[CF Devotionals] 2015-09-06 - The Ninth Commandment

A Call to Honesty

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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. So let’s 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 setting, 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 that 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. “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”

In spite of the intent of the letter of the commandment, I don't feel it is going far afield, to understand this as a prohibition against lying in general. Certainly, much of Scripture speaks to the necessity of speaking the truth in situations not limited to just the judicial.

Some examples include:

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Proverbs l12:22 ESV).

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25 ESV).

To be continued.

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

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