The Ninth Commandment

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."
(Exodus 20:16)




        This is a broad, all-encompassing commandment against the capital sin of lying! The commandment could well read, ""Thou shalt not carry false tales, minimize, distort, exaggerate or speak anything but the truth."

        Lying is part and parcel of our modern civilization. In many societies, lying is considered an art, and millions engage in it with skillful alacrity.

        Jesus addressed the principle covered by this commandment in the Sermon on the Mount.

        He said, "Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

        "But I say unto you, swear not at all: neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

        "Nor by the earth; for it is His footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great king.

        "Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

        "But let your communication be, yea, yea; nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of the evil one [margin]" (Matthew 5:33-37).

        Actually, this command overlaps two of the Ten Commandments. It refers more directly to "taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (swearing by heaven, or by God's throne) than it does in carrying false tales or bearing false witness against one's neighbor, but Jesus makes it clear that anything other than the simple truth - a straightforward and simple "yes" or "no" in response to an honest question - comes "from the evil one," from Satan the devil!

        Is there any biblical principle any more firmly emphasized, repetitiously urged, sternly taught or constantly upheld than the principle of truth?

        Jesus said, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). Part of the very character of the Eternal God Almighty is "faithfulness and truth." See Numbers 23:19; Joshua 21:45; 1Kings 8:56; Psalm 19:9, 105:8; Matthew 24:35; and especially Hebrews 6:18!

        God's Word says it is impossible for God to lie! When God gave His righteous and holy laws to ancient Israel, He was establishing the fundamental guidelines for the conduct of a godly, wholesome, healthy and happy society.

        If Israel would obey even the physical letter of those righteous and holy laws, God's nation would receive untold and unimaginable blessings!

        God's law was the veritable charter of the nation! From its broad principles every conceivable aspect of human behavior, societal relations and interpersonal exchanges could be lawfully and peacefully regulated.

        In many ways, the Ninth Commandment is a linchpin to many of the other commandments. For example, within the community of Israel, if one had broken the command against stealing, against murder, against adultery or against idolatry, the punishment was death by stoning!

        Almighty God caused Moses to set a group of "judges" in place to hear the grievances of the people, and to render judgment.

        God said, "Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Eternal thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.

        "Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift [bribe]: for a gift [bribe] doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words [cause] of the righteous.

        "That which is altogether just [honest] shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Eternal thy God giveth thee" (Deuteronomy 16:18, 19).

        When individuals within the community observed a crime, meaning the breaking of one of the points of the Ten Commandments or one of the written or oral "judgments" (having to do with everything from inheritances, landmarks, dangerous cattle or safety measures around a man's property), the only way the judges could determine the truth was by questioning witnesses.

        Read Deuteronomy 17!

        God showed that, in the case of the discovery of idolatry, "then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which has committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shall stone them with stones, till they die.

        "At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

        "The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you" (Deuteronomy 17:5-7).

        Being a witness, even by accident, to a capital sin meant the individual who had witnessed such acts would not only be the key "material witness" causing the punishment of death for the individual who had so sinned, but the witness had to be the first to cast the stones that would kill the person judged as guilty.

        Thus, if two or three conspired to deliberately become "false witnesses" to illegally put a neighbor to death, they would not only be breaking the commandment against "false witness," but would be forced through the legal system under Moses to directly commit the act of murder!

        Probably, God insisted the witnesses themselves throw the first stones as a deterrent to false witnessing! It might have been one thing to lie about a neighbor, but quite another thing to pick up a rock and kill him.

        Because of the enormity of responsibility upon a witness, God placed the sin of deliberately lying on a par with murder, or any other capital crime!

        Remember, a human being is only as good as his word. If a man's word is no good, the man is no good! The Proverbs are laden with dozens of examples of tattling, gossip, exaggeration, lies, whisperings, slander, falsehood, false witnessing and sins involving word of mouth.

        Some examples: "A tale bearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter" (Proverbs 11:13).

        "The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.

        "The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood:

        but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them" (Proverbs 12:5, 6).

        "He that speaketh truth showeth forth righteousness:

        but a false witness deceit.

        "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword:

        but the tongue of the wise is health.

        "The lip of truth shall be established forever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment . . . Lying lips are an abomination to the Eternal: hut they that deal truly are His delight" (Proverbs 12:17-22).

        "A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies" (Proverbs 14:5).

        "A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies" (Proverbs 14:25).

