during our last vacation. We hate it when people are dishonest to us, but most of us can’t resist being dishonest to other people.
We’ve been in a series through the 10 Commandments called LANDMARKS FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM. Today we’re going to look at the ninth commandment, God’s prohibition against lying. We’re going to try to answer three questions: What is truth? What is lying? And how can we uphold the ninth commandment in our daily lives.
But before we answer those questions, I want to remind us again that the 10 Commandments were given to people who’d already experienced God’s grace and forgiveness. Before God gave Israel the 10 Commandments he saved them from their slavery in Egypt. Only after God saved Israel did he give them his law. Until you experience God’s grace through Jesus Christ, God’s law will be no more than a source of guilt and condemnation in your life. God’s grace always has to come first.With that in mind, let’s look at the ninth commandment together.
1. What is Truth?
Originally the ninth commandment was dealing specifically with perjury. Look at it with me:
"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Deu 5:20 NIV).
Back in Old Testament Israel, virtually every legal decision was decided based on the truthfulness of the witnesses. They didn’t have DNA testing or expert witnesses back then, so a false witness could ruin a person’s reputation. However, even though this is originally just talking about perjury, by implication this commandment is talking about truth telling in all areas of life. Old Testament scholar Walt Kaiser says that though the vocabulary of this commandment reflects the legal process of Israel, "The ninth commandment is a call for the sanctity of truth in all areas of life" (95). The fact that this commandment is calling us to truth telling in all areas of life tells us something important about the nature of truth.
This is our first question: What is the nature of truth? When God gave us then ninth commandment, He assumed that OBJECTIVE TRUTH EXISTS.
Objective truth is truth that’s valid regardless of whether people believe it or not. It’s truth that exists in objective reality apart from our personal feelings, beliefs, and ideas. For generations our culture assumed that objective truth was real. The preamble to our Constitution begins by talking about certain truths that are self evident. In colleges and universities, every academic field of study was based on the assumption that objective truth existed and was available to the careful student. This assumption was applied equally to physics and psychology, history and religion, biology and business management.
Yet in our own generation this assumption has all but disappeared. Really the decline of belief in objective truth goes back to a philosopher named Immanuel Kant. Today most people believe that objective truth is only possible in science, but in history, ethics, and religion truth is relative not objective. In fact, back in 1989 Alan Bloom wrote his book The Closing of the American Mind, where he claimed that the only thing a college professor can be absolutely confident of among incoming college freshmen is that they almost all believe that truth is relative.
Truth has been demoted to the equivalent of values, opinions and preferences. For instance, you might like vanilla ice cream, so it’s true for you that vanilla is your favorite flavor. But of course that’s just your personal preference, because my favorite flavor might be chocolate or rocky road. So what’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me or true for anyone else for that matter. When truth becomes a subjective preference instead of an objective reality, then everyone’s opinion is equally valid and it’s impossible to prove one opinion as right and another as wrong. And most people in our culture think this is what it means for something to be "true" in history, ethics, and religion As a result of this trend that’s a characteristic of what’s called postmodernism, many people believe that’s what’s true for you in religion isn’t necessarily true for other people.
Recently someone ran across a math test that reflected this change. A math test in the 1960s would read something like this: