You shall not bear false testimony

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9. You shall not give false testimony of your neighbor / Area: Truth

The Word of God makes it very clear that God is the God of truth. God cannot tell a lie or be deceitful. He cannot give false information about Himself, and He cannot lie when He speaks about human beings or the world we live in (Titus 1:2). God has promised believers in Christ eternal life, and that is what believers will have! The fact that God cannot lie and always speaks the truth and always reveals the truth means that we can trust Him, His character and His promises in the Word of God which is still relevant for us today. That is also the reason the word of God is called the word of truth (Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5; James 1:15) through which we are born again by the Spirit of God and inherit eternal life. Numbers 23:19 states: “God is not man, that He should lie, neither the son of man that he should change his mind.” Jesus is called the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) and the Spirit of God is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17) who leads believers into the truth about themselves, the world and God. When we say that God is the God of truth we mean that there is nothing false in His being, what He says and does. He has not revealed exhaustively things about Himself (Deuteronomy 29:29), but He has revealed to us what He has purposed for mankind, in the Bible, so that we may be saved from our sins, His wrath, and so that we may know how we can live, God-pleasing, God-honoring and righteous lives on earth. God is love, and the Bible says love rejoices in the truth, not in iniquity (1 Corinthians 13:6).

1 John 1:8-10 reveals that, “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and the truth is not in us.” The Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). This commandment helps us to be honest before God about ourselves and to speak the truth with others and with God. We are not people who hide things and of the darkness. We walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). If we want to represent God faithfully on this earth, we ought to speak the truth. Proverbs 12:19 states: “the lip of truth shall be established forever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” Revelation 21:9 says that all fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars, shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” Liars will not inherit the kingdom of God. God hates lying (Proverbs 6:-6-19) because it misrepresents him. The devil is called the father of lies (John 7:44), and that is why there are so many false religions and cults in this world. The devil cannot but lie; there is no truth in him. And those who love to tell lies, fibs, half-truths, deceive people and exaggerate are followers of the evil one.

This command teaches us not only to avoid and hate deception and lies but always to speak the truth, love the truth, rejoice in the truth and protect the reputation of our neighbors and fellow human beings. With this command, we should promote and stand for what is right and true in society, in our churches, in politics and in every sphere of society. We are to uphold the good name of our neighbors and shun slander of any sort and gossiping about our neighbors. Titus 3:2 commands: “Speak evil of no man.” That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expose the works of darkness when the opportunity arises (Ephesians 5:11). Speaking the truth in an unloving way can also hurt a person, therefore we are commanded to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It is sometimes better to keep silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7), but when love demands it, we should confront people if it would result in the coming of God’s kingdom and the establishing of the kingdom of truth (Proverbs 27:5).

The Heidelberg Catechism says the following about this commandment: “That I bear false witness against no man nor falsify any man’s words, that I be no backbiter, nor slanderer, that I do not judge, nor join in condemning any man rashly or unheard, but that I avoid all sorts of lies and deceit as the proper works of the devil, unless I would bring down upon me the wrath of God; likewise, that in judgement and all other dealings I love the truth, speak it uprightly and confess it; also that I defend and promote, as much as I am able, the honor and good character of my neighbor.”

Sins forbidden by this command include:

Lies: a statement the speaker knows to be untrue

White lies: a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings; a lie told in order to be polite or to stop someone from being upset.

Dishonesty: not honest and truthful

Deceit: cause to believe something that is not true

Slander: a false statement uttered maliciously that damages a person’s reputation; the crime of uttering this.

Gossip: casual talk about other people’s affairs which puts someone in a negative light

Perjury: deliberate giving of false evidence while under oath; this evidence

Backbiting: spiteful talk (malicious desire to hurt or annoy someone)

Character defamation: attack the good reputation of someone

Character assassination: destroying someone’s character by giving false information to the public and exaggerating their mistakes

Exaggeration: make greater than it really is

Judge rashly and condemning people in your heart:

Jesus told us not to judge people lest we are judged and not to condemn people lest we are condemned (Luke 6:37). Jesus told us to forgive because it would be the evidence that we have been forgiven. Man knows the extent of evil if he looks at himself in the mirror of God’s law. If any man receives Christ’s forgiveness and realizes how many sins have been forgiven him it would be hard to condemn any other person because he knows the extent of evil in his own heart that God forgave him in Christ Jesus.

Scripture to consider: These six things the Lord hate: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness that speak lies, and he who sows discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19).

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