Exodus 20:16 – “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
As we continue in our series “Relationship not Rules” we come to the ninth command “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” It’s here that once again we are reminded by God of what matters most, our relationships. Because once again, we see that the reason for this command revolves around relationship. Why does God want us to talk truth to each other because trash talk destroys trust which is the foundation of relationship. The 9th commandment affects the whole world whether you are a Christian or not. Because the whole of humanity suffers when the truth is sacrificed for lies. Sadly, lying has become a way of life in our culture, and many no longer see it as wrong but believe it to be just a normal part of life. It is tragic to realize just how easily we accept bending the truth and because we as the adults of our society have modeled falsehoods so well it has become the second language of our youth. Truth is a treasure and it’s something we should take seriously. How many of us can say that this last week we told the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth? So, why did we lie? It’s here in the ninth command that we are confronted with the question, is our talk one of truth or one of trash? Either we will be Bearers of Freedom and Truth or we will be:
I. BEARING A FALSE TESTIMONY
- The Obvious Lie
This is when truth is altered to say something that is simply not true. This is illustrated so well in the following story: Lincoln was trying to make a point, but his hearer was unconvinced and stubborn. So, Lincoln tried another approach. He said to the disputer, “Well, let’s see now. How many legs does a cow have?” The disgusted reply came back “Four, of course.” Lincoln agreed, “That’s right. Now, suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?” The opponent replied confidently, “Why, five, of course.” Lincoln came back, “Now that’s where you’re wrong. Calling a cow’s tail, a leg doesn’t make it a leg!” No amount of telling a falsehood will change the truth, but it will change the relationship we have with the person we lied to or about. When truth is not given, everyone loses. The only thing preventing a meltdown of human society are the words spoken in our judicial system: “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Why has the world adopted this biblical principle of truth in its courtrooms, because if we lie people may die. Maybe not physically but we may kill their freedom, ruin their reputation, and murder justice. God’s Word commands us to guard our hearts against the damage that comes to both us and others when we bear false witness and lie. No society will long endure, nor will any human relationship that is not founded on truth. On a beautiful fall day, four young ladies decided to go for a drive instead of showing up to class on time. When they did arrive, the girls explained to the teacher they had had a flat tire. The teacher accepted the excuse, much to the girls’ relief. She then said, “Since you missed this morning’s quiz, you must take it now, please sit in the four corner seats in this room without talking.” When they were seated, the teacher said, “On your paper write the answer to one question: ’Which tire was flat?’”
This is defamation where we use the truth in such a way as to hurt someone, sometimes in a court of law it is called, “malicious intent.” While this is not an actual lie, it is the use of truth to still bear a false witness in such a way as to do damage to someone. Are you using the truth in a righteous way or a wrong way? Let me try to help you understand this with the following illustration: The editor of a small-town newspaper grew tired of being called a liar, and announced that he would tell the truth in the future. The next issue contained the following item: “Married–Miss Sylvan Rhodes and James Collins, last Saturday at the Baptist parsonage, by the Rev. J. Gordon. The bride is a very ordinary town girl, who doesn’t know any more about cooking than a jackrabbit, and never helped her mother three days in her life. She is not a beauty by any means and has a gait like a duck. The groom is an up-to-date loafer. He has been living off the old folks at home all his life and is now worth shucks. It will be a hard life.”
This is a lie intended to damage someone or protect self. It was this particular type of lie that God’s Word warned against in Deuteronomy 19:15-19. So serious was the danger of this type of lie that God’s Word declared that all such facts must be established by more than a single witness or the person should not be held for punishment. The breach of relationships is a serious issue to God and lying destroys all such relationships.
This is where we try to stretch the truth. While it may seem innocent it can leave casualties, because when the truth gets stretched relationships can be too. Often, we exaggerate to make ourselves look good or to be liked. This is where the 12” fish is stretched to become the 30” fish. Why because we want to impress people. While this may seem harmless after a while it will be difficult for people to trust and take at face value what we say. It can also create false impressions of others that can lead to bad relationships. Exaggeration is one of the most common forms of lying and sadly seems to come easily for most people. In Boston a minister noticed a group of boys standing around a small stray dog. “What are you doing, boys?” “Telling lies,” said one of the boys. “The one who tells the biggest lie gets the dog.” “Why, when I was your age,” the shocked minister said, “I never ever thought of telling a lie.” The boys looked at one another, a little crestfallen. Finally, one of them shrugged and said, “I guess he wins the dog.” As you look at these different types of lies are there any present in your life? Is your talk one of truth or one of trash?