4.11 - Ninth Commandment: Do Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neigbor
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.“ (Exodus 20:16)
4.11.1 - The Power of the Tongue
The tongue is a small organ and yet it has immense power. Sometimes it is more powerful than money or valuable medicine. The word of our tongue can be like a match you light to set fire to a dry forest. But a useful word is like the small rudder of a ship that steers it to a safe harbour. With the tongue man can lie and blaspheme God or tell the truth, praise God and comfort a downcast person. Why? In the third chapter of his epistle, James gave us three helpful examples that lead us to repentance. We have to test the words our tongues speak in the light of God's Word, for every evil word points to a corrupt heart not yet regenerated. But every gentle word spoken reveals the Spirit of Jesus in the heart.
4.11.2 - The Indispensability of our Sanctification
We need the Savior Jesus to cleanse our tongues and renew our minds so that we can understand and speak His truth. The reverent prophet-priest Isaiah trembled as He stood before the holy God in order to reconcile His people to the One Triune Lord of Hosts. He was awestruck when he saw the train of the Lord's robe and cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.“ Then one of the seraphim flew to him, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched his mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged“ (Isaiah 6:5-7).
Man recognizes the wickedness and deceit in his heart once he encounters the holy God. In that instant he knows that the Almighty is our ultimate standard. In His light we see the uncleanness, deceit and corruption with which we are filled. Man lives superficially without an encounter with the living, holy God. This condition does not change except when the sinner draws closer to his Lord, and then, everything changes. The apostle Peter fell on his face when he experienced the mighty power of his Lord and cried out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!“ (Luke 5:8). He knew that the gentle Jesus gazed into his heart and revealed his sinfulness. Though our Lord knew beforehand that Peter was going to deny Him yet later he would be a symbol for every fisher of men.
Jesus is truth incarnate and His Spirit is particularly the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). The Spirit of truth is grieved every time we lie and gossip. God does not slander or betray; He is pure and His word is true and shall definitely be fulfilled. He wants to renew us and equip us to be honest. He urges us to speak the truth in love. Telling the truth grimly and coldly to someone's face is like killing him. But if you flatter smoothly and hide the truth, then you lie, no matter how much you really love. False praise and slander sometimes go hand in hand. So, love without truth is lying, and truth without love is deadly.
4.11.3 - Lying and its Sources
The Triune God is the truth Himself. But Satan is a liar and the father of all lies. He is a murderer from the beginning. Jesus calls him the evil one and the prince of this world. Everything that comes from him is a lie, no matter how truthful it appears.
The Evil One deceived Eve. His cunning question distorted the truth thereby placing God in doubt. He shook Eve's trust in God. Then Eve's pride, lust and rebellion against God were awakened and grew into outright rebellion.
Right after His baptism, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After Jesus had fasted and prayed for 40 days and nights, He resisted the tempter who came to Him distorting the truth with questions. Satan said to Him, “If you are the Son of God....“ If he had said, “You are the Son of God,“ he would have affirmed the truth. But he called reality into question, by attempting to put doubt in Jesus' heart concerning His sonship to His heavenly Father. The Evil One wanted to separate Him from His Father and mislead Him into serving His own ends. Jesus did not respond with His own words. He neither got into a discussion with the Evil One nor spoke out of His own rich experiences. Instead, He replied, “It is written!“ Jesus affirmed the revealed Word of God, and that was in contrast to the tricks of the devil. There is no other way to overcome the father of lies than to depend on the Word of God, the Bible.
It is ironic that Satan knows the Bible and uses it cunningly. He responded to Jesus' rejection and immediately brought up a text from the Bible. Yet he took it out of context and tried to appeal to pride and lead Jesus to test the faithfulness of His Father. Again Jesus replied, “It is written you shall not tempt the Lord your God,“ and that was when the deceiving intentions of the Devil were clearly exposed in the light of divine truth. From this mighty strife between the Son of God and the Devil it is evident that Satan tells nothing but lies, even if they sometimes contain an element of truth. Yet his words foster deception and rebellion against God and His son in the end. Examine the philosophies and religions that came after Christ, and you will see how deceptive they are even though they contain parts of the truth. Today the devil is doing the same thing: He is deceiving believers and seekers of the truth into believing that the Bible is corrupted, abrogated, written by human hands and thousands of other arguments. Do not let the Devil whisper such lies into your heart. Instead, fight him as Jesus did when He said, “It is written....“
4.11.4 - The Biggest Lie
The different world views and ideologies contain not only lies but shine and sparkle with elements of the truth and laws which look essential to the social structure. However the general direction of these world views is wrong. Ironically, the partial truths support major deceptions. Islam may appear to strangers as a natural “religion of Allah“, for the orally transmitted and distorted Biblical verses it quotes are from both the Old and the New Testament. Yet all Muslims categorically deny the crucifixion of the Son of God. They do not realize that they are lost and cannot be saved from the judgment of God except by Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Also, communism and other ideologies mingle sophisticated lies with some distorted truths which eventually lead to disastrous atheism.
