The ninth command is God’s boundary for truth, justice, and trust.
It’s the primary application to this command although it gets broadened to personal integrity. Although it’s quickly broadened to you telling the truth and me telling the truth. The primary application of this command, when it was given, was it was Israel’s court system. Notice as I read it. Exodus 20:16 says, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” And let me play out for you how it would happen.
Someone steals something from you. Or we find out that your fifteen year old daughter was raped. Or there was a fight and someone on the way back from this side of the camp to that side of the camp was brutally beat up. Some two guys out of the Tribe of Benjamin and you’re from the Tribe of Judah. What do you do with that stuff? Here’s what happened.
First, the personal offense would occur. You would do the investigation and research and find out and you are a community of people. And you would discover, as best you could, finding some witnesses, this man or these people, or that woman did that event. She stole it.
And then you would have eyewitnesses come before a judge and if you look at, remember Exodus 18? It used to happen, Moses was trying to pull this off all by himself, Jethro said, “Hey, you’re going to wear yourself and the people out.” And they developed a fairly complex system of judges over, you know, fifty and a hundred and ten and all the rest. And then the Supreme Court type stuff came to him.
And so, this offense would occur, someone would be charged with a crime, and then the entire judicial, social system was based on eyewitness testimony. I saw her go into your tent and steal that. I was behind the tree when those two men, from the Tribe of Benjamin, beat this man up.
And so they were called to be witnesses. Everything about justice and social order hinged on people obeying the ninth command: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
Now, you ask yourself, you know, that sounds like a kind of shaky system if people lie a little bit, you could have some big problems. In Exodus 23:1 to 7, you might jot that down. And Deuteronomy 19 verses about 15 to 21. There were some warnings to witnesses. The first warning was is that if it was a capital offense and you were one of the witnesses, you would be one of the first people to be involved in the execution.
In other words, if you said, I saw those two kill that man, they would say, okay, you were one of the witnesses and they put the stone in your hand and you would be the one to actually initiate the execution. If, by chance, they find out that you were lying, whatever offense, later in Deuteronomy 19 about 15 to 21, whatever offense that you lied about, that was your punishment.
So, you know, the level of scrutiny was, you better tell the truth because if you don’t tell the truth, you’re going to find yourself culpable of murder and if you don’t tell the truth and anyone finds out about it, whatever crime the other person’s punished for, they’re going to turn around and punish you.
And so the first and foremost application of the ninth command was to bring about justice, truth, out of, you know, imagine, I don’t care how good the people are. Two or three million people. You had people lined up from morning to night with cases of judgment against one another.
As this command expands, Leviticus 19:11, Israel’s code of conduct, it’s not just in law suits or eyewitnesses. It says, “Do not steal, do not lie, do not deceive one another.”
And so the idea was more than just telling the truth in a formal court, but it was that you are to be truthful all the time with everyone. Today, the New Testament picks it up and expands it even further where we’re to have integrity in everything. The Apostle Paul, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 25 says, “Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor for we are all members of one body.”
And to put off falsehood is not just in your speech. It’s your actions and your life. You are going to tell the truth in what you say and how you live, you’re not going to even leave false impressions by your silence.
And I think we would all agree, you know, I had one of those good grandmothers. She was from Scotland. And she had a number of little sayings and we weren’t Christians but we learned later that, you know, she was and she had one of those little sayings and most of you can quote it with me, right? “Honesty is the best policy.” Isn’t that great? The other one was, “Chip, if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Right?
You know, honesty is the best policy. The fabric of human relationships is based on that one issue. You realize that if people aren’t honest with you, if you’re not honest with each other in your marriage, if you’re not honest with your kids, if you’re not honest with a friendship, if you’re not honest in business deals, if you’re not honest in the church, if there’s not honesty there’s not trust.
If there’s not trust, there’s no relationship. It’s just pseudo relationship. The commodity of human relationships, just like economies are built on money, relationships are built on trust and under trust is what? Once a person lies to you once, lies to you twice, what do you think about the next few things they say? “Hey, man, you know, I don’t know if I can, I don’t know whether this is for real or not,” right?
And so we all want. I don’t know about you, I want people to tell me the truth. In fact, as I get a little bit older, I even want people to tell me the truth that I don’t want to hear. Because what I’ve learned over the years is, the truth I don’t even want to hear, if I don’t hear it, if people don’t tell me, I’ll end up facing that truth, probably, more painfully later.
I’ve gotten to the point where if I’ve messed up, tell me. Show me. Help me. Because it’ll be more pain later than hearing it from you now.
