Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 19:15-21
Sunday February 27, 2011
The story of Pinocchio is old childhood favorite. We were fascinated with a wood carver named Gepetto who carved a boy out of wood so that he could have son. But Pinocchio was still made of wood and he was very mischievous. During his escapades he has to face his guardian fairy. When questioned about going to school he lied. And his nose grew. His Guardian Fairy informed him then that every time he lied his nose would grow.
And so as a child I sat fascinated in Mrs. Stauffer's first grade class- hoping that no one would notice that my nose was growing bigger all the time.
There is something very important for us to understand this morning about this whole idea that our 9th commandment brings up: God values truth.
Notice our grid for the Ten Commandments:
PRECEPT- "Thou shalt not…"
PRINCIPAL- "God's values"
PERSON- God's character
This command reminds us the importance that God puts on the trustworthiness your spoken words must carry. I also believe that this command shows us the laxness so many of us are guilty of in the way we speak about other people.
So consider these points this morning so that we can have a greater understanding and a greater application of this command: do not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
- The Verdict of Truthful Testimony.
- The Justice System must be based on truth. If the system is riddled with falsehoods and opinions based on falsehoods then there can be no justice. This Command was important to the justice system that would be needed in order for the judges to make proper decisions. This required that…
- Witnesses must tell the truth. And so there were penalties for perjury. Humans can be fickle and deceitful. Memories do fade and things people see can be remembered wrongly. This is why the Bible calls on the standard of "two or three witnesses" to establish guilt.
- Judges and juries must discern the truth. Even then, justice was not to be meted out by the citizenry. There needed to be those who were sworn in to uphold the law according to the guidelines set. Not every case would be the same and there was not going to be the kind of guidance that Joshua experienced when Achan was discovered to have sinned. Even today, judges and juries- even those who participate that are born again Christians who love God and their neighbors- must struggle through evidence presented and make decisions… and be wrong sometimes.
- What about "Moral conviction of truth" without evidence? There is no room in any courtroom for the "moral conviction of truth" about the guilt or innocence of someone charged with a crime. It is my "moral conviction of truth" that OJ Simpson did it but got off by slick lawyers. However, I also know that they did present some very important facts about how evidence was handled and it became a lightning rod for the justice system and investigators of crime in the future.
This 9th Commandment, however, goes further than just the courtroom. It also imposes itself into the courtroom of public speech.
- The Violations of Respectful Speech.
When I was in college we went through a tremendous revival time. Confession of sins flowed from the pulpit of chapel times for several days. But the confessions didn't stop there. There was private confession. I experienced a couple of people coming to me with confessions that they had spoken ill of me and wanted my forgiveness. No sweat, because I was guilty of so much sin in my life compassion was experienced and given. However, I got to wondering what they said about me. How bad was the "spoken ill"?
May advice is that you don't need to confess everything to everybody. There is a time and place for restitution but I'm not so sure that one is. However, the idea of violating respectfyl speech cuts to the heart of what this "do not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is all about.
- Lying about someone. This is absolutely undoubtedly the worst thing a person can do to another person. Too many have accused their ex-husbands of child molestation in order to get custody of the children. That is so wrong. Telling other people lies about someone you don't like to get back at them or to just be a jerk to them is a huge sin.
- Gossip to elevate one's self. Some people don't lie about others but they do pass on rumors they heard. If only fence-posts could talk! However, gossip is that subtle sin that can affect anyone- you, me, the pope, anyone. We must constantly be on guard that what we are saying about another person- even if true- should be said or not.
- Character assassination. Politicians are great at this. So many people decry the political discourse nowadays. It's bad but not like the early days of the United States. All sorts of things were said then and in nearly every election since.
I had the opportunity to referee a couple of high school basketball games in my years at my previous charge. I actually enjoyed reffing but what I didn't like were the Christians behind speaking evil of me. They were telling me all of my mistakes and what I was missing. I had one coach screaming at me because he thought that his players were getting hacked on the inside. Well, I didn't see it.
