We all know at least three liars. Just look in the mirror and each of them will be revealed: me, myself, and I (otherwise known as the ‘unholy trinity’).
The psalmist tells us, “All men are liars” (Psa 116:11). Indeed, this unusual indictment of mankind is true. Lucifer’s lie is what seduced and initiated the separation of man from God (see Gen 3:4-5). We have all told a lie, therefore we are all liars.
Recently, I taught on this subject in our small group Bible study. Using Dr. Philip Graham Ryken’s book Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis as a guide, we looked at the ninth commandment (chapter twelve) and discussed how pervasive lies have become in today’s culture. Ryken writes:1
We all know that lying is wrong; yet we are so used to massaging the truth for personal advantage that we have trouble holding the line against falsehood.
Sadly, the ninth commandment is an easy one for us to break, for we live in a culture of lies. Are you familiar with it? It reads, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exod 20:16).
The immediate context for this commandment is a court of law; it governs the legal testimony a witness gives in a public trial before a jury. The word “neighbor” suggests a trial that takes place within the covenant community (see Lev 19:8), but it is not limited to that. After all, Jesus taught that everyone is our neighbor (see Luke 10:25-27)… the underlying principle is that God condemns every form of falsehood.
What are these forms of falsehood? We all know that lying is wrong. But have we lost sight of its many faces? Dishonesty comes in many different shapes and sizes.
Is a little white-lie a form of falsehood? (A beneficial lie.)
Or how about stretching the truth? (A deceptive lie.)
Or plagiarism? (Also a deceptive lie.)
Or how about a broken promise? (A lazy lie.)
And then there’s the BOLD-FACED lie. (Liar, liar, pants on fire!)
All of these make for great conversation, which is what took place in our study. Examples were examined—their purposes probed—with the underlying principle that God forbids every form of falsehood in His people.
[W]e are called to be people of the truth. If we are scholars, we are called to be careful with our quotations and fair with our criticisms. If we are politicians, we are called to be honest about our record, as well as that of our opponents. If we are in business, we are called to deal honestly with people. If we are journalists, we are called to get the story straight. These are only examples, of course. Every discipline has its own deceptions, but whatever lies people tell in our line of work, we are called to tell the truth.
The reason we are called to be people of the truth is because we serve a truth-telling God. God the Father is true. The Bible says, “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Rom 3:4).
God the Son is true. The Bible says that He came “from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), and “there was no deceit in His mouth” (Isa 53:19), for He is truth personified. Jesus said, “I am… the truth” (John 14:6), and “Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice” (John 18:37).
God the Holy Spirit is also true. In fact, the Bible calls Him “the Spirit of Truth” (1 John 4:6).
If God is true—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—then He must be true to His word. And He is. Everything that God has ever said—including every word on every page of the Bible—is absolutely, unmistakably, and entirely true. Therefore, we can always take God at His word: “Your word is truth” (John 17:17b).
If God is true to us, then we must be true to Him, and also to one another… Honesty really is the best policy, not simply because it helps us get along with other people, but because our interpersonal communication ought to be grounded in the character of God.
The Ten Commandments are not outdated, or merely for children’s Sunday school flannel-graphs. They are the moral law of God which guides us, and the ninth is no different. In a culture of lies, we are called to people of the truth.