Today we are continuing in our series, “The Ten Suggestions” at the ninth commandment. And so, we’re in Exodus chapter 20, at verse 16, and here is what God says through Moses: "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). In other words “Don’t lie.”
In 1991, a book called The Day America Told the Truth was published. It was a look at the private morals of Americans and according to the authors' findings, 91 percent of Americans lie on a regular basis. "The majority of us find it hard to go through a week without lying," the book states. "One in five cannot make it throughout a single day without lying." So apparently, we are a lying culture (Telling the Truth; Greg Laurie).
But God's Word has a lot to say about lying, and Jesus told the church at Laodicea in Revelation, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). You see, they were living a lie just like the Pharisees in Jesus' day; and I honestly believe that living a lie, or being a hypocrite, is one of the most spiritually dangerous places to be.
Jesus warned us, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it… (Matthew 7:13-14).
"A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18).
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-23).
They were living a lie. In Revelation, Jesus said, that He wanted to spit them out of His mouth. How they talked and acted at church on Sunday was 180 degrees from the way they talked and acted the other six days of the week. They were neither hot nor cold… they were spiritual hypocrites… they were spiritually lukewarm... their words said one thing and their actions said another. They were living a lie and Jesus said He wanted nothing to do with a person like that!
So this morning, I am going to be talking about words that help and words that hurt. About telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And this is important because, you may not have realized it, but once you release a lie, you can never recapture the truth. In a very real and powerful way, a lie never dies. It lives on to hurt and destroy those that we’re supposed to love.
And so, the whole point here is to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; because that’s what God intends… that’s what God commands… and that’s what God demonstrates. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). Yet our lives are filled with opportunities to break the commandment, to give false testimony, and to say things that are not entirely truthful. And we know we’re not supposed to lie, but here’s the question that inevitably comes up: “What about lies with good intentions?” How many of you were wondering this? You were looking for the exception clause… the fine print… you were wondering if there was any allowance in the Bible for a “good” lie? You know, words that help… the exception to the rule.
Well, I’ll give you an example, go ahead and turn back to Exodus chapter one in your Bible. While you are finding your place, I’ll tell you this story. There were two campers who were in the woods when one was bitten on the butt by a snake. “I’ll go into town for a doctor,” the other says. So he runs 10 miles to a small town and finds the only doctor for miles helping a woman deliver a baby. “I can’t leave,” the doctor says. “But here's what you do. Take a knife, cut a huge X where the bite is, suck out the poison, and spit it on the ground.” The guy runs back to his friend, who is holding his butt in agonizing pain. “What did the doctor say?” his friend asks. The other guy said, “He says you’re going to die.” (http://www.ebaumsworld.com)
Did he break the ninth commandment? No, because it’s a joke right… but he wasn’t being very helpful was he? So we want to look at words that help. Martin Luther, leader of Reformation movement, is credited as saying, “What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church…a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.” (In a letter in Max Lenz, ed., Briefwechsel Landgraf Phillips des Grossmuthigen von Hessen mit Bucer, vol. 1.)
So is there the possibility of a good lie? Let’s look at an example in the Bible, in Exodus 1:15-21: “The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, "When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live." The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, "Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?"
Verse 19, “The midwives answered Pharaoh, "Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive."
So here, the king tells the midwives, “If a boy is born, kill him.” But they didn’t and when he asked, “Why have you let the boys live?" they lied and said, "The Hebrew women are strong and give birth before we arrive."
And then verse 20 tells us, “So God was kind to the midwives…” God blessed them, because the same God who said, “Don’t lie,” also says, “Don’t murder,” and so they lie to spare a bunch of lives. It’s a good lie, a helpful lie, and God blessed them, because they did the good thing.
It is the same with a woman named Rahab in Joshua 2:4-7. She was the woman who was hiding some of God’s people from the King of Jericho. He was looking to kill them and when he asked her where they were she’s like, “The men left. I don't know which way they went” (Joshua 2:5).
Again words that help. Rahab did a good thing and she’s listed in Hebrews 11:31 as a woman of great faith. So there are exceptions, where they’re words that help, but you’ll probably never have one.
But how about words that hurt? Let’s look beyond our excuses, what we think, or how we feel, and ask, “What does God say?” You see if we’re going to honor the Lord and his Commandment we have to start to see it as God sees it, feel it as God feels it, and respond as God desires. And here’s why: because “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and God loves your neighbor.
One time, a group of the religious leaders of that day, came to Jesus and tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:34-39).
Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments saying, “Love God and love your neighbor.” And so God doesn’t just love you; God also loves your neighbor, and he says, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” You see, there are words that hurt and that lie may benefit you, but it comes at the expense of your neighbor. In Proverbs, God says, “Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbor” (Proverbs 25:18). A false witness against your neighbor is like assaulting them; murdering their reputation.
There’s a great example in the Bible in Genesis 39, where Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials was a very powerful man. He bought this young Hebrew slave named Joseph from some traders. Joseph quickly found favor in Potiphar’s eyes and was put in charge of his entire household. Meanwhile Potiphar's wife also took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!" but he refused. “She caught him by his cloak… But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.”
When Potiphar came home she told him: "That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house." When Potiphar heard the story his wife told him, he burned with anger and put Joseph in prison (Genesis 39:17-20).