I know how easy it is to see the shortcomings of other people. I find myself questioning the judgment of referees, especially when my beloved Kentucky Wildcats are playing. However, I remind myself so many times that these are human beings and these are people who have families. Some of them are most likely Christ-centered Christians. And here I am questioning their integrity! I must be more careful and more cautious about what I think and say about others.
Here are some guiding verses for us to think about:
- James 3:6- The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
- 2 Corinthians 12:20-21
20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
- Ephesians 4:31- Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
- Galatians 5:19-21- 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
I like this quote by Thomas Watson: "He that raises a slander carries the devil on his tongue; and he that receives it, carries the devil in his ear."
Something else this commandment points out:
- The Value of Telling the Truth.
Remember the old television show "To Tell the Truth"? The "To Tell the Truth" TV show was a 30 minute game show series on CBS where three contestants would all claim to be the same person. Then a celebrity panel would ask them questions in an attempt to tell which one was telling the truth. After questioning ended, the panel would vote on who they believed was the truthful contestant. The contestants could win up to $1000 depending on how many panelists they had fooled.
It was all in fun but yet nowadays there is a real move in society that has caused Chuck Coleson to term today's world as a…
- "Post-truth Society." What bothers me is that it seems that lawyers are out to assist defendants in getting out of the crimes they have committed rather than simply upholding the rights of the defendant. Although I guess if you want to make money as a defense attorney you need to get people off of crimes they've committed. But what about evolutionists being intellectually honest that they do have lots of problems supporting their theory- because it is just that- a theory which is not grounded in what is true but speculation? What about Pro-Choice and Pro-Abortion crowd being intellectually honest that the unwanted pregnancy still possesses a real live developing baby?
What about the other things we see happening in society that simply require us to tell the truth and believe the truth?
What must we do? Realize that…
- God is true to us. Before we really can grow in our relationship with God we need to recognize that God has never ever been dishonest with us. This then forces us to do something radical:
- We must be honest before God about our self. I want God to be honest with me and keep his promises but do I want to be honest before God about who I am and what my motives are? This is a huge step for you as a person to take but a step that must be taken.
For us to proceed from our private honest relationship between us and God requires then that…
- We must be true to others in word and actions. What I say to others does matter. I've been called on it and I strive to be sure that what I say is true- no matter who I'm speaking to. And I've been careful not make rash promises that end up cornering me when I can't keep them. The bottom line is that as Christians we all must…
- "Speak the truth in love." When a brother or sister has offended you or is wrong about something, speak the truth in love. Be kind and gentle; don't over-reach your hand justice; do unto others as you would have them do to you.
Something else that we must always be careful of in addition to these things is what William Barclay called…
- "The Sin of silence." This is when you should speak up and don't. This is when you are witness to a crime and you keep your silence. Now it's easy for me to say when I'm not living in the circles that some people live where to open your mouth would open you and yours to sinister retribution. But there is a wisdom that is needed as well as lots of courage to stand up against sin and to testify regardless of the consequences. The "sin of silence" also happens when we don't defend someone in the workplace who is being gossiped about or ripped by someone else.
If you've got nothing good to say about someone then do as Uncle Buddy Robinson. I like the story of when someone asked the old Nazarene preacher of the 1800's about some heretic in town. He simply replied, "Well, he's a good whistler."
At the very least you can find at least that about some people.
- Witnesses against Jesus on Trial.
In Mark 14:55-59 we find the discourse of Jesus on trial and the confusion and outright blatant deception that was going on in the name of God. What a travesty!
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.'" 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
- No valid evidence against Christ.
- He did no wrong.
- His enemies had to create false testimony to achieve their goal.
- And the false testimonies were conflicting.
And so we witness what happens when the eyes of justice are shielded from truth: an illegal and unethical behavior from the very people who are supposed to be living out truth.
What about you? What about me? Are we living lives to tell the truth always, speak the truth in love, testify to the truth and live out lives of holy truth every day?
Conclusion: Psalm 15:1-3
1 LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;