Last week, “You shall not steal.”
This week, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Next week, “You shall not covet”
Thereafter begin our book study of Daniel.
Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.
The word “neighbor” implies fellow Israelite.
Like last week, it implies having a good name is important in society.
Let’s look at a few ways breaking this commandment hurts.
A “false witness” tells lies about the innocent to make them appear guilty.
The sense of the ninth commandment does include lying, but the original Hebrew clearly illustrates its legal purpose.
The literal language says:
“You shall not answer in [the case of] your neighbor a testimony of falsehood.”
BAK - The legal system of the day required two witnesses to convict a person of a crime.
Also, while today we consider motive and evidence before labeling someone guilty; the ancient system didn’t assume innocent until proven guilty. It required proof of innocence.
Being presumed guilty until proven innocent didn’t always permit the charged to mount a defence.
This opened the legal system to the potential for abuse.
The Israelite system required appearing before a jury or elders.
Unlike other ancient legals systems that often required only one witness, the Hebrew system required two witnesses:
“One witness cannot establish any iniquity or sin against a person, whatever that person has done. A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
The Israelite legal system, also, required the accuser to “throw the first stone”:
The witnesses’ hands are to be the first in putting him to death, and after that, the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from you.
It was one thing to accuse a person while much more put someone to death.
Bit more background, if found the accuser lied they’d be punished with associated punishment:
The judges are to make a careful investigation, and if the witness turns out to be a liar who has falsely accused his brother, you must do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from you.
God’s provided legal system required His people present and maintain truth.
TRANS - Telling the truth in court as one thing, but is there another place people falsify the truth?
From OT legal systems to NT list of sins to avoid, the Bible has much to say about how we speak.
Paul, especially, gives us much to ponder:
For I fear that perhaps when I come I will not find you to be what I want, and you may not find me to be what you want. Perhaps there will be quarreling, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambitions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.
“quarreling…slander, gossip” and then in Galatians Paul speaks of sins leading to dissension and factions:
idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions,
Paul speaks out against this sin that hurts the people and the church.
He tells the Ephesians to rid themselves of slander and malice:
Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice.
All of this violates the ninth commandment.
Gossip, just as tied to last week’s list of associated sins, clearly is tied to this commandment.
Gossip is talking about someone in a way that hurts their reputation.
In speech, gossip is slander and in print it is called libel.
Victims of gossip don’t have a chance to defend their name; never permitted to explain circumstances or correct misconceptions.
Gossip charges, puts on trial, and convicts a person in the court of private opinion.
Gossip is so common place we often forget that it is ungodly.
We need ask ourselves, “Is what I am about to say true? Does it really need to be said to this person?” and “Would I put it this way if the person I’m talking about were here to listen?”
It is wrong to speak this way as well as to put up with listening to gossip.
An old saying about slander says it “kills three: the one who speaks it, the one who listens to it, and the one about whom it is spoken.”
What to do when someone starts to talk about someone else?
Say, “This is starting to sound like gossip; let’s talk about something else.”
If you can’t bring it before the Lord together in prayer, don’t do it.
Here is a good way to address the matter. Ask, “Have you spoken with them (person involved)?”
What I notice about gossips is that they like to complain about other people because they are too lazy to do the hard spiritual work of helping others grow in godliness.
TRANS - Legal lies and lips that lie. What about those “little lies?
The Bible mentions a number of liars.
The serpent lied to Eve, Jacob tricked his brother, Jezebel bribed men, and so many lies people told about Jesus.
Yet, one lie that terrifies is the story about a husband and wife.
Ananias and Sapphira were members of the church in Jerusalem.
Oh what an exciting time to be part of the church!
Jesus just went to heaven and poured out His Spirit on the church.
The apostles were preaching messages and preforming miracles.
People were choosing to believe in Jesus everyday.
The early church really demonstrated caring for others:
Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common.
The people knew their real treasure was in Jesus and fleshed that out in how they lived and cared for others.
One guy, Joseph wasn’t even from Jerusalem, yet gave everything to the church:
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
The apostles were so inspired by his gift they renamed him Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement.”
Ananias and Sapphira noted what happened with Barnabas.
They noted the attention given to Barnabas.
Here is what the Bible says about their actions:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Ananias and Sapphira thought, “Nobody will know I’m not really giving everything.”
Now, they could do whatever they wanted with their stuff. That’s not the issue. The problem is they pretended to be so generous so they’d get more recognition.
They told a little lie.
Peter confronted Ananias about his deception, told him the sin was in his heart, and that he sinned against God:
“Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land?
Later, Sapphira lied in the same way and both she and Ananias dropped dead.
TRANS - If they be lies in the area of the legal system, from the lips of a gossip, or the little ones that from which we rationalize we might escape, they all do harm.
There is a much better way.
Telling the Truth
Telling the Truth
Can you imagine if what happened to Ananias and Sapphira happened today?
Think about some well respected husband and wife dropping dead after making a generous donation to the church for what most call a little lie.
It would frighten people!
One day going to church, singing songs, praying together, and having a great old time.
The next moment, both drop dead!
It was fair because it was a sin.
David once noted the destructive power of lies:
You destroy those who tell lies; the Lord abhors violent and treacherous people.
David once asked who might stand before God and what was the answer:
Lord, who can dwell in your tent? Who can live on your holy mountain? The one who lives blamelessly, practices righteousness, and acknowledges the truth in his heart—
Only people who keep the ninth commandment are worthy to enter the kingdom of God.
So, where do the other people belong?
The Bible, also, tells us this answer:
But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
What happened to Ananias and Sapphira scared the early church as it should, also, send a chill down our spine.
Why, because each and everyone of us has told a little lie.
If God killed for something like that, then we all deserve to die.
God hates when Christians lie to make themselves look good.
The truth is Jesus died because we are so guilty.
If this is true, why would we ever pretend to anything more than sinners saved by grace?
I can be a real Pharisee and judge others for the way they act or fail to demonstrate godliness.
What is more, I am a lawbreaker that has followed other gods.
I am guilty of lustful thoughts, covetousness, and if you knew the truth about me, you might really wonder.
What about you? What lies have you told?
The biggest lie we all tell is the one we pretend to be on the outside when the inside is such a mess.
Jesus says this:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Something really amazing happens when we tell the truth about ourselves and our sin.
At that point we ourselves and others start to see the real truth about Jesus and what He does for our salvation.
When we tell the truth, we can begin to see Jesus:
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”