Here is the sermon I preached on the 9th Commandment last Sunday. Almost done!
At a golf club in Stuttgart, Germany, four men walked up to an elevated green, in search of their golf balls. The first man anticipated that his shot was long, but he could not find the ball on the back of the green. While his three other friends looked for the ball in the high grass, the man cleverly slipped a ball from his pocket and dropped it on the fringe and announced, “Here it is. I found it.” But a few moments later, as they were about to putt, the flag pin was removed from the cup. And there, inside the cup, was the man’s original golf ball. The guy had made a hole-in-one, but his lie had ruined the accomplishment.
According to Paul Harvey, the man is no longer a member of the golf club. He had been dismissed, for lying…even though he was, get this, the President of the Club.
Golf is a game of honor…and lying does not bring honor.
And that is why God has included a C about lying in the TC.
We have been looking at the TC over the last several months…and we are getting close to the end of them. What we have discovered, though, is that God has designed these TC, not to be life-squelching, but to be life-giving.
They were designed as a foundation for living…living in a large community, like our nation. They were designed for living in a smaller community, such as within your family. And the two are not mutually exclusive, they each are connected to each other.
When the smaller community, like a family unit, honors and obeys the TC, then they contribute to the health of the greater community of say, the nation…or the church.
The 9th C is found in Exodus 20:16…and it says this:
Exodus 20:16 (TNIV)
16 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
This C deals with, specifically, lying against somebody in the court of law. We call this perjury. And we will talk about this in a little bit more detail this morning, but we will also see that lying can be much more than perjury…
We have started each of these sermons on the TC by asking a pretty simple question…
Why is this included in the TC? Why does God consider lying so important that it needed to be included in this list of the most important things the people needed to know about? Why is lying wrong?
Let’s answer that question…
Lying is wrong because it goes against the very nature of God.
God has no dishonesty in Him…He does not lie.
Numbers 23:19 (TNIV)
19 God is not a human, that he should lie…
And when we hear lies, we know they do not come from God. They go against His character. Lies do not originate with God.
And as people, we are not to lie either. Remember, we are created in God’s image. Remember the very beginning? Genesis 1?
Genesis 1:26-27 (TNIV)
26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness…
27 So God created human beings in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
And so…God is honest. We are created in His image…yet, when dishonesty flows from our lips, we are going against God’s nature. We are sinning.
And, as Christians…we are to strive to be like God. We are to strive to be completely honest, completely truthful…like He is. Listen to these encouragements from Scripture:
Matthew 5:48 (TNIV)
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect…
Ephesians 5:1 (TNIV)
1 Follow God’s example…
We should be striving for these things no matter which C we are talking about…striving to be perfect as God is…striving to follow His example. Will we fail? Yes. But, can we strive for it…yes.
We strive to not commit adultery, because God is faithful…and we want to be faithful.
We strive to not steal, because God respects ownership…and we want to as well.
We strive not to kill, because God is the author of life…and we should respect that.
And we should strive not to lie, because God is truth…and we want to be of the truth as well.
Titus 1:2 (TNIV)
God…does not lie
God does not lie…but our enemy, the Devil does…
In the book of John, Jesus says this about the devil to some liars…
John 8:44 (TNIV)
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The devil is the Father of Lies…lying is his native language. As natural as it is for you and I to speak English, it’s that natural for the Devil to tell us lies.
And he started at the very beginning…
Genesis 3:1-5 (TNIV)
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
You certainly won’t die if you eat that fruit…
You certainly won’t get caught if you have that affair…
You certainly won’t be noticed if you cheat on your taxes just a bit…
You certainly won’t get in trouble if you look at that lady’s nice legs just a second too long…
You certainly won’t be noticed if you harbor wrong thoughts in your head about that person of a different color, race, religion, sex, whatever…
Do you see how he works…it’s his nature to lie to you…
He is the father of lies…the Bible also calls him the Accuser, the Deceiver…
And so, God includes this C in the Ten because lying is against His nature…and completely within the nature of the Enemy…and God wants His nation, His people to follow Him, not the Enemy.