And yet, even though we all want everyone to be honest with us, the research indicates that at least in America, we’re not doing too well here. Forty percent of all Americans admit that they lie on their résumés. And a research study done, sixty percent of American adults said they lied at least once last week.
In a book, When America Told the Truth, in impersonal interviews, ninety-one percent of Americans said they lie regularly about trivial issues. Thirty-six percent said they lie on important issues. Half of sales people, and don’t take this personally, I’m sure you’re one of the honest ones, say they lie to customers. And despite all of us wanting everyone to tell us the truth, the truth is a fairly rare commodity.
And I want to just take some time now and I want to walk through, why is it that we lie? I want to unearth, I want to do a little probing and, you know, I lie, you lie, we’re people. We lie. And then I want to ponder the consequences of what lying does to our relationships.
And then finally, I want to give you a game plan. I want to give you a game plan for personal integrity in your speech, your thoughts, and your relationships. And if you’ve got that trusty pen that I’ve asked you to bring, why don’t you pull it out and I actually want you to jot these down. Because they’ll be helpful.
This is the kind of stuff that you’re going to have to get these notes out later and get a little place, maybe near the water or a park bench away from someone or maybe late at night turn on the lamp. And you need to have a private talk with the Lord because we’re going to probe pretty deeply. Let me give you at least, oh, six different reasons why we lie.
The first and most common reason we lie is fear. Fear. F-E-A-R. We lie to cover up. The fear of consequences. The fear of getting caught. It’s a good short-term solution. I learned it as an early, as a kid. “Did you do that, Chip?” “No.” Well, why did I say that? Because I was going to get spanked if I said yes. You think I’m dumb? I’m not going to say, “Yes, I did that.” But what do you find out? It always gets you later.
And some of us are still doing the same thing. As the patrolman pulls you over, “Did you know the speed limit?” “I didn’t know… I was unaware… My foot was locked on the gas pedal… This is a new car… These cruise controls, they never work the way you’re…” We just lie. When faced with something, the fear of the consequences, we can have an automatic response, short-term cover up, is to lie.
The second time we lie is when we’re hurt. The goal is payback or vengeance. Someone has wounded us. Someone has said something. Someone has taken something from us.
We’re angry and we’re bitter and we’re resentful. And the lie, according to Scripture, that often comes out of this is what’s called slander or gossip. And so we attack or assassinate another person’s character. We pass on untested truth or we make up stuff about people.
And I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been guilty now and then. And even, even in our marriages, when you’ve been wounded and when you’ve been hurt, have you ever found yourself lying, you know, shading things about your mate’s behavior to make them feel really bad? Sure.
We lie because of fear, we lie for payback or vengeance. The third reason we lie is because of insecurity. Sometimes we just lie to impress. I remember being at a concert. Most of my kids are musicians. And I was at a concert, it was an outdoor concert, and my son was playing and doing something. And this, kind of, real cool guy, kind of, walks up. “Hey, man, how you doing?” “Doing okay.”
And he, kind of, threw some stuff at me and I was pretty naïve about the music world and he told me who he knew in this great worldwide band and he’d run the sound for them and this and that. And, you know, I said, “Wow, that’s really neat.”
And, you know, he kind of took me in. So he took me to the next level and told me this other set of stories. And then he told me, you know, Clint Eastwood had talked to him on the phone earlier that day and they were going to be getting together for something later.
And I’m thinking, I’m not sure. And then he said, “See that guy up there playing the drums?” And I said, “Yeah.”
And he didn’t know that I thought, well, I’m going to test this out. The drummer came to our church, I remember when he came to Christ, I remember when and why he decided to go back to Nashville to go back into music and what he was doing.
And he said, “Yeah, that guy. He and I, man, we are like this, man. I mean, we’re like this. You know why he’s going back to Nashville?” And since I did know, I thought I’d play dumb. I said, “No, tell me.” He said, “Signed a two million dollar contract to go back to Nashville to make music, man.”
And I just thought to myself, this dude is so out to lunch. He doesn’t even know me. Why is he doing this? He’s doing this for the same reason I have and you have. He wants to impress me. Have you ever exaggerated about something? I mean, I don’t want to be trite but everything from your golf game, to the size of a fish, to how many people showed up at a Bible study. I mean, isn’t is silly sometimes?
You know, you’re leaving the Bible study. How many people came? Oh, about twelve or fourteen. And there were eight. There were eight. I mean, does the person care whether there’s twelve or fourteen or eight? No. So what is it in you and what is it in me that tells them, “Oh, about twelve or fourteen. You know, yeah. Twelve or fourteen.”
