What if each of us had a “Pinocchio” gene that caused our nose to grow an inch longer every time we told a lie? There could be a whole cottage industry headquartered in Washington, D.C. featuring clips, ties, ribbons, even belts to help hold up and carry our appendages. It certainly could help in deciding which candidate to vote for. Choose the one with the shortest nose if you value truth.
The commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16) emphasizes speaking truth and protecting another person’s name.
Truth is deemed very valuable in the Bible. Platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold are all quite valuable when you google to see how much they cost to buy. But truth is so valuable the Bible counsels to buy it and never sell it. (See Proverbs 23:23.) The oath witnesses take in our courtrooms mentions truth three times. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” A witness who lies under oath can get into big trouble.
The person who tells lies throughout life will end up in even bigger trouble. Liars will spend eternity in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone according to Revelation 21:8.
I know a really good fisherman who “gets it” about truth. He has a proper reverential fear of the Lord, so much so that he told me, “I won’t even lie when some other fisherman asks me where I caught my fish!” We would do well to have a similar high regard for speaking truth.
The second key thrust of this commandment deals with protecting the (good) name of one’s neighbor (brother or sister in Christ).
“Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness (lies) against his neighbor” (Proverbs 25:18). These are instruments used to harm someone.
Proverbs 16:17-19 tells us the Lord hates a lying tongue and hates a false witness who utters lies. This is the same passage that says God hates abortion. Jesus said bearing false witness defiles a person in the same manner as immorality and murder. (See Matthew 15:19-20.)
As God’s people, we are to lay aside falsehood and speak truth with our neighbor. Martin Luther explained that this commandment means we should put the best spin on everything our neighbor says and does. John Calvin emphasized we are to do all we can to protect our neighbor’s name.
Sometimes Christians have “roast preacher” at their after-church Sunday meal. Miriam and Aaron murmured about Moses being put into leadership by God. God wasn’t happy with their murmuring. (See Numbers 12:1-15.) Let us take note and pray blessing on the spiritual leader God has placed in our life.
Why is truth so valuable? Truth sets us free (John 8:32). Free from deception. Free in our conscience. Free in our relationships. Free to be trusted. Therefore, let us highly value truth and not sell it. Let us protect our neighbor’s name.
May we so live that even if we had a “Pinocchio gene”, our nose would be the same length it is today.
52 Wicked Ways of God’s People
- Telling lies
- Not putting the best spin on a person’s words or actions
- Murmuring about a spiritual leader
- Not protecting a person’s name
- Not covering another’s sins with love (1 Peter 4:8)