Lying is also wrong because it hurts people.
Lying hurts people…whether we know it or not. Often times, the lies hurt the person directly. I think about, in the OT, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. If you aren’t familiar with the story, here is the short version of the story, found in Genesis 39.
Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. The Lord is with Joseph, and in Egypt, where he is at, he prospers. He comes under the service of a man named Potiphar, who was the captain of the guard, an official of Pharaoh. Potiphar put Joseph in charge of everything in his household, and because God was with Joseph, everything in the household flourished and was blessed. Joseph was a well-built, handsome man…and Potiphar’s wife took notice of him. She said to him, “Sleep with me.” He refused. She kept persisting and he kept refusing. One night, she grabbed him by his cloak and said, “Sleep with me.” He refused, and as a man with great integrity, he ran away. But, the cloak remained in her hand…and so Joseph was running away naked. Potiphar’s wife seized the opportunity…she yelled out for her servants and said, “Joseph came to sleep with me, but I refused and screamed for help. When he heard me scream, he ran away, and here is his cloak.”
Ahh…a lie. Potiphar heard his wife’s lie, believed it, and punished Joseph by throwing him into prison.
Lies hurt people.
And lies cause damage that is difficult to restore.
I heard about a middle aged preacher who was wrongly accused of a misdoing. It was a vicious and scandalous story that swept through his small town like a prairie fire. Phone call after phone call, people were asking each other, “Have you heard about the preacher? Can you believe it? He shouldn’t just leave his church, he should leave town. His poor wife.”
But after some time, the story was found out to be completely false. And a couple in his church was the guilty party for spreading the lies. They felt convicted by the Holy Spirit to confess their sins to the preacher. So they approached him and asked for his forgiveness.
Of course, he forgave them, as Jesus would have—he said, “I will forgive you. But will do you do something for me?”
“Anything for you,” the couple replied.
The preacher said, “I want you to go home and get one of your chickens. I want you to pluck out the feathers and put them in a bag. Can you do that for me?”
“Of course,” the couple replied. And they went home and did exactly as he asked. They returned to the preacher for further instructions.
“Good,” he said. “Now, I want you to take your bag of feathers and walk around our town for a little while. And I want you to drop a few feathers on to the ground at each street corner. Then, after you have done that, I want you to go to the top of the old city water tower and empty the rest of the bad of feathers from there…letting them scatter wherever the wind takes them. Can you do that?”
“Of course,” they say. And they do just that.
The return to the preacher, and he said, “Great. Now, I have one more thing for you to do. I want you to go back through town and gather up every single feather again.”
The couple said, “But, preacher…that’s impossible. The wind will have blown the feathers all over the county by the time we get to them.” And then it struck them…their lies had done such great damage to the preacher, that it never can be fully undone.
Lying hurts people…
Ephesians 4:25 (TNIV)
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
This passage shows us that lying can hurt both our world, or our neighbors, and also the church. The encouragement from Paul is that we must stop lying to each other because we are neighbors…and we are members of the one body, or the church. And it makes no sense, and does no good, for us to lie to each other.
Let’s look at a short passage of Scripture from the book of Proverbs…
Proverbs 6:16-19 (TNIV)
16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up dissension in the community.
The Lord hates 7 things, according to this passage:
1) Haughty, or prideful, eyes
2) A lying tongue
3) Hands that shed innocent blood
4) A heart that devises wicked schemes
5) Feet that are quick to rush into evil
6) A false witness who pours out lies
7) A person who stirs up trouble in the community
It’s interesting to me that 2 out of the 7 deal with lying. God takes the offense very seriously.
The most recent survey that I could find in regards to our lying habits show us that 91% of people lie routinely. 86% lie to their parents. 81% lie about their feelings. 75% lie to their friends. 73% lie to their siblings. 69% lie to their spouses.
It’s happening…and it’s happening a lot.
So, let’s talk about the act of lying a bit…who actually breaks this C?
