"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. "(Exodus 20:16, NIV)
Lying, deceiving, not telling the whole truth, exaggerating, embellishing, leaving out important parts of the story, flattery—-this all covered in “false testimony”. So are unfounded stories that we share and gossip. It’s the matter of truth that’s being addressed. Is what is coming out of our mouths the real truth? Are we so aligned with God and is the Holy Spirit so ever present in our hearts and minds that we cannot abide the thought of lying? And when we do lie, does it eat at our soul and cause us to want to make the matter right?
So it’s not just about lying, it’s about being an untrue witness, spreading rumors…and posting or reposting fake news—even saying things about evil people that is untrue. When we lie we will soon find that our voices are not being heard.
Think of the ease with some people lie——the leaders of North Korea, China, Russia——it’s understood that nothing they say can be trusted so all things must be verified. But it’s not supposed to be this way with Christian based democracies—-Europe, the America.
It is no secret that politicians often lie, but consider this – they can do so simply by telling the truth. Confused? That statement becomes clearer when you realise that we've probably all done it. A classic example might be if your mum asks if you've finished your homework and you respond: "I've written an essay on Tennessee Williams for my English class." This may be true, but it doesn't actually answer the question about whether your homework was done. That essay could have been written long ago and you have misled your poor mother with a truthful statement. You might not have even started your homework yet.
Misleading by "telling the truth" is so pervasive in daily life that a new term has recently been employed by psychologists to describe it: paltering. That it is so widespread in society now gives us more insight into the grey area between truth and lies, and perhaps even why we lie at all.
We lie all the time, despite the fact that it costs us considerably more mental effort to lie than to tell the truth. US president Abraham Lincoln once said that "no man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar".
IT is not a matter of speaking truth just about our friends—it’s to our “neighbor”? Jesus pretty much defined that one for us in the parable of the Good Samaritan—Luke 10:25-37. Basically, your neighbor is anyone . Don’t lie to anyone, even your enemy. Jesus never lied, exaggerated, embellished or gossiped. He told the truth. Jesus is the model—no one else.
The Muslims depart with us in this interpretation of this commandment. The believe that it is required, at times, to deceive your enemies and that they are not breaking God’s command when the cheat, deceive or lie to one that is not a Muslim. And if you notice, Muslim leaders are known to break promises, tell lies and deceive western nations all the time.. (Not that all Western nations have honest leaders. But in the Muslim world, the leaders are said to be very devout in their faith, as Muslims—-sadly, very Western leaders would be called devout Christians.?
Martin Luther once said, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor, but DEFEND them, speak WELL of them, and EXPLAIN their actions in the KINDEST way.” Isn’t that what you want when others speak of you behind your back? And if there is something bad to be said about you, don’t you really want “truth” directly from those that love you—-even if it hurts? (Bad breath, mismatched clothes, a bad idea….)
As you can see, the bar is set pretty high, at least based upon today’s appreciation for total truth. But God expects total honesty from His people. God expects us to not lie and God expects us to take the high road even when our neighbors have taken the low road. So you see even what you say and post online is governed by the Eighth Commandment. This is where conservative Christians have failed recently; do you know the bad things you’ve heard and repeated to be true?
The things we post, our blogs, our comments as well as what we pass on that we have heard from others matters. Is it true and are we sure it’s true? People believe our messages, posts, comments. Our comments have the potential to heal, but they also can be hurtful and destructive. It is not OK to speak untruths to folks we meet on the sidewalk, at the cafe or on Social Media. In fact, according to this commandment it is not OK to say anything negative about our neighbor or enemy unless we are certain it is true. Are we? We are supposed to explain the actions of others in the kindest possible way OR—OR just keep quiet. Some well-meaning evangelicals in our land are not telling the truth and it hurts the cause of Jesus Christ.
