Character is the ability to recognize right from wrong and to always choose the right in opposition to the wrong. Obedience to the ninth commandment is a requirement for building character. This is because a man is only as good as his word. One can have little confidence in a man whose word is no good. What he says is of little value. Let us ask this question: What kind of a God would there be if God’s Word were no good? We can have absolute confidence in the Word of God. It is the one thing we can rely on (Heb. 6:19). God always means exactly what He says. Why? Because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). What a contrast to human beings who are constantly plagued with the sin of lying. Habitual liars are quickly known and their reputation follows them everywhere.
When Jesus Christ spoke, He spoke the truth. He said, “. . . I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ had perfect character. He was the sum of truth. He was God in the flesh. God cannot lie. To be like Christ we must develop the kind of character that prevents us from lying. The question is asked, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” Notice the answer. “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart” (Ps. 15:1-2). This text is plain. An absolute must in order to enter the Kingdom of God is to always speak the truth. What is the fate of liars? “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:7-8). One who practices lying is committing a serious offence in the sight of God. It is among the abominations that God hates.
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Prov. 6:16-19).
Those who refuse to give up the practice of lying will face certain punishment. “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish” (Prov. 19:9).
The ninth commandment is one of the Ten Commandments. Remember, the first four commandments teach us how to love God, the last six teach us how to love our fellow man. Do we love our fellow man when we spread lies and untruths about him? Of course not! Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments when He said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). The ninth commandment regulates a very important facet in human relations-that of manifesting love toward our neighbor. Over a period of a lifetime many opportunities arise that tempt us to lie or to bear false witness. One who truly fears God will always be on guard against this impulse.
The ninth commandments states, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex. 20:16). This commandment is intended to protect one against defamation of character and to uphold an honest man’s reputation. As a part of human nature, lying and bearing false witness are so natural they seem to be the normal thing to do. Jesus said these sins are endemic in the human heart. “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:18-19). How deep in the human soul is the habit of lying? The answer: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Ps. 58:3). The habit of lying begins at an very early age, almost as soon as a child learns to talk. This ninth commandment concerns itself with a very real problem of life.
A man who lies can do great harm. Notice, “A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow” (Prov. 25:18). The little ditty, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names and faces won’t hurt me any.” Not so! One who ruins another man’s reputation by falsehoods and lies might just as well kill him with a club or pierce him through with a sword or arrow.
Let us not assume the ninth commandment is limited to bearing false witness against one’s neighbor. Notice the scope. “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another” (Lev. 19:11). The application of the ninth commandment includes falsehoods of all kinds, and lying about one’s neighbor is paramount in this prohibition. There is special emphasis in the Bible regarding false witnessing. “Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness” (Ex. 23:1). When emotions are aroused it is popular to go along with the crowd. Often the innocent are unjustly accused. This text proscribes this kind of activity. Here are some Bible instructions.
If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you (Deut. 19:16-19).
What we say can boomerang upon us if it is false. Honesty is indeed the best policy. A false witness is a liar, but not so a faithful witness (Prov. 14:5). What will be the fate of those who bear false witness? Read Revelation 21:8 and 22:15.
Lying virtually becomes a habit for many. Inveterate liars are those so steeped in lying they find it almost impossible to tell the truth. Beginning as a small child, the practice of lying generally continues on through youth and adulthood. It is a habit that must be broken like any other bad habit. But one must first recognize the consequences of lying in order to break the state of denial. First, we need to learn to be careful in what we say, then if we promise anything, we should be sure to keep our word. We must always mean what we say. A promise should be kept. One who is careless in what he promises will soon become a liar, or at the very least gain the reputation as one who cannot keep his word. The Apostle Paul admonished, “. . . Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:24-25). One who commits an illegal act, then tries to cover it up, will only find the pit becoming deeper and deeper. A majority of people cannot avoid the temptation to lie in order to cover a sin. They fail to realize lying will only make matters worse.
The inability to control the tongue is a major cause of lying. The truth is, controlling the tongue can be a matter of life or death. Over the centuries countless deaths have resulted from falsehoods. The Bible warns about the tongue.
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell (Jas. 3:5-6).
