The Ninth Commandment (Exodus 20:16)

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Telling the truth is a strange thing in our society. Almost everyone agrees that we should, while most Americans regularly don’t. A University of Massachusetts study[1] “found that 60 percent of people lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two to three lies.” They also found “Women were more likely to lie to make the person they were talking to feel good, while men lied most often to make themselves look better.” In the Ninth Commandment, the Lord calls His followers to not bear false witness against one another as we maintain a clear conscience and maintain our neighbor’s good name.

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

In the USA, the oath one takes before testifying in court is: “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” Our nation’s philosophy of law is based on the Judeo-Christian understanding of utmost honestly in testimony before God and man. Zechariah prophesied the Lord’s message to Israel: “These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates” (Zech 8:16). Of the things the Lord hates and are an abomination to Him, we find mentioned “a lying tongue” (Prov 6:16-17). We are commanded to be honest in our words and dealings with our neighbor. Eva Rykrsmith, a Business Consultant has written about 7 types of deception:

  1. Error – A person can lie by mistake and make an error. The person believes they are being truthful, but what they are saying is not true. 
  2. Omission – A person can lie by leaving out relevant information. This is different from error because they are intentionally leaving out certain information. This is passive deception with the hope that they will have less guilt if discovered. This does not mean you have to share everything with everyone. If someone says, “How are you?” and they mean it as a friendly greeting, it is not deception to reply in a friendly way. If, however, someone asks and sincerely wants to know because they love you; it is important for you to be honest with them so that they can help you.
  3. Restructuring – A person can lie bydistorting the context. This includes changing the important information to make someone appear different from reality. This can include certain forms of sarcasm. Sometimes sarcasm is used to make a point clear, but if sarcasm is used to deceive, it is a form of lying.
  4. Denial – A person can lie by refusing to acknowledge the truth. The extent of denial can be quite large—they may be lying only to you just this one time or they may be lying to themselves. A form of denial is defensiveness. This person is likely to reply, “Well, it’s your fault because…” or “Well, if you would have…then I…”
  5. Minimization – A person can lie by minimizing the effects of a mistake, a fault, or a judgment call. This is not an outright denial but an attempt to downplay their fault.
  6. Exaggeration – A person can lie by representing as greater, better, more experienced, more successful. This person loves to use superlatives.
  7. Fabrication – A person can lie by deliberately inventing a false story. There is a difference between gossip and slander. Gossip is when you spread information about someone that is usually true. Slander is when you invent something negative about someone to bring them harm.

Maintain a Clear Conscience

Why do people lie? Depends on who you ask. Some people lie because they enjoy it. As Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred once told him: “Some people just like to watch the world burn.” Thankfully, most people do not want to watch the world burn. Most lies are told out of self-preservation or because they are fearful of disappointing someone. Some people lie because they do not want to get into trouble. The problem with telling a lie is that a lie never travels alone. If you are old enough to remember the Lays Potato Chip slogan, “Betta can’t eat just one”; the slogan for lies is “Betta can’t tell just one.” One lie usually leads to another lie and another and another. Deception is a form of insanity. When you deceive, you create an alternate reality. Now, you must remember not only the true event, but how you altered it. This means that when someone asks you about it, you must remember and suppress the truth, then remember and convincingly believe your previous lie. Deception ruins your conscience. It is impossible to have a clear conscience along with deception. It is possible to have a seared conscience that doesn’t plague you anymore, but that is an even worse state to be in.

Maintain Your Neighbor’s Good Name

The Ninth Commandment is focused on making sure we tell the truth, but it has a specific focus. We are to tell the truth about our neighbor. We must make sure that we speak of our neighbor honestly and truthfully because we love them and care about their well-being. Specifically, we are to give good testimony/witness about them before others. In the Law of Moses, we read, “You shall not carry a false rumor” (Ex 23:1). Also, “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another” (Lev 19:11). Psalm 101:5 says, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him will I destroy.”


Therefore, let us keep this commandment and refuse to bear false witness against our neighbor. The only way to do that is to love your neighbor. The only way to love your neighbor is to love the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you a Christian? Have you been born again? If not, find out how you can be saved and have your sins forgiven. If you have been saved, you are able to love your neighbor and speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.


Published by First Baptist Church of Scott City, MO

Bringing the love of Christ to a hurting world.

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