Summary: An application of the ninth commandment about lying, demontrating the value of honesty in honoring God, healing relationships, and helping ourselves gain personal credibility.
The Value of Honesty (Exodus 20:16)
At midnight, one spring evening in 1987, a terrible thing happened: Seven million American children suddenly disappeared. No, it wasn’t a mass kidnapping or a serial killer. It was the IRS. They had changed a rule for the night of April 15, which for the first time required a Social Security number for every dependent child listed on form 1040. Suddenly, seven million children – children who had been claimed as exemptions on the previous year’s 1040 forms – vanished, representing about one in ten of all dependent children in the United States. (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics, HarperCollins, 2005, p. 21)
Lying has become so prevalent in our society that we hardly think about it anymore.
Just two years ago, a massive study involving nearly 70,000 U.S. college and high school students found that 70% had admitted to cheating. That was a 14% increase from 1993 and a 44% hike since 1963. The Duke University report also indicated that Internet plagiarism had quadrupled in the previous six years.
A separate poll of 25,000 high schoolers found that nearly half agreed with the statement, “A person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed.” (“Culture Clips,” Plugged In, June 2006, p. 2)
Unfortunately, this sentiment is not only limited to the young. Adults too have similar attitudes. According to a Reader’s Digest survey of 2,624 readers, 13% had shifted blame to a co-worker for something they did; 18% had misstated facts on a resume/job application; & 32% had lied to their spouse about the cost of a recent purchase. Furthermore, 63% had called in sick at work when not sick; 71% had lied to friends or family members about their appearance, to avoid hurting their feelings (“How Honest Are You?” Reader’s Digest, Jan 2004; www.Preaching Today.com) And I wonder: how many lied on the survey?
We are a nation of liars. Everybody is doing it, but does it really matter?
A new nation is being established on Mt. Sinai, where God establishes the principles for a strong, healthy society. We recognize them as the 10 commandments, but they are foundational principles for all healthy relationships. This morning, we are looking at the 9th commandment.
Exodus 20:16 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
The picture here is of a court of law where a witness is called upon to testify about what he saw a neighbor do. In that case, the witness is called upon to refrain from any groundless or false accusations. I.e., he must not make any statements that are not based on fact. The integrity of our court system depends on witnesses who in fact “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
But God doesn’t want us to limit our honesty to the courtroom. Whether we’re under oath or not, God expects us to always “speak truthfully” with one another.
Turn with me to Ephesians 4, Ephesians 4, where we have the New Testament commentary on this commandment. Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truth-fully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.