You see, those are words that hurt. Joseph’s reputation is ruined, he is falsely accused of rape, and goes to prison. That’s harmful… hurtful… and a violation of the ninth commandment. To lie about someone, to say something that is untrue is to assault them in the eyes of God. And the Lord feels very strongly about this. He says this in Proverbs 6:16–19: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
That is a list I wouldn’t want to be on. Things that are an abomination to the Lord. Like a lying tongue and a false witness. Like the book of Revelation says, “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 21:8).
You see lies, words that hurt, are an offense to God who created us male and female in his image. And our God is a God “who does not lie” (Titus 1:2) because God is always and altogether truthful. There is nothing in Him that is untrustworthy, nothing deceptive or dishonest. Nothing at all! So if you reject the truth, if you participate in a lie, it’s an insult and a transgression against God; and He hates it because it’s origin is the devil who “is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). That’s what Jesus says.
So, number three I want to look at our motivation. You know, some of the ways we lie and the reasons we lie, because we want to make this as practical as possible. We want this to infiltrate all the potential areas of our 21st century lives. And so we want to look at those areas where this commandment is often and easily violated. You see, ‘cause if we are honest, there are questions that we can ask ourselves, that will change us and help us to avoid sinning against God and our neighbor.
So as we look at ways we lie, let’s also consider why we lie… our motivation. And I think this is really big. Isaiah prophesied to the King of Babylon, giving us a likeness, a personification of Satan saying… “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:12-14).
So number one, we lie to play God… to make ourselves like the Most High. We lie to avoid negative consequences… we lie to change the future… we lie to create an illusion of who we are… we lie to get what we want… we lie to change the information… we lie to remain in “control” of a situation… and we lie hoping alter the outcome. So number one, the real issue is motivation... are we trying to be like God.
Number two, is for personal gain, and we’ll get into this deeper after Christmas, but the Bible warns us, “Little children, let no one deceive you” (1 John 3:7). You see, sometimes we’re just a little too trusting, and we find ourselves being deceived. But you know we’re not always the victim, sometimes we twist the truth for personal gain. Maybe in marketing or advertising. You know, it’s the fine print, right? Or maybe you’re twisting reports to get a little extra from your employer. Or you trump-up charges for your clients.
Psalm 12:2 says, “Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception.” You know, there are lots of ways that we practice deception, that we pretend that we’re communicating the truth, but we know in our heart it’s just a lie. And we do… we twist the truth into a weapon for our gain… we’re not trying to encourage them… we’re deceiving them to manipulate the outcome.
And number three is in our communication. Did you know that a prayer request can become gossip? You know when you can’t wait for prayer group and let it spill… “Please pray for blank because her husband blanket blank committed adultery. You know blank right? Well his secretary…” Do you know what I mean? That’s not prayer; that’s gossip. It’s an abuse of the ninth commandment. Motivation! The Apostle Paul warns of those who are idle in the church saying, “Not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to” (1 Timothy 5:13). You see, when we gossip, we’re sharing damaging information and you can’t throw a biblical word in an unChrist-like act and sanctify it.
In our day, the potential to share harmful, spiteful, and many times false information with more people, immediately, and more effectively than ever before is right at our finger tips. You can send your text, e-mail, call, post, tweet, blog, or whatever the case may be, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And once it’s out there, it’s out there forever, everybody can read it, hear it, comment on it, and add to it. The whole world is involved in an instant. And yet Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
As we close, I want you to consider if your words are “Words That Help Or Words That Hurt?” Is your testimony helping to get the Good News to all creation? You see, Christianity was built on the testimony of eyewitnesses. The Bible is written by about 40 different people over a couple of thousand years. These eyewitnesses testified and were directed by God the Holy Spirit, the God who cannot lie. And so they were there to see the things that happened, to hear what was said, and they wrote them down so that we might have a true historical account of what happened, because that’s what it is… it’s history. These were real people, places, and things that actually happened and if these witnesses were not trustworthy, then our faith is dead. The Apostle Paul said it this way, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you’re still in your sins, those who’ve fallen asleep in Christ are lost… and we’re to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).
But the Bible is trustworthy and truthful. We have faithful witnesses who were there and that was part of what happened last week with Ananias and Sapphira… they lied (Acts 5:3-4)! They violated the ninth commandment and threatened the authenticity of Christianity. They were a threat to the Church of Jesus Christ and he took them home (1 Corinthians 5:5, 11:30). They were pulled out of the game… because they weren’t playing by the rules. The Lord said, "You shall not give false testimony…” (Exodus 20:16).
This is why Jesus repeatedly says, “I tell you the truth.” The Apostle Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, says several times, “I’m not lying.” The Apostle John says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). He says, “We were there and we saw him rise from the grave.” The resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact. He died on the cross, in our place, for our sins, all of us liars. He rises conquering sin and death, pays our debt to God, and tells us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). It’s all about Jesus, he is the embodiment, the incarnation of truth. And so over 500 eyewitnesses at one time see him risen from the dead. He appears to multitudes of eyewitnesses over 40 days. Guys like Thomas come to touch the wounds. Jesus’ mother and brothers see him killed, buried, and alive again; proving that he’s God and Savior. They’re eyewitnesses and they testify that this is true.
As we close, I want to give you an opportunity to respond, an opportunity to testify, by telling the truth. Jesus tells us, “Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). As God’s people, we should be just as truthful as God is. And Jesus conquered sin and death. He is alive and well, and I stand here this morning testifying that not only is He true, but he’s been true to me. And so as we close in song, we’re celebrating, we’re giving testimony, we’re witnessing that he’s alive, he forgives us, pursues us, and changes us, amen?
As we go, let’s tell the world that God is true, the Bible is true, and that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Amen!
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
December 21, 2014