I have hit on this a bit already…this C is worded in such a way that shows us that lying while on the stand, or testifying in a court, is wrong.
Proverbs 19:5 (TNIV)
5 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will not go free.
I am going to have to write a short note of apology to my High School Literature teacher this week for this but do you remember the Shakespeare play Othello? Well in Act III, scene 3, we read; “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls; Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, ’tis nothing; ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he who filches from me my good name, Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.”
Lying is wrong…lying while under an oath, is detestable. There is a principle in the OT that, I think, would be very effective if it was employed today.
Deuteronomy 19:16-19 (TNIV)
16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you.
If a person takes the stand and lies against the defendant…whatever punishment would have been given to the defendant based upon the witnesses lies would instead be given to the false witness.
For example, I am reading a book out by John Grisham called “The Innocent Man.” In the book, Grisham tells the true story of a man who was sentenced to death row based on no evidence and lying witnesses in the court case.
If this principle in the OT were played out today, those witnesses would be given the death penalty themselves…because that was the punishment they were seeking to falsely convict the man of with their lies.
The one who lies to protect himself is still a liar. And we see examples of this in the Bible; remember David? He lied to protect himself after committing adultery with Bathsheba. Remember Joseph’s brothers? They lied about Joseph dying to protect themselves from trouble…because they had sold him into slavery. Remember Peter? He lied about knowing Jesus and denied him three times to protect his scalp.
Have you ever done this? Maybe you did something wrong at work and told a little lie to protect yourself from the consequences. Maybe you have told a little lie to make yourself look better than you are. Maybe you have lied to protect your ego, your investments, your image, your privacy…anything.
I had heard about a preacher who was frustrated with working in his church office because he was always being interrupted during the times he was preparing his sermons. So, one day he wrote on pieces of paper the names of various large cities all over the county and he taped those papers up on the doors of various rooms around his church. Then, he would take his laptop and Bible and study books and go into those various rooms each day to prepare his sermon. When somebody would call the church, they would ask, “Is the preacher in?” The church secretary would say, “No, he is in Indianapolis today.” “No, he is in St. Louis today.” “No, he is Chicago today.”
Proverbs 10:9 (TNIV)
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
To cheat on anything, is to lie…if you are cheating on your homework or your taxes, you are lying and saying that you know something you don’t or make less than you do.
Proverbs 11:3 (TNIV)
3 The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
This is a fun one…when we repeat gossip that has no basis of fact, we are telling a lie. We are wounding, hurting (as we have talked about) people in ways that we don’t understand.
When we hear something from somebody who heard something from someone…that’s a recipe for trouble, and a breeding ground for lies.
Proverbs 11:13 (TNIV)
13 Gossips betray a confidence…
Betray…the word means “to lie.”
Jesus warns this:
Matthew 12:36 (TNIV)
36 But I tell you that people will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.
The NIV says for every careless word.
We must be careful with gossip.
Leroy Lawson says that gossip “topples governments, wrecks marriages, ruins careers, busts reputations, causes heartaches, nightmares, indigestion, spawns suspicion, generates grief, dispatches innocent people to cry in their pillows. Even its name hisses. It’s called gossip. Office gossip, shop gossip, party gossip. It makes headlines and headaches.”
He goes onto say that before we repeat a story, we should ask ourselves three questions:
1) Is this story true?
2) Is this story fair?
3) Is this story necessary?
If you answer “no” to any of these questions, just keep your mouth shut. I think, if we honestly assess everything we hear with the first question, “is this true?” we wont even need to ask the other 2 questions.
Oftentimes, it’s not just the gossiper that is the trouble-maker. It also is the person who sits passively and listens to all the gossip that the gossiper is spewing out.
Leviticus 5:1 (TNIV)
1 If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.
Quickly let me suggest another thing you can do to head off gossip at the pass. The next time someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, did you hear about …. “, answer them like this; “No and I don’t think I want to hear about it. I’m sure you’ve carefully researched all the facts, but in the unlikely event that you are wrong, what you are about to tell me will forever change how I feel about this person. And even if it is true, I don’t need to hear it. You need to take this to the person himself/herself or at least talk to the elders.”
