. The call to Honesty: First, let‘s take a moment to go to the dictionary. Here we find two definitions:
- A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
- Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression. 2
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 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 (NIV) 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 rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. 16 ”If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, 17then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. 18 The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. 20"The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. 21 "Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
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 de- light“ (Proverbs 12:22 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).
Notice, as we might expect, the call is not only against lying but also a requirement to speak the truth. Although some even abuse this, but we’ll talk of this in a moment. Let‘s take a look at the Psalm of David, pointing out this same principle.
”O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who hon- ors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved“ (Psalms 15:0–5 ESV).
Note the focus here is a heart of truth. As with all things, it is the inward condition that must change first. Only this will change the outward actions. As with all the commandments, the bottom line is the call to holiness. If our walk is righteous, and in tune with the will of the Father, then our actions will demonstrate this.
How can we claim to follow the God of Truth, and Christ, who is the Truth, and at the same time live a life typified by lies? The bottom line is we can‘t. Those whose walk is represented by a life of lies can not be of the saved.
”If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth“ (1 John 1:6 ESV).
It is important to note the operative word is ”walk“. This doesn’t mean if we ever lie, we are lost. It means the one whose life is typified by lies had better check their relationship with God. If on one hand, Christ is the Truth, and therefore we must follow Him in truth, we must also remember it is Satan who is called the father of lies. When we lie, we are following after him, and he whose life is one of lies is of his father the Devil.
It is because we serve the God of truth that of all sins, lying seems especially heinous, and also one we therefore fall into the most easily. The fallen nature of man seems to lead directly to ”a lying tongue.“
What are some of the ways that we find ourselves lying? How many times do we have someone make a statement like, ”you know that place up north?“ which we never even heard of, and we say ”of course.“ Why do we do things like that? Can‘t it also be considered lying to use gossip, slander, libel or really even flattery?
- The American Heritage Electronic Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, ©1992.
June 2020 |
Geoff's Devotions |
Geoff's Studies |