So next time you are tempted to take a shot at someone on Social Media, reread the Eighth Commandment. The next time you are tempted to re-post something that may or may not be true, reread the Eighth Commandment. If we pass on a lie, it’s no less a sin that speaking it ourselves. I must watch what I say and who I trust to give me truth. And right now, I don’t trust any of the mediums for truth to provide objective truth, and I am not at liberty to merely believe what I hope is true! This is where conservative Christians lost ground in the past election and the national discourse!
But why do we lie? We hate it in others. We complain about it when we see it. We know that it’s bad for our society, families and all relationships. We think less of a person that is know to be a liar. So why do we lie?
We want avoid being punished or protect ourselves from the threat of harm, or we want to get out of an awkward social situation, or we want to avoid embarrassment. It’s not always the case, but it seems like most often we lie because we are afraid to tell the truth. So in a real sense, lying is a form of cowardice. “Thou shalt not be a coward!”
We want to obtain a reward not otherwise readily obtainable or win the admiration of others without really earning it—so we lie about something we did not do or did do to impress others.
3. Or, worst of all, we want to exercise power over others by not telling the truth and re-create the narrative to suit what we want—rather than what is true. The Pharisees did this when they lied about Jesus; Satan did this in the garden of Eden; Hitler was arguably the most gifted at this in the 20th century.
But there is a blessedness about of being around people who never lie. You know them—in this (or your) church. Humble, kind folks that gently, but fearlessly tell the truth. You might not always appreciate what they say, but you’re never unsure of their integrity! Their handshake….their promise….their word means something. And when they tell you something that they are sure of, you know it’s the real deal. Such were the people that caused me to seek out Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior——godly pastors, evangelists, teachers and mentors, who in my mind, could not lie! Do our youth have such men today to look up to?
In our nation now we have no one to turn to….because we have accepted lies from those who should never have been allowed to lie! But when we permit Senators, Presidents, Speakers of the House or political candidates to lie, and then yawn when people lie under oath we have created a monster of misinformation, deceit and uncertainty. We are right to feel unsettled right now. Who in our nation are we to trust?
But we can choose to be honest and to demand truth from those that want to spread rumors….and we can kill the lying tongue within our own lives. Lying is a spiritual demon that takes hold and does not easily let go. You might know that you hate lying, but are you comfortable with lying when you “have” to?
So let’s agree that lying is something we all hate in others and let’s learn to rid it from our own lives as well. Let’s expect it from those we trust and elect to lead us. Let’s expect it from our children, friends, pastors and leaders.
But if you’re a pathological liar or a chronic liar, what can you do? How you stop lying?
1-HATE it. If you hate it—-you kill it. If you hate it you will stop allowing yourself to feed the fear that makes you lie in first place. Hate the cowardice or the arrogance that leads you to lie. Humble yourself and let Him exalt you and lift you up.
2-Ask others to keep you accountable. Find a brother or sister that will hold you, in love, to telling the truth and not expanding on what you don’t know
3-Pray for the spirit of truth to remind you to be honest and transparent. It’s a great daily prayers—-“that the words of my mount and the meditations of my heart my be acceptable unto you!” Trust that God does not want you to lie and that He will help you—-but you have to ask.
4-Hang around people that tell the truth!
On thing that will happen in heaven is that we will not be tempted to lie or commit sin in general The other thing is that we will forget how to lie. We won’t have to take time and consider if what we’re saying is the whole truth, the “whole truth” is all we will know. Won’t that be blessed! That’s how life was before the fall. Total freedom to live, work and interact with others. Before sin and lying entered into the mind of man you did not have to pause, think about what you were saying, and carefully state things to be sure you were not embellishing or exaggerating or hiding something——there was a blessed innocent from any knowledge of a lie or how to lie! In heaven we will “unlearn” lying—there will be no need for it.
But the process of “being made perfect” begins the moment we are re-born. We won’t reach perfection on this earth, but we can remove those things that slow down the process——we can choose to tell the truth and “forget” how to lie and deceive. Let’s start un-learning Satan’s first language right now…