Exodus 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Exodus 20:16 (ESV)

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

1.  The Meaning of the Ninth Commandment

This commandment finds its context in the court of law.  Here, specifically what is forbidden is bear false witness against one’s neighbor.

Where was John Smith on the night the crime was committed?  You don’t particularly like Smith.  He has cheated you in the past.  You saw him at the time of the crime in a different location and you know he did not do it.  Now is your time to get even or your time to tell the truth.

What do you do?

This command, while its first and most specific application is in a courtroom setting, it goes much broader than that.  It is about telling the truth in every and all cases.  Truth telling should hinder things like gossip, slander, and even unwarranted flattery.

-God desires that we speak in similar ways like He does.  He always tells the truth and so should we.  With Him there is no lie and always truth.  He defends the truth and would have all of us as His people turn away from lies.

-God desires His people to care and serve and look out for someone else’s honor and good name.  He wants us to defend other’s good name not slander it.  We are to have one face not two.  Care for our neighbor and not bring them down

-This sin destroys the godliness of God’s community.  Slander and gossip destroy a godly society.  It can destroy a church.  It can destroy a family.  It can make family members and church members against each other rather than for one another.

Hosea 4:1–2 (ESV)

4 Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,

for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

The reason God gave us the Ninth Commandment is because He loves truth.  He is building a nation to call His own and His people must be truth tellers.  The whole truth and nothing but the truth is the oath a witness takes before taking the stand.

Bearing false witness can take place outside the courtroom.  Most often outside the courtroom is where it occurs.

Like other commandments, such as murder being forbidden, we see the worst or most drastic case of hatred.  Here we have the example of the worst form of lying, that which may condemn someone unjustly in a court of law.  This commandment is not limited to that setting.   

The just of this commandment or to state it simply…Don’t say anything about someone that isn’t true.  Don’t speak evil about someone else. 

2.  The Dangers of False Testimony

If we’re are going to be God’s people, it’s very important that we speak the truth in love.  Because God is truth, we therefore must also be people of the truth.

There may be an issue with our understanding of neighbor in this verse, but Jesus told us in Luke 10:25ff that everyone is our neighbor.  So, we must not say anything about anyone that is not true.  That’s the meaning of the commandment.  Now there are other practical things we could say such as even when we say things that are true we must weigh our words and we don’t have to say everything that is true about someone.  So and So’s hair looked bad today.  That may be a true statement but it’s something that we don’t have to say.  It does not build up but tears down.  Even in telling the truth we must be selective in what we say.

Dangers of slander…

I wonder, how many people here today or someone you know have been victims of false testimony?  It may not have been in a court of law, perhaps within a family or a group of some kind in which someone had said something false about you or someone you know and this false statement has affected your or someone else’s reputation.

I’m sure many of you have had this happen…someone has said something about you that is entirely not true and it’s gotten back to you.  You realize an entire group of people have the wrong idea about you.  You’ve tried to do the right thing in a certain situation and because of someone’s mouth ris unning you are slandered or accused of something not true and you’ve not even been given the opportunity to defend yourself.  The accusations are made, the verdict reached and you were not even aware because people were slandering you behind your back.  Maybe it was even someone you trusted.

Perhaps this has happened in your family?  It creates distances between people who should be close.  Saying something not true about someone else can and does destroy.  That’s why it should not be so especially from those who claim Christ as Savior and Lord.

There are people that after so long and so many times you tend to avoid because they speak untruths and gossip about others.    

Within a group, there is something about gossip and slander that spreads because in our evil sinful nature, others want it to continue and be told to others.  It’s because we are lead astray by our sinful nature and it makes us feel better about ourselves when we can dig up something on someone else.  We are made to seem superior to them when we can join in the slander.  Everyone who perpetuates the lie has raised themselves up by pushing someone else down. 

Listen Church we must stop the slander and gossip in its tracks.  We are called to defend the helpless and widows and orphans.  We are called to build others up not tear them down.

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

False testimony could affect our legal system and innocent could be punished and the guilty could go free.

False testimony is using what God has given us to praise Him and to speak well of our neighbor and use it for sinful purposes.

It’s difficult to recover from those types of slanderous remarks because they travel quickly don’t they.  They travel like a wild fire out of control.  Those people who say those things about others are being controlled by Satan.

Let’s let God’s Word teach us about the Ninth Commandment…

James 3:3–12 (ESV)

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James tells us something that we probably would never admit.  He speaks about the tongue being a small member of our bodies.  However, like the rudder of a ship, it directs and steers the ship.  So too our tongues steer us.

He then compares the tongue to a small spark that can destroy a large forest as the fire spreads and burns everything within its path. 

Look to verse 6, James tells us who is turning the rudder and igniting the spark when our speech is slanderous…

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

Satanic speech is what James is telling us.  There are times when we are controlling the rudder and times when hell is controlling it.  The flint that is struck together that begins the blaze is not God but the devil himself.  Beloved we must be purposeful with our speech.  We must guard our tongues from any speech that is not edifying and used to please God.

If we are to obey this commandment we must swim against the current of the norm in our society.  The cultural norm is backbiting, running others down in order to make yourself look good.  That’s how one gets promoted at work or in other areas.  This one up on the other person is how the world is bent but must not be how the church is bent.

Ask yourself, how can I guard my speech to only be encouraging, truthful and God honoring?  It’s a big task, isn’t it?

What’s really scarry is it’s so easy.  We can do it and say we were just joking or we can do it so smoothly and sneak in those subtle digs at others.  James tells us it should not be among God’s people.

Sometimes we even do it through carelessness.  Sometimes we don’t even know we are doing it. 

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

In his letter to the Corinthians…

2 Corinthians 12:20 (ESV)

20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

3.  Jesus Diagnoses the Sin of False Testimony

Matthew 12:33–37 (ESV)

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The true test of the heart is what comes out of our mouths.  Who we really are is made tangible and manifest by what we say. 

An artesian well is a well that is constantly bubbling up water.  It is either salty if it comes from a salty area.  Sometimes it’s a fountain that can be drunk from.  It is bubbling up out of the ground.  This is how our tongue works.  Our speech makes known our heart.  Good speech comes from a good heart.  Evil speech from and evil heart.

We will be judged according to our speech because it reveals our true condition. 

4.  Jesus, Full of Grace and Truth

John 1:14 (ESV)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Isaiah 53:9 (ESV)

And they made his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

John 14:6 (ESV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 18:37 (ESV)

37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Jesus is the Truth. 

5.  How Serious is Lying?

There are many liars in the Bible…Satan told Eve, you will not surely die.  Jacob the deceiver tricked and lied to his brother.  There is a short account of a husband and wife whose lie killed them.

Acts 4:32–37 (ESV)

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Here Barnabas sold a field and gave the proceeds to the Apostles for distribution as needed by others within the Church.

Acts 5:1–11 (ESV)

5 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.


What was their sin?  It was not greed or theft or covetousness.  In fact, Peter told them what their sin was… But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 
Peter went on to tell them where their sin came from…

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie

Whom did they sin against? to lie to the Holy Spirit

You have not lied to man but to God

Lying is very serious. 

Lying is devil talk.  The truth is from God.

Praise the Lord that we have a Savior who died for our lies. 

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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