The purpose and meaning of the Ninth Commandment
How important is truth? To fully appreciate the Ninth Commandment with its prohibition of lying, we must realize how important truth is to God.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.” Exodus 20:16
What do the Scriptures tell us about God, His Word and truth? Notice what several verses tell us: “Every word of God is pure…” Proverbs 30:5. Daniel refers to God's Word as “the Scripture of Truth.” Daniel 10:21. Jesus Christ said of God the Father, “Your word is truth.” John 17:17
The Bible throughout teaches that “God is not a man, that he should lie.” Numbers 23:19. It explains that “the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.” (Psalms 33:4) because He is a “God of truth.” Deuteronomy 32:4. And “His truth endureth to all generations.” Psalms 100:5
As the source of truth, God requires that His servants always speak truthfully. Under God's inspiration, King David writes, “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbour no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow-man … [and] who keeps his oath even when it hurts.” Psalms 15:1-3. God expects truth to permeate every facet of our lives.
Christ and the truth
Restoring regard for truth as a universal way of life will be a priority when Jesus Christ returns to establish His rule. “Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.” Zechariah 8:3
Looking forward to Christ's rule in the Kingdom of God, Psalms 85 reveals the emphasis God will place on righteousness and truth. “Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12 Yes, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. 13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.” Psalms 85:9-13. At that time Jesus Christ will insist that all of mankind follow His footsteps in accepting, believing and speaking the truth.
Truth in our relationship with Christ
Our personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ begins with our acceptance of and surrender to God's Word as truth. “In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” Ephesians 1:13
When Jesus stood trial just before His crucifixion, the Roman governor Pilate asked Christ if He were truly a king. Jesus responded by summarizing His mission and noting who would respond to His message, “You sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” John 18:37
Jesus Christ's character was and is a perfect reflection of the character of our heavenly Father, the God of truth. In response to a question from one of His disciples, Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6. His disciples, by “speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
To be disciples of Jesus Christ we must resolve to consistently speak the truth demonstrating the sincerity of our love for others. We must also accept and obey, as “the way of truth,” the Commandments and teachings of God (Psalms 119:30, 151, 160). Samuel tells us, “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24
It is almost impossible nowadays to be certain who if anyone is telling the truth. Almost everyone tries to balance the risk of being caught against the perceived benefits of lying. Some businesses display amazing creativity in camouflaging deceit when they advertise their products. Almost everywhere we can spot individuals, businesses and other organizations involved in a sophisticated game of seeing how deceptive they can be without attracting lawsuits or alienating potential customers.
Lying is an accepted way of life. Our world is accurately described by Isaiah's description of ancient Israel: “None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.” Isaiah 59:4. How did God view the Israelites' epidemic of lies? “But you shall say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.” Jeremiah 7:28
Then as now, people routinely inject deceit into their relationships, personal, social, political, religious and economic. The dearth of honesty is so widely accepted that public censure no longer even discourages lying. That demand must come from within.
Are you truthful?
Now comes the important question to you personally: Do you lie? Maybe it would be kinder to word the question a little differently. Just how important is being truthful to you? Or reversing the coin. Is lying repugnant to you? These questions are crucial. You need to ask and answer them truthfully to yourself.
Temptations to lie never cease. They are always present. Lying is such a quick and effortless way to gain an advantage over others. It appears to offer easy and swift escape from embarrassment, fear and guilt. But the Bible says, “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” Proverbs 12:22
We face a fundamental choice. We follow God's example of truthfulness and honesty in our actions and communications or we follow the example of the originator of lying, Satan. Jesus tells us that the devil is “a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 NIV. He deceived Eve then she talked Adam into partaking of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-6, 17). This act of disobedience brought suffering and death on our first parents. The devil has relentlessly misinformed and misled people ever since. Satan's malicious influence is so great that he “deceives the whole world.” Revelation 12:9. It is all too easy for us to follow his example in our dealings with others and especially when lying is so commonly practiced all around us.
Human nature is deceitful
Learning to be firmly and consistently truthful requires self discipline and courage and in our firmness and consistency we must rely on help from God. We often find ourselves doing things that we know are wrong. So why then do we do them? The prophet Jeremiah gives us the answer. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:9-10
God understands our nature and reveals how to combat it. Jesus explained that even though we may be willing to obey our flesh is weak (Mark 14:38). We lack the resolve and strength to resist temptation. How then can we neutralize this weakness? God through the pen of the apostle Paul explains the cause of and solution to this universal human problem. Citing himself as an example, Paul described the timeless human struggle, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” Romans 7:14-15
We can relate to Paul. We have experienced the same frustration and remorse. Paul continues: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:22-24. Paul had learned that people need help to rise above the weaknesses of human nature.
The apostle Peter denied Jesus Christ and even lied on the night of His betrayal about being acquainted with Him (Matthew 26:69-74). Like Peter, most people find it almost impossible to abandon all forms of deceit until they surrender their lives to God and begin sincerely seeking His help. That help is readily available, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13. We must ask for that help. And how can we get it? God's Word tells us, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
We have at hand the solution to this pervasive and insidious human weakness. Paul urged Church members in Ephesus to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” And how? By “putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” Ephesians 4:24-25
The way of truth
Those who willingly believe and obey the truth of God can by being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit become members of the Church that Jesus Christ built. He refers to them as the “light of the world.” Matthew 5:14. They represent “the way of truth.” 2 Peter 2:2. Paul calls God's Church “the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15. Its members are the servants of “the living and true God.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9. By “rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15), it is commissioned by Christ to preach “the truth of the gospel” to all the world (Galatians 2:5; Matthew 24:14; 28:19).
Everything in the life of a Christian is anchored to truth. God wants us as His children to commit ourselves to truth and reflect it in everything we do. That is why God commands us: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16