Ten Commandments: #9 – No False Witness

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we have come to the ninth.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

One of the many ironies of Jesus’ crucifixion is that it was justified by a trial which based its verdict on the testimony of false witnesses.  That’s right.  The very people whom the Lord commanded not to bear false witness against their neighbors bore false witness against their neighbor – and their neighbor in this case turned out to be God Himself.  Imagine how the Lord must have felt giving this commandment, knowing that one day outright disobedience to it would result in His execution.

By contrast, Jesus Himself told nothing but the truth at His trial…and that, too, was used to convict Him!  Truth was in short supply that night.

As we have seen in our survey of the Ten Commandments, they were taken at face value in the time of Moses and therefore had a relatively limited scope.  As Jesus interpreted them, however, their scope became pervasive.  In the case of the ninth commandment, the essence of the commandment becomes an unyielding commitment to the truth…on behalf of others.  For this reason, the apostle Paul used the phrase “speaking the truth in love.”

I’ll get to the “in love” part shortly, but as for the “speaking the truth” part, surely you know that truth is in short supply these days as well.  It’s not that there’s no truth at all; it’s that what truth is presented to us is often distorted, twisted, and manipulated…for someone else’s purpose.  It’s not that we don’t get any truth; it’s that we don’t get “the whole truth,” and we don’t get “nothing but the truth.”  It seems everyone has an angle.  They emphasize the parts of the truth they want us to know and de-emphasize the parts of the truth that they’d rather we didn’t think about.  They don’t want us to think truth – they want us to think what they want us to think.

One of the most powerful ways to learn the importance of truth is life is also one of the most painful.  It is having to have a relationship with someone on whom you cannot rely to tell you the truth.  Being deceived is a painful experience.  It destroys quality of life; it destroys relationships.  You would normally avoid such a person at all costs, but sometimes you can’t.  Deceit corrupts life, and the trail of destruction it leaves is long.

We cannot control whether or not others tell us the truth, but we can certainly control whether or not we tell them the truth.  Jesus told us the truth, and we ought to follow His example.  He did not refrain from telling the truth just because it was unpleasant for someone to hear.  He told the truth that needed to be heard.

This brings us to the “in love” part of “speaking the truth in love.”  Love does not mean trimming the truth in any way, but it does mean that our motive in telling the truth but be for the other person’s benefit.

…love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly…
–  1 Corinthians 13:4-5

You have heard the truth told in bragging, in arrogance, in an unbecoming way.  That’s not how we are to handle the truth.  Rather, we are to speak the truth only in love.  That requires us to remember that:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous…it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,”
–  1 Corinthians 13:4-5

None of this is to justify so-called “little white lies.”  No lie is justified.  What it is to justify is being gentle with the truth while we are being bold with the truth.  Gentleness and boldness are not mutually exclusive; Jesus demonstrates this vividly.  In all that He said, He was the epitome of gentleness and the epitome of boldness.  He spoke the truth in love.  And when false witnesses kept testifying against them, He kept bearing a true witness to them and for them.

We could not have a better example of keeping the ninth commandment than the Lord Himself.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

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