The Ninth Commandment: Truth as a Way of Life
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16).
How important is truth? To fully appreciate the Ninth Commandment, with its prohibition of lying, we must realize how important truth is to God.
What do the Scriptures tell us about God, His Word and truth? Notice what several verses tell us: "Every word of God is pure . . ." (Proverbs 30:5). Daniel refers to God's Word as "the Scripture of Truth" (Daniel 10:21). Jesus Christ said of God the Father, "Your word is truth" (John 17:17).
The Bible throughout teaches that "God is not a man, that He should lie" (Numbers 23:19). It explains that "the word of the Lord is right, and all His work is done in truth" (Psalm 33:4) because He is a "God of truth" (Deuteronomy 32:4). And "His truth endures to all generations" (Psalm 100:5).
As the source of truth, God requires that His servants always speak truthfully. Under God's inspiration, King David writes: "Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbour no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow-man . . . [and] who keeps his oath even when it hurts" (Psalm 15:1-3, NIV).
God expects truth to permeate every facet of our lives.
Christ and the truth
Restoring regard for truth as a universal way of life will be a priority when Jesus Christ returns to establish His rule. "Thus says the LORD: ‘I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, The Mountain of the LORD of hosts, The Holy Mountain'" (Zechariah 8:3).
Looking forward to Christ's rule in the Kingdom of God, Psalm 85 reveals the emphasis God will place on righteousness and truth. "Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yes, the LORD will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway" (verses 9-13).
At that time Jesus Christ will insist that all of mankind follow His footsteps in accepting, believing and speaking the truth.
Truth in our relationship with Christ
Our personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, begins with our acceptance of and surrender to God's Word as truth. "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Ephesians 1:13).
When Jesus stood trial, just before His crucifixion, the Roman governor Pilate asked Christ if He were truly a king. Jesus responded by summarizing His mission and noting who would respond to His message: "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" (John 18:37).
Jesus Christ's character was (and is) a perfect reflection of the character of our heavenly Father, the God of truth. In response to a question from one of His disciples, Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). His disciples, by "speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).
To be disciples of Jesus Christ we must resolve to consistently speak the truth, demonstrating the sincerity of our love for others. We must also accept and obey, as "the way of truth," the commandments and teachings of God (Psalm 119:30, 151, 160). Samuel tells us, "Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you" (1 Samuel 12:24).
It is almost impossible nowadays to be certain who, if anyone, is telling the truth. Almost everyone tries to balance the risk of being caught against the perceived benefits of lying.
Some businesses display amazing creativity in camouflaging deceit when they advertise their products. Almost everywhere we can spot individuals, businesses and other organizations involved in a sophisticated game of seeing how deceptive they can be without attracting lawsuits or alienating potential customers.
Lying is an accepted way of life. Our world is accurately described by Isaiah's description of ancient Israel: "No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity" (Isaiah 59:4).
How did God view the Israelites' epidemic of lies? "So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the LORD their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth'" (Jeremiah 7:28).
Then as now, people routinely inject deceit into their relationships—personal, social, political, religious and economic. The dearth of honesty is so widely accepted that public censure no longer even discourages lying. That demand must come from within.
Are you truthful?
Now comes the important question to you personally: Do you lie?
Maybe it would be kinder to word the question a little differently: Just how important is being truthful to you? Or, reversing the coin: Is lying repugnant to you? These questions are crucial. You need to ask and answer them truthfully to yourself.
Temptations to lie never cease. They are always present. Lying is such a quick and effortless way to gain an advantage over others. It appears to offer easy and swift escape from embarrassment, fear and guilt. But the Bible says, "Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight" (Proverbs 12:22).
We face a fundamental choice. We follow God's example of truthfulness and honesty in our actions and communications, or we follow the example of the originator of lying, Satan. Jesus tells us that the devil is "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44, NIV). He deceived Eve, then she talked Adam into partaking of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-6, 17). This act of disobedience brought suffering and death on our first parents. The devil has relentlessly misinformed and misled people ever since. Satan's malicious influence is so great that he "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). It is all too easy for us to follow his example in our dealings with others, especially when lying is so commonly practiced all around us.
Human nature is deceitful
Learning to be firmly and consistently truthful requires self-discipline and courage, and in our firmness and consistency we must rely on help from God.
We often find ourselves doing things that we know are wrong. So why, then, do we do them? The prophet Jeremiah gives us the answer. "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds" (Jeremiah 17:9-10, NASB).
God understands our nature and reveals how to combat it. Jesus explained that, even though we may be willing to obey, our flesh is weak (Mark 14:38). We lack the resolve and strength to resist temptation. How, then, can we neutralize this weakness?
God, through the pen of the apostle Paul, explains the cause of and solution to this universal human problem. Citing himself as an example, Paul described the timeless human struggle: "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do" (Romans 7:14-15).
We can relate to Paul. We have experienced the same frustration and remorse. Paul continues: "For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (verses 22-24). Paul had learned that people need help to rise above the weaknesses of human nature.
Another apostle, Peter, denied Jesus Christ and even lied, on the night of His betrayal, about being acquainted with Him (Matthew 26:69-74). Like Peter, most people find it almost impossible to abandon all forms of deceit until they surrender their lives to God and begin sincerely seeking His help. That help is readily available, "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
We must ask for that help. And how can we get it? God's Word tells us: "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
We have at hand the solution to this pervasive and insidious human weakness. Paul urged Church members in Ephesus to "put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." How were they to do this? By "putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,' for we are members of one another" (Ephesians 4:24-25).
The way of truth
Those who willingly believe and obey the truth of God can, by being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit, become members of the Church that Jesus Christ built. He refers to them as the "light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). They represent "the way of truth" (2 Peter 2:2).
Paul calls God's Church "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Its members are the servants of "the living and true God" (1 Thessalonians 1:9). By "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15), it is commissioned by Christ to preach "the truth of the gospel" to all the world (Galatians 2:5; Matthew 24:14; 28:19).
Everything in the life of a Christian is anchored to truth. God wants us, as His children, to commit ourselves to truth and reflect it in everything we do. That is why God commands us: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16).
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