Or you could simply quote scripture to them. James 4:11 says, “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against or judges his brother or sister, speaks against the law and judges it.”
Pretty strong language…but you have to speak strongly to a gossip…because they usually don’t get it.
What do I mean by this? Well, it’s easier to explain with an example.
Suppose someone comes up to you today and says, “Hey, I heard that Brandon is sober today.”
Well, that statement is true…but the way it is said insinuates something else; that I’m a drunk.
It’s deception…and deception is a lie.
John Ruskin wrote, “The essence is in deception, not in words. A lie may be told by silence, by hedging, by the accent on a syllable … and all these kinds of lies are worse than a lie plainly told.”
If gossip is lying behind somebody’s back, then flattery can be lying to their face.
Psalm 55:21 (TNIV)
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.
Do you see this man being two-faced? His talk is smooth but his heart is far away.
Obviously, we want to encourage each other. We want to show them appreciation. But insincere words manipulate.
I heard about a preacher who was also quite a singer…and he sang a couple of songs at a revival service. After the service was over, this singing-preacher was talking with one of the leaders at the church who said to him, “Now, our speaker is not a preacher and he doesn’t do a very good job…but he is sincere.” And then, wouldn’t you know it, the speaker walked by, and the leader of the church said to him, “Hey, great sermon tonight!” Then, that leader turned to our singing-preacher friend and said, “Hey, great singing tonight!”
Now, who was he lying to? Definitely to the speaker…but also maybe to our singing-preacher friend? Maybe…we don’t know…and that’s the problem with flattery. We don’t know when it is sincere.
Proverbs 26:28 (TNIV)
28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
We have a lot of fishermen in here…their favorite line is “it was this big!”
Now, remember…integrity is the name of the game.
The Promise Breaker
When you say you will do one thing, but then fail to do so…that is a lie.
Deuteronomy 23:21 (TNIV)
21 If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.
Jesus said quite simply, “Let your yes be yes…and your no be no.”
If you promise to pay a debt, remain faithful, be somewhere, do something…and you break that promise, it makes your words into lying words, into deception.
So…what do we do?
We speak the truth.
Let’s speak the truth in three ways:
1) Speak the truth in small matters.
As Keri and I were talking about this sermon yesterday, we decided that it’s one thing to say “don’t lie” but it becomes much more difficult when you say, “don’t exaggerate or don’t stretch the truth or don’t insinuate or flatter or cheat or gossip or listen to gossip or tell a white lie to protect yourself.”
Luke 16:10 (TNIV)
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
Trust…honesty…dishonesty…Jesus mentions that in the small matters is where we prove ourselves.
2) Speak the truth in love.
In the movie “Liar, Liar,” with Jim Carrey, he plays a guy who is a habitual liar. And he becomes unable to lie anymore. And in one scene, he is with a woman who has this hideous red hair…like clown, unnatural red. She says to him, “How do you like my hair?” And he responds, “I love it…anything to get the attention away from your horrible glasses.”
We are called to speak the truth…and we are called to do it in love.
Ephesians 4:15 (TNIV)
“…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into…Christ.”
Sometimes telling the truth is hard. Sometimes we have to approach someone in our family, in our church, in our lives and tell them something that is truthful, and very hard.
And we must do this in love…if we don’t do it in love, it becomes hurtful and divisive. But, if told in love, it becomes helpful…and like Paul says, it will help us grow up in Christ.
3) We must speak the truth, regardless of the anticipated consequences.
Job 6:25 (TNIV)
25 How painful are honest words!
Telling the truth can be painful…as we just discussed. Telling the truth must be done in love…
Also, if we lie…we must confess to the truth. And doing so is hard…and painful.
If we tell a lie, we must go back to that person and tell them the truth…the truth we avoided earlier and the truth confessing that we told a lie. This can be hard and painful…but it’s the right thing to do.
James 5:16 (TNIV)
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
But, in our confession of the hard words…we find healing.