Some liberal theologians or sects take Bible verses out of context so that people may believe in their books and ideas, instead of admitting that Jesus is the source of thought and life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. Yet Jesus had to be crucified and resurrected from the dead to fulfill His promises as everlasting truth. We shall all appear before the glorious One as liars, but he who believes in Him will be transformed and live justly, truthfully, and will escape the jungle of lies.
We cannot stop the mass media torrent of big, small, clever or primitive lies found in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, festivals and carnivals. These deceptions are intended to manipulate the masses, and their reaction has been calculated in advance. In politics most speakers slander the opposing party and promote their own party as the ultimate truth and only solution. Small results will be blown up and big mistakes will be covered up. Twisted truth tries to surprise the opponent and manipulated news creates hatred.
4.11.5 - Daily Lies
Lying not only dominates the words of many politicians but also our daily life. Truth is quickly subverted, and people often slander others over a cup of coffee. But once the slandered person approaches, people smilingly change the subject in a hypocritical fashion which is typical of all of us since our childhood. We perhaps didn't speak big hurtful lies, but we defamed someone or put him down, inspired in all this by the “father of lies“. We have to truly repent and always speak about people in their absence as if they were present. No white lies! No half truths! These are just as deadly. We can put an end to gossip circles by going straight to the person in question and getting the full story from them for clarification. We need to stand up for such a person instead of going with the crowd. The ninth commandment teaches us to be like a fish swimming against the torrent of a flood of lies. Sometimes we find ourselves in a critical situation, where we have to comment suddenly on an unpopular subject. But we do not want to “lose face“, nor do we like to talk about absent friends and relatives. In such a case we often resort to half truths or cover up with many empty words and tricky explanations. Some people find excuses quicker than a mouse finds its hole.
Lying has poisoned our society. No one trusts another! Many tend to think that those they are speaking to intend something totally opposite to what they said. Misunderstandings divide people and keep them isolated, as if a pane of glass were between them. Lies isolate men! Heartache develops and is triggered in those silent moments. We need to apply the strength of Jesus and boldly confess our lies and subversive slander. We need to ask those in question openly for forgiveness. Then confidence is built up and pride will be shattered.
4.11.6 - Who Can Truly Understand His Brother?
It is appropriate to test ourselves to see if we actually understand our brother or sister just as God appreciates them. Jesus pierced our superficial judgments and warned us, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck out of your eye“; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye“ (Matthew 7:1-5).
Whoever understands something of this commandment from the Sermon on the Mount will be silent and critically examine himself first before he judges others. Perhaps our brother may have made a real mistake as small as a speck in the eye but we don't want to admit that the many planks in our own eyes would be enough to open a sawmill! Jesus might show each of us the hatred, unclean thoughts and acts, envy, greed, deceit, hypocrisy, and dishonor of parents and the Lord's day! Whoever denies himself under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, will no longer reject and despise others out of pride or superiority but start to think how he can properly help them as God helps us.
We cannot judge others justly since we do not fully grasp the ins and outs of somebody's problem. What would we have done if we were in situation? What would he be like if he had experienced the blessings and ways of divine guidance as we have? By saying, “You should love your neighbor as yourself“ God is showing us how essential it is to give special attention when it comes to judging our brother. Rather, we should love him.
This brings up the problem of swearing as a witness: who knows if he really had seen things as they actually occurred and got them right? Of course we don't see things as completely as God sees them. If we judge our brother our judgment always remains deficient. If we realize this we won't jump to conclusions about others but think thoroughly and prayerfully and try to understand them. Oh, that God would give us a mother's eye, not a policeman's!