        "A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue" (Proverbs 17:4).

        "The words of a tale bearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body" (Proverbs 18:8).

        "A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly" (Proverbs 21:28).

        This is but a sampling of the many admonitions in the Word of God concerning truthfulness.

        The sin of hypocrisy is breaking the broad principle of the Ninth Commandment.

        Jesus continually took issue with the self-righteous Pharisees, urging His disciples to "beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy"! (Luke 12:1).

        When Jesus answered the outraged Jews who sought to kill Him, He said, "Why do you not understand My speech? Even because ye cannot hear My word.

        "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, be speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

        "And because I tell you the truth, ye believe Me not.

        "Which of you convinceth Me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe Me?" (John 8:34-35).

        Jesus Christ was truth personified! On trial for His life before Pilate, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world:

        if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence."

        "Pilate therefore said unto Him, art thou a king then? Jesus answered, thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I unto the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice.

        "Pilate said unto Him, what is truth?" (John 18:36-38). Notice! Pilate did not ask, "What is the truth?" meaning what was the truth about the current situation. His helpless utterance was the direct result of the pagan teachings received at the feet of his pagan Roman teachers.

        The great philosophers of the time, whose works are still the vaunted building blocks of much of this world's "education" (Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, etc.), had led this exalted Roman officer to the futile question, "What is truth?"

        Look at this world of lies.

        History is largely lies. History is grossly different from country to country, and, it is admitted among educators, history is "largely interpretive." That is, historians tend to interpret various aspects of history according to their own national self-interest.

        Thus, the history books of countries are graphically different when it comes to World War II!

        You live in a world of lies. Most advertising is outright lying, gross exaggeration, minimization, distortion, half-truths, insinuations and falsehoods.

        How much of what you feel you "know" - that sum total of "knowledge" that has come into your mind since you were born - is really truth?

        Many are shocked to look into the inspired Word of God and find they have a good deal of unlearning ahead of them. How surprised are thousands to find they have been lied to by religious teachers throughout their lives!

        How utterly confounded many are when they discover the Bible teaches almost the exact opposite of what they had been told in their earlier religious experience!

        Is there any profession wherein lies can be more abundantly found than that of the clergy?

        Why should there be so many religions, and more than 400 bickering, arguing, disagreeing Protestant churches, denominations and sects?

        Look at government - and you are seeing classic examples of glossing over the facts, distorting the truth, telling only part of the story, or just outright lying.

        Take a look at the world around you, if you can, from God's perspective!

        Advertising is mostly lies. Entertainment is mostly lies. Much of literature is filled with lies. A lot of your education consisted of lies. Is it any wonder millions of people are practiced, skillful, accomplished, dedicated, determined, self-willed liars?

        You've heard the old expression "He/she would tell a lie when the truth would do better"?

        Believe it or not, there are those who are such habitual liars they probably would not know the truth if it walked up to them and knocked them down!

        Read the third chapter of James! This resounding chapter of God's Word is an enormous indictment against the sin-sick human tongue.

        It shows how the very course of nature is "set on fire" by the lying ,words of a foul, false, sinful mouth!

        Study that third chapter of James! It is New Testament teaching about how truthful every human being ought to be!

        The apostle Paul said, "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another . . . Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers . . .

        Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

        "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:25-32).

        In one of the most powerful indictments in all the Bible, the apostle John was inspired to write, in the very last chapter of the Bible, "For without [outside the Kingdom of God, as depicted by the holy city] are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolators, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie"! (Revelation 22:15).

        Many people are habitual liars! Embellishing stories, exaggerations, minimizations, colorful additions which didn't really take place, are the "salt and pepper" that flavor their conversation! Many people are such habitual liars they do so unconsciously. Lying - "stretching the truth," or telling what people refer to as "little white lies" - is such a part of their very character they are oblivious to the fact they are doing it!

        However, they are committing sin, and a sin which is punishable by death unless they repent of breaking this commandment of God!

        Again, what's "wrong" with the Ninth Commandment?

        Obviously, nothing! There is everything right with each man "speaking the truth with his neighbor."

        Can your mind envision what a world it would be if only the truth were spoken by government, industry, business, the medical profession, the military, among and between nations, races and most especially by religion?

        Obedience to this one command only would revolutionize all of civilization as we know it!

        While it is hard to imagine in our lying, distorted world, the time is coming, probably in our lifetimes, when God establishes His Kingdom on this earth, and when only the truth will be spoken!