[CF Devotionals] 2010-11-14 - Defining Lying

The Ten Commandments ~ Part 52
Ninth Commandment ~ Part 1

We have now reached the ninth commandment. It is a statement against lying, and I think we’ll see that there is some overlap with what we reviewed when we discussed "don't steal" The more general principle we have been focusing on is the importance of taking sin seriously. We must recognize that our desire for obedience is grounded in the desire not to grieve the Lord, but instead to please Him. And we have seen that as we love God and others, the natural result is to avoid breaking the negative commandment, and simultaneously keep them in a positive way. As we examine this command, I think we will find it is one that often falls victim to situational ethics.

The call to Honesty: First let's take a moment to go to the dictionary. Here we find two definitions:

  1. A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
  2. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression. 1

The second definition is certainly the more subtle one. It is this kind of lying that goes on all around us. Let's now move on to the command itself. The command, as it is worded in the New International Version, is: "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." The intent is really self-evident. The call is not to lie. Although the command deals specifically with lying about someone in a legal situation, it is also appropriate to apply it to lying in general.

Here, we may need to go to the narrative of the "Good Samaritan," to recognize that while the command is against false witness against neighbors, we can take the intent as being broader. The injunction is against lying about anyone, and applicable about lying in general.

The principle of the parable was to show we are to care for anyone God puts in our path, that our neighbor isn't just the person next door, who is just like us. Deuteronomy 19:15-19 expands on the commandment. Here the thrust specifically relates to lying in the sense of giving false testimony in court.

"One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you."

  1. The American Heritage Electronic Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.

To be continued.

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