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The Ten Commandments Series: The Ninth Commandment

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The Ten Commandments Series

The Ninth Commandment

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God hates lying­ and we should hate it also. Lying is one of the most common sins, destroying trust and relationships everywhere. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate” (Proverbs 8:13; emphasis added throughout). Related sins often occur together.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (Proverbs 12:22). “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19). Of those seven abominations, notice how many relate to the Ninth Commandment!

Many scriptures speak of the power of the tongue for either healing or harm. James 3 is all about the tongue. It describes it as “a fire, a world of iniquity” and “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (verses 6 and 8). Deliberate deception is certainly a deadly poison. The Bible gives us stern warning that “all [unrepentant] liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Deception is so prevalent that it has many forms, degrees and synonyms: deceive, falsify, perjure, exaggerate, twist, trick, distort, mislead, forge, disguise, cheat, counterfeit, etc. Incidentally, a half-truth is a half-lie. Half-truths are often especially deceptive and damaging.

Dishonesty corrupts everything! We see it all the time in advertising, labeling, business, news, politics, government, religion and in personal relationships. It is shocking, depressing and frightening to see many people—even in high positions—flagrantly and brazenly lying!

A healthy civil society rests on the foundations of truth and trust.

“Deceitful above all things”

Human nature is fundamentally deceitful. “Who can understand the human heart? There is nothing else so deceitful; it is too sick to be healed” (Jeremiah 17:9, Today’s English Version). To understand the various nuances of this verse, read it in several Bible versions. All human beings are tempted to lie. Even the youngest children often lie until they are taught not to.

Relentlessly pouring fuel on the fire of human nature is the “ruler of this world,” the “Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” and is “the accuser of our brethren” (John 12:31; Revelation 12:9-10). Jesus said Satan is “a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Lying “give[s] the devil a foothold” in our lives (Ephesians 4:25-27, New International Version).

To establish and spread counterfeit Christianity, Satan regularly influences religious people to become “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan has also been successful in promulgating the colossal and crazy lie of creation without a Creator (Romans 1:18-32)!

One lie leads to another, which makes one’s life quite complex. The more a person lies, the more he needs a good memory, because it is easier to remember the truth than to remember all the lies he has told.

Many people have gone beyond being immoral—they have become amoral, their consciences no longer discerning between right and wrong. Paul describes them as “speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). A liar can become a chronic liar, a compulsive liar or even a psychopathic liar.

Why doesn’t the commandment simply say, “You shall not lie”?

Each of the Ten Commandments refers to a whole category of sins, but the worst form is the one that is stated. For example, the Sixth Commandment forbids the many ways of hurting people but it specifically states the worst way, which is murder. Likewise, there are many types of deceit and dishonesty, but generally the most damaging type is perverting justice with testimony that is both “false” and “against” another person.

Many scriptures emphasize God’s dedication to justice.

God hates it when penalties are too great or too small, especially when a false witness causes an innocent person to be punished or when he causes a guilty person to go unpunished. This applies to courts of law (where it is perjury when the witness is under oath) and everywhere else such as with slander and derogatory gossip.

“You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 16:19). Similarly, “you must not pass along false rumors. You must not cooperate with evil people by lying on the witness stand. You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice. And do not slant your testimony in favor of a person just because that person is poor” (Exodus 23:1-3, New Living Translation).

A “good name” is priceless (Proverbs 22:1; Ecclesiastes 7:1). The destruction of a good reputation can be as tragic as a murder. The murder of Jesus was actually accomplished through slander! Note that Satan (Greek: satanas) means adversary and devil (Greek: diabolos) means accuser or slanderer.

Negative gossip is a type of slander. Even when stating something that is factually true, it is nasty gossip if it might hurt a person’s reputation. (However, it is not gossip when one is reporting a crime, sin or serious problem to the proper authority so it can be corrected.)

One can be a false witness in two ways—by saying things that are untrue or should not be said, or remaining silent when something needs to be said to bring about justice.

Isaiah 59 is a prophecy of the terrible lack of justice and truth-telling in the world. Today’s governmental “justice systems” tragically are infected with much injustice. In a court of law, anyone who testifies must swear (or affirm) that he will “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” But a large percentage of those witnesses have no intention of abiding by that vow.

People think their lies will go undetected and unpunished but sins are “against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Jesus said “that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).

The cancer of hypocrisy—living a lie

There are different forms of hypocrisy. One type is putting on a good facade that doesn’t match up with what is on the inside. Another type is being two-faced, putting on an act to impress or influence whomever you are with at the time. Another type is flattery. One of the worst types relates to the Third Commandment—claiming to represent God while not upholding godly attitudes and actions. Think of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).

It seems the sin of religious hypocrisy disgusted and infuriated Jesus more than anything else!

It seems the sin of religious hypocrisy disgusted and infuriated Jesus more than anything else! (See Matthew 15:1-20, Matthew 23:1-39 and Mark 7:1-23.)

Choose a life that is the opposite of lying

In Ephesians 4, Paul talks of “putting away lying” and “speaking the truth in love” for “the edifying of the body of Christ” (verses 25, 15, 12).

May we always seek the truth and speak the truth. May we always study God’s Word to learn and live by God’s absolute Truth. And may we imitate the One who is “the way, the Truth, and the life” (John 14:6). 

This article is part of a series. To read other articles that focus on the Ten Commandments in this series please go to the following website: https://www.ucg.org/tags/the-ten-commandments-series.