A Society Where Truth Falters
In a time when liars figure, and figures lie, what is the relevance of the ninth commandment, ” You shall not bear false witness?” Was it just a narrow rule given to a primitive people dealing with perjury in courtroom situations? Or does this principle encoded in God’s divine directives have universal applications? The apostle John, writing at the end of the early church era, boldly asserted that sin was lawlessness — a disregard for God’s commandments.
Today we are seeing the results in nations that have abandoned God’s instructions and tolerated lies or neglected the truth. Politicians massage the facts to garner votes, financiers colour the stats to manipulate the economy, researchers skew their results to please their patrons, cubicle warriors use rumours to smear their competition, educators teach half-truths to comply with the system, and media outlets endorse fake news to promote their agenda. And as Paul warned, religious charlatans would gain prominence, both fooling others and being fooled by obscuring the truth of scripture.
Who is My Neighbour?
In such a world and at such a time as ours, the ninth commandment is an indictment against a society that has rejected the God of truth in favour of comfortable lies. God makes it abundantly clear that he hates all things that harm our neighbours. And the ninth commandment encompasses all forms of deceit or manipulation, from rumours to propaganda designed to sway, malign, or undermine a neighbour. But some would ask, as did the Pharisees of Jesus’ Day, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus’ answer should have been no surprise if they knew the scripture. For Moses, centuries earlier knowing the tendency to avoid or circumvent God’s clear instruction, had provided the answer. Your neighbour was anyone and everyone, whether Egyptian overlord, resident alien, itinerant traveler, or family member. God was the God of the whole earth and the father of all humanity so his principles applied to everyone. And no one was immune from the consequences of neglecting the ninth commandment.
Truth and Consequences for Liars
Paul, reiterated the message of the Proverbs, by telling the Ephesian brethren, both Jew and Gentile, to reject all falsehood, and only speak the truth to their neighbours. In ancient Israel, if accusations of lying were made, judges were to inquire diligently to substantiate the facts of the matter. But it did not end there, for under God’s system of national justice, a false witness would receive the punishment they had hoped to mete out on the defendant. Lying could have very grave consequences. The Persians took God’s command to punish the false witnesses a step further, during the time of Daniel. King Darius having been duped by the lies of his officials had been coerced into throwing his friend, Daniel, into the lion’s den. Mercifully God had delivered Daniel. But Darius in his zeal threw not only the liars to the lions, but also their wives and children! This was not God’s way, but it was a sure example that lies have their own reward.
Whose Footsteps are You Following?
This was also the case when Jezebel hired false witnesses who accused Naboth of blasphemy and had him stoned to death so she could get his vineyard. But both Ahab and Jezebel paid the price of their own lives for their evil in coercing and manipulating others into lying and murdering an innocent man. God is not mocked, and what people sow they will reap. God is a God of truth and he hates lies and liars. However, Jesus challenged the religious leaders of his day who claimed that God was their father, for in reality they hated the truth that he was trying to teach them. They were in fact the children of their father, Satan, who was the father of lies, and the source of murder. They were following in the footsteps of the false prophets who had troubled the nation in the past with their lies.
Love of the Truth Combats the Liars
Jeremiah, God’s faithful prophet, made a scathing indictment against the false religious teachers who claimed to speak for God. These religious con-artists used false dreams, and gave false hopes while leading the people into sinful lifestyles. He warned the people to refrain from listening to these liars, for they would destroy those who believed them. Similarly, the apostles warned the brethren to be aware of the “pseudos” the lying counterfeits who would try to derail their faith in God.
Jesus warned of false prophets and false Christs, Paul warned of false ministers and false brethren, and Peter warned of false teachers. They all were guilty of bearing false witness, and of refusing to honour God by obeying his divine directive. Paul knew that the only way to avoid falling prey to the deceptive words of the religious charlatans was to have a love for the truth. So the question for us is, “Do we love the truth. seek the truth, and speak or write the truth?” But we must also consider whether we truly hate lies, and whether we refuse to listen to or support the liars. Let the ninth commandment guide your choices.