You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20.16
The last few Sundays at PRBC, we have been noticing (from Genesis) how, for better or for worse, children usually turn out a lot like their parents. And not just in physical appearance, but in personality, in character, and in sin habits. Many of the rebellious streaks that so frustrate us in our children are painted right across our own faces as well! But there is one thing you do not have to teach your children to do…lie.
It seems like lying comes naturally. As sure as a child will learn to crawl, then walk, then run…he will master the art of deceit. Lying is in our sinful DNA. You remember that, after they sinned, one of the first reactions of Adam and Eve was to hide from God. They wanted to hide from Him the truth about the situation…the seedbed of all hiding and misrepresenting of truth ever since.
So we are liars by nature. And we are liars in actually day-to-day living, too. Now not everyone struggles with this sin in equal depth. But all of us find something of the deceiver in ourselves.
We leave out parts of the story that aren’t strategic for us. We fudge numbers a little here and there. We tell people we’ll call, or pray, or be there when we really have no intention of doing so. We exaggerate. We spread rumors and gossip that we cannot substantiate factually (not that gossip is any better if we have facts!). We flatter people to gain an advantage. We make up all sorts of excuses to get rid of those pesky telemarketers. And many of us just flat out lie in order to save our hides.
There is also a way that you can technically be telling the truth, and yet bearing false witness. You know the scenario. Person X leaves a message inviting you to the birthday party that you really do not want to attend. But you can’t call back and say: ‘I don’t want to come to your miserable party.’ But you also don’t want to lie. So what do you do? Before calling back, you schedule a hair appointment at exactly the time of the party. Now you can call back and deceive your friend by telling the truth (technically)! ‘I’m really sorry (no I am not). I cannot come (though I could have five minutes ago). I’d love to be there (not!), but I have a hair appointment that day (whew! glad they had an opening) and, well, you know. Tell little Johnny happy birthday for me!’
There is also a lot of lying that goes on in the business world. Don’t tell someone your company has the best widgets or the lowest prices unless you have barebones facts to back it up! False, or sensational, advertising is a violation of the 9th commandment.
In all these examples, I hope you see that the root problem with lying is selfishness, not just untruthfulness. Why do we lie? Because we value ourselves over everyone else. So we bend, misrepresent, or hide the truth in order to benefit ourselves. And in the process, we bear false witness against our neighbor. We are stealing from them the opportunity to have all the bare facts that we have, in an attempt to prevent them from gaining an advantage from the truth.
Deceit is not a pretty thing. But, O, let us remember lying, denying Peter. He lied about his very faith in Christ three times! But Jesus, who is “the truth” (John 14.6) restored him. And Jesus can restore you, too. But it is only as you turn away from lies and to the truth of the gospel of Jesus that you may be forgiven. In turning to Jesus,“you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8.32).