2005-09-05 - Honest Talk
Originally Published 2002-10-28
Exodus 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
There is an aspect of this verse that is judicial in nature. It has the connotations of a court of justice. The idea is that we should tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When we give our testimony, we should do so without passion or malice. We should speak as those who don't show partiality. We speak the truth and the truth only. To do anything else is to bear false witness against another.
I think most would agree with me to this point, but I think this commandment should really be taken further. We should not bear false witness or speak untruthfully concerning our neighbor, even when we are in private company. What is in mind here is all types of false testimony. We are not to speak falsely about someone in public or in private. This includes such things as, "Someone told me (I can't remember who) that so and so did such and such several years ago." Things of this nature are included in this command. It is very easy for us to feel important by having a story to tell, or by having information that makes us "in the know," but we must not let this cause us to fall into the sin of exaggeration by making a false statement about someone.
Another way to bear false witness is to misrepresent ourselves. When we exaggerate about ourselves, we have become a false witness. We all know how easy this is to do. But it is vanity to make ourselves look better to others than we really are. This is not only the case when we make ourselves look better than we are, but is also true when we play down our faults. In both cases, we have lied to our neighbor, and both cases are commonly indulged in by many of us.
It is therefore important for us to know the true nature of ourselves and of others if we are going to speak concerning either. We are told in 1 Corinthians 11:28 that we should examine ourselves, and again in 2 Corinthians 13:5, we are told emphatically, "Examine yourselves!" Before we speak concerning the character, actions, dispositions or nature of anyone (including ourselves), we need to seek to determine if what we are saying is really accurate.
Lastly, we might even be wise to consider what the reason is for saying what we say. Are we simply trying to make ourselves look better than another? Are we seeking their good when we tell the story or repeat the rumor? It is true that some things should be said, and that some people, even Christians, have dispositions or propensities that possibly need to be expressed. However, we must be very careful in doing this, lest we violate the ninth commandment.
Soli Deo Gloria,