4.11.7 - How Should We Tell the Truth?
With our limited abilities what can we do to know the truth? Do we regard lying as necessary and truth as evil? No, never! As eye-witnesses, we have to tell the truth within our capabilities. We have to ask God for wisdom so that we don't become unfair to our brothers or sisters. Believers need special grace during times of persecution so that they can tell the truth in the right way without distorting facts. We need the leading of the Holy Spirit so that we don't jeopardize the lives of other believers. We must always tell the truth but it is not always necessary to tell the whole truth for the sake of others. Those who don't follow Jesus might think we are lying to them as they don't know the spirit of truth. They can't imagine that the Holy Spirit always leads us to tell the truth.
The Bible helps us to be continually trained in our daily life, at school, in society, in our families, to highlight the good things in our brothers' and sisters' lives and not criticize their obvious mistakes. We should think positively of our friends as well as our enemies, without lying. Paul explained to the Corinthians, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails“ (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
If we live in a spirit of love we will never judge sinners. Rather, we will do our best to understand, help, or straighten out the person in a spirit of humility and love. Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers who reached a remarkable level of maturity in exercising Christian ministries, “Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another“ (Ephesians 4:25). We always strive to learn and tell the truth. But no matter how mature we become in the Holy Spirit, Satan always tries to tempt believers to lie, judge others harshly and resent people of different opinion. As Jesus Himself was put to temptation, we also will be tempted. That is why Paul writes in Ephesians, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places“ (Ephesians 6:10-12).
John, the apostle of love, pointedly shows us the roots of lying in man's life: “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son“ (1 John 2:22-23). “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son“ (1 John 5:10). Keeping the truth about the triune God as the center of your life means that you will remain truthful in your practical life.
4.11.8 - God's Cunning in the Quran
Islam particularly exhibits truth as an alien spirit. In Sura Al Imran we read, “They were cunning and Allah was cunning and Allah is the best of all cunning ones.“ Here, cunning refers to the Jews who conspired to kill Jesus. But Allah, according to Islamic conception, fooled them, saved Jesus from the pains of the cross and lifted Him up alive. This means that Allah did not allow Jesus to be crucified but raised Him up to Himself by His supreme cunning. This is nothing less than distortion of an historical event that took place in space and time. Allah had to reveal his true nature before the cross, and had to show that he is not the truth in person, that he is not the true God, but the enemy of truth, the best of all cunning ones. The cross, as the climax of all truth, revealed Allah in Islam as he really is. Only the devil would want to deny the reality of the cross so that people won't be saved and receive eternal life.
Islam presents Allah in the Quran as “the most cunning of all“, khairul makirin. No wonder his followers see cunning as a virtue and a legitimate means of obtaining whatever they want and a helpful way of propagating the Islamic religion. Muhammad has legitimated lying and deception in four cases: in holy war to spread Islam, in reconciling two enemies, a man towards his wife, and a wife to her husband. In Islam you cannot believe your friend or your enemy. Everyone distrusts each other because there is a lack of trust among Muslims.
4.11.9 - Life's Lie or God's Truth
If you do not accept the One crucified and raised from the dead, the spirit of truth won't be in you. Your entire life becomes a lie and a self-betrayal because of rejecting the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus shed His blood on the cross in order to atone as our high priest for the sins of sinners and repentant liars. After His resurrection from the dead He poured out the Spirit of truth on those waiting in prayer for the promise of the Father. The Holy Spirit appeared to them as tongues of fire. This explains what Jesus wanted to do with His disciples: They were to have their lying tongues burned and receive new, spiritual tongues, able to pronounce the eternal truth. What is eternal truth? God is our Father, Christ our Lord and Savior and the Holy Spirit dwells in us. The triune God is the eternal reality, which the spirit of truth confesses through the followers of Christ. This is our privilege to speak His truth in love, proclaiming His atoning work on the cross for everybody.
How wonderful it is to have a praying friend who will tell you the truth in love! He is better than a thousand who always praise you. Therefore, we need to ask Jesus to help us speak the truth in love and pray for our friends. This is what Jesus commands us: “Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes'; and your 'No' be 'No'. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one“ (Matthew 5:37). We need to ask Jesus to make us truthful in Him and to guide us to speak His truth in love.