Sermon Notes: The Ninth Commandment – To tell the truth

22 03 2016

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.”

A lot of people these days think that telling the truth can just cause problems. In the film, “Liar, liar”, when Jim Carrey is forced to tell the truth it’s an absolute disaster for him.

Telling the truth is different to being brutally honest, or “telling it as it is”. We’re called to speak the truth in love; that is, to have the good of the other person in mind. The important thing is the attitude behind the truth telling.

The commandment refers to our neighbour, but we know from the story of the good samaritan that this is not limited to those we know and like.

A witness report was highly important in the ancient near east – on just one witness report you would be considered guilty until proven innocent.

“One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offence they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you.”
– Deuteronomy 19 vv 15, 18-19

The ten commandments generally cover the most serious form of each sin – for example for murder this covers forms of hate and anger, it looks at the condition of the heart.

Other things covered by lying include exaggeration, misleading, and taking words out of context.

Words are powerful and can be damaging. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” – James 3 v 6.

Gossip is talking about people to do damage to their reputation; malicious sharing of information. It’s a big issue for the church when things will be shared under the disguise of “for prayerful concern”.

We should ask ourselves:

  • Is what I’m saying true?
  • Does it need to be shared with this person?
  • Would I say it if the person it’s about was here?

It’s as bad to listen to gossip as it is to share it; it ropes us in and encourages it. If we find ourselves gossiping, let’s stop and pray for the person instead!

If someone is complaining about a grievance against someone, suggest they go to them directly, not to have a go, but to express the hurt caused in love, and try to reconcile the relationship.

All commandments have a positive side to them – speak the truth!
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.” – Ephesians 4 v 25
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1 v 14
“He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.”
– Isaiah 53 v 9
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14 v 6

The world does brutal honesty; we’re called to speak the truth in love.

No matter how hard we try, none of us speak completely wholesomely.
“All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.’
‘Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practise deceit.’
‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’”
– Romans 3 vv 12-13

Because of what Jesus did, we don’t need to live lives tied to the burden of lies.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8 v 32

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4 v 29

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