And then if you’re married to someone like I’m married, you get off the phone and they say, “Who was that?” And you tell them. “Well, what were they asking?” And you tell them. And they, and my wife, loving, gentle Theresa goes, “So why did you lie?” I didn’t lie. There was around that many. “We counted at the end of the night. We only had eight glasses out.” “Yeah, we did, that’s right.”
Something in us wants to project something that’s better than who we really are. We lie about how much we know, we lie about who we know, we lie about how successful we are. And we do it in very subtle ways out of our insecurity. We exaggerate and we distort.
The fourth reason we lie is for greed. Selfish reasons. You know, people con you.
Hey, this car was driven by one elderly lady, only to church and back, in the last twenty-five years. That’s why it’s a 1956 and only has nine thousand miles. That and my mechanic in the back pulled back the odometer about ninety thousand miles and…
This product, I mean, it’s cutting edge. No one has ever seen, I mean, guaranteed. You are going to love this. I’m telling you. George W. Bush uses this. I mean his personal assistant. He uses this. Your company will… And people just lie. We just lie. And we con for personal gain or greed.
The fifth reason we lie is what I call misguided help or protection. This is the category of white lies. We want to protect others form the truth.
As a pastor, you get a lot of this at times and families mean well and usually these are people that have great motives but how they go about doing life really is not wise or good or Biblical.
And so Uncle Bob has cancer and Uncle Bob is going to die. And so Uncle Bob’s wife and one of Uncle Bob’s kids and the doctor get together and they decide, you know what? We’re not going to tell Uncle Bob. We want to, Uncle Bob, everything’s going to be okay. We really think you’re going to be, we want to protect Uncle Bob. It’ll be too devastating. It’ll be too hard for him to handle. We treat adults like children instead of realizing God gives grace, people can bear truth. If you were Uncle Bob and you knew you had a few weeks or a few months, would you want to know? I would like the privilege to determine how I would live out my last days and what I want to do.
And my mom, bless her heart, she died about twelve years ago. She was, like, the wonder woman of protection. And she always, I mean, no matter what happened, she died of a very rare blood disease and at one point, because the circulation went bad she got gangrene and they amputated part of her foot and it got more and more and more severe.
And you’d call her on the phone. She lived in Florida. “Mom, how you doing?” “Oh, I’m doing great, Chip. Everything is wonderful. Oh, you know, it’s just healing right up, you know?” And she was in one of those barium things with the oxygen. And, you know, I’d call one of my sisters, call my dad, call a neighbor. And then, I mean, my mom’s story about her was this. And reality was about a hundred and eighty degrees.
You know, you can’t care for people and you can’t love people when they don’t tell you the truth. And, you know, we make white lies and my dad, earlier in his life, was an alcoholic. And our whole family system developed around hiding my dad’s dysfunction and the dysfunction of our family.
You know, stuff like, oh no. He couldn’t make it. He’d love to be here. He’s really tired.
Well, you know what, you are really tired when you down about thirty-six to forty beers on one Saturday.
Or how about the one, some of us, as adult kids, you know, my mom was, wanted to, she was the glue. She’s going to keep the family intact. Everyone’s going to love each other and if this kid doesn’t know this kid, she’s going to play the triangle game and bring them together and everything’s okay and everything’s okay here and I talked to your sister. Why don’t you call your sister?
You know, triangulating is not only stupid and unwise, it just doesn’t work. And so, I would get a phone call and she would say, “Oh yeah! It’s good to talk to you. Your dad is dying to talk to you.” And he’s, like, asleep on the couch. “Reb, Reb wake up.” “Oh, oh yeah.” “Yeah, hey Chip! How you doing? Everything going okay? You know? Except the problem was she didn’t quite get when we were visiting and we would call one of my sisters and my dad was kind of out of it. She would say, “Your dad is dying to talk to you. Here, come on.”
You know? You know? And she was so badly wanting the relationship to work, what’s she doing? She’s lying. And you know what happened? That robbed me of a, for a season, of a relationship with my dad. You know, if my dad doesn’t want to talk to me then maybe I need to say, “Hey dad. Maybe there’s something we need to get resolved and I don’t know what the issue is.”
But, you know what? To have someone tell white lies to protect and create this pseudo atmosphere like everything is okay, that is like a Christian disease. And it happens in churches.
How many times have you had, you know, a pastor falls to something immoral and the board, instead of coming clean, doing church discipline, letting him own his stuff, get before the church, humble himself, call what is what is, go through a healthy process, grieve, and pray that he can be restored if he’s really repentant.