As we have seen, the misuse of the tongue encompasses lying and bearing false witness. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Prov. 18:21). Those who desire eternal life must keep the commandments of God. Jesus said, “. . . if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). One of the commandments of God is the ninth commandment.
God desires man’s very make-up to be truthful. The ninth commandment helps man to realize this goal. David wrote, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6). Man must not only understand the truth, but live the truth, and make the pursuit of truth life’s goal. The truth makes one free (John 8:32), free from the guilt of sin brought on by lying. The conscience can be clear. He can sleep well at night. He can be free from the blight of a bad reputation, of being known as a liar. The biggest fear of any liar is that he will be found out. One who has freedom from the worry of being caught in a lie has peace of mind. One who is truthful with himself will be truthful with others. One who is a habitual liar will have a difficult time being honest in his associations with others. The ninth commandment guards a man’s reputation. One who always tells the truth has a good reputation. He can never legitimately be accused of lying. But lying is so pervasive in this world that few men avoid it. It is an unusual man who always tells the truth. The Bible says all men are liars (Rom. 3:4). Men have gone so far as to lie for the purpose of taking the lives of others. Notice what it says in Ezekiel. “In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood . . .” (Ezek. 22:9).
There are many reasons people lie. Often children get into the habit of lying in order to keep out of trouble. Children lie to keep their parents from finding out what they have done that is wrong. Another reason for lying is to protect one’s image. Vanity and self-esteem play a part in this picture. But what is not realized is that self-esteem is actually lowered as a result of lying. True self-esteem comes from telling the truth. We are all familiar with the braggart. We are aware that much of what he says is exaggeration, often dramatized far beyond reality. A braggart thinks he is building a reputation by his boasting, but when his overstatements fail to materialize, his reputation is damaged. While he lies to gain the good opinion of others, in the end their opinion of him is diminished.
People who lie have little regard for God and His law. They are more concerned about what people think, so they lie to keep up a good image. Some business people lie all the time. Their desire for financial advantage overrides any honesty they may have, and they engage in scams and fraudulent schemes constantly. How does God view those who take financial advantage of others? “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death” (Prov. 21:6). Satan also influences men to lie. Notice what Jesus told the religious leaders of His day. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). One who lied to the Apostle Peter was told, “. . . Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy [Spirit], and to keep back part of the price of the land?” (Acts 5:3). Satan inspired this man to lie, so this influence should not be discounted.
Slander is a form of lying. Many a man’s reputation has been ruined as a result of slander. Tale bearing is a form of slander. “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” (Prov. 18:8). When the tale is false, the sin is compounded by lies. Things said about others that are cast in a bad light, or private interpretations based on hearsay, often result in slander. God alone can read the hearts and minds of men. Human beings who attempt this are taking to themselves the prerogatives of God. The Bible instructs, “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:16). The ninth commandment instructs us how we should behave when we hear things about others. The Bible says, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool” (Prov. 10:18). Slander is generally the result of faulty information. Many of the facts are missing. A fool is one who repeats what is not really known.
Our criminal justice system is predicated upon truth. But is there much truth in the system today? When lying and falsehood prevail, there will be little justice. Why is perjury a crime? Because it thwarts justice. Perjurers are liars. One who is in the habit of always speaking the truth will never have to worry about perjuring himself. One of the seven abominations God hates is a false witness that speaks lies (Prov. 6:16-19). Perjury is wrong in the sight of God because it adversely affects peoples lives, sometimes even the outcome of one’s life. “A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies” (Prov. 14:25). Here is the Bible instruction. “These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord” (Zech. 8:16-17). “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:5). Perjury is not only a violation of the law of the land, it is a sin-a violation of the Law of God.
Because of the foibles and frailties of human nature, the ninth commandment was given. This commandment reminds men of the human tendency to lie and to be on guard against it. Men must value the truth and learn not to lie. A man is only as good as his word. This ninth commandment was given to protect man’s reputation. It gives those who pay heed freedom from the fear of being found a liar. The ninth commandment was given to insure justice in the courts. It was given as a check against slander. This commandment was given as a benefit and blessing for mankind. Obedience to this commandment can lead to eternal life.