You know what happens in the average church? He gets a call from God to go somewhere else. Often, they don’t tell the next church what happened. And here’s what I can guarantee. Your sin will always find you out. So then, three months later, or three years later, some group in the church finds out what really happened, it always happens. Now guess who they’re mad at. They’re not mad at the pastor, are they?
Who are they mad at? They’re mad at the board. Because you know what? Number one. The board, often with the right motives, we wanted to protect the church from this disgrace of Christ and how bad it would look in our community. Sin is sin. The Bible is clear on how you deal with sin. And when dealt with in a correct and good way, church discipline is healthy, purging, and purifying.
But when people find out it wasn’t the truth, guess what? Now they don’t trust the leaders about the capital campaign. Now they don’t trust the leaders about the next pastor they hire. Now you’ve done unbelievable damage. Because remember, what’s the issue? The only commodity you have in a relationship is trust.
So, fear, payback or vengeance, insecurity, greed, misguided help. And one, it’s just laziness.
Have you ever had someone come up and say, “Hey, could you help us out with this?” And you say, “Oh, I’d really, really love to but I just can’t.” And, you know, and it’s just, I mean. It’s just lazy. You don’t want to go through the process of, my schedule is full, I’m not passionate about that, you and I aren’t very close, there’s nothing about that project that motivates me. But what I do is I say, “Oh, I’d love to but I just can’t.”
No, the answer, the truth is, it doesn’t align with what God wants me to do in my life and I don’t want to do it. It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I won’t. It’s that I want to let you know in a kind and loving, winsome way that there are boundaries because my gifts and my time and my energy and my resources aren’t mine. They’re God’s. So I need to put them where he wants me to put them.
And so we say little lies but little lies grow to big lies. Could you help us with this, this, and this? Instead of, I’d love to and I can’t. You say, well, if, you know, here’s what I used to do. On my phone, for two years, because people ask pastors to do stuff a lot.
On my phone, I taped above it, “I’ll call you back in ten minutes.” You know why? Because I kept lying. I kept saying stuff I didn’t mean or signing up for stuff I didn’t want to do. “I’ll call you back in ten minutes.”
And then I’d pray about it and then I’d get clear on it. And then it got to where I got a reverse habit where people would ask me something and if I knew immediately, I said, “You know something? That sounds like an awesome ministry that God might really want done. I don’t feel called to that. But I’m glad you are. And I’m honored that you would invite me to join you. That’s not something I think God wants me to give my time to.”
Do you understand what can happen when we start speaking the truth and how much of this phoniness under the guise of being polite? You don’t have to hurt people’s feelings. You don’t have to be ruthless with the truth. But we gotta start speaking the truth. Speaking the truth in love.
The final reason, I think I said I’d give you six but this is, sort of, an outgrowth. Is the final reason, number seven, is habit. Once you start lying about little stuff, you know what? I have found myself, this is such an indictment. I’ve found myself talking on the phone with someone and they ask me a question and I hear something coming out of my mouth and I think to myself, “What’s that doing coming out of my mouth? That’s not true. That’s not true. Wait a second. What are you doing?”
And I’m just thinking. And it’s immaterial and it doesn’t matter. But you know what? Unless you declare war on deceit, that’s what this message is about. We’re going to declare war on deceit. We’re going to be truth tellers. We’re going to be truth receivers.
We’re going to be people that are true from the inside out. Unless you declare war, you will have little patterns of lying and you can get to where, it’s just, I mean, it’s not even willful.
I had one son who became an expert. At one point in time, he could lie so convincingly, a couple days later, he was convinced of his own lie. And boy, we had a journey breaking that one. How about you?
We were all thieves this morning. I’m getting the sense that I’m among the brethren and sisters of the liarhood, right? You know, you do remember that the goal of these commands were not that anyone could ever keep them. The goal of these commands, never could you earn your salvation. The goal of these commands were to demonstrate the character of God and His heart and His holiness and they were to be boundaries for us for our benefit. And then, we know from New Testament, that they were to help us understand that no matter how hard you try, you will always fall short.
And each of these boundaries helps you know that you need to cry out to God for mercy. And there will come a day where they’ll be a Redeemer and a Savior who will make up the distance between where you fall short. And it’s the blood of Christ.
These Ten Commands are always to remind us that we’re desperate in need. I can’t be honest in my own power. I can’t not steal in my own power. I can’t not lust in my own power. I can’t have any other gods but God in my own power.