You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Every command of Scripture serves not only as an instruction for our lives but also as a reflection of who God is. The command against adultery is rooted in His faithfulness. The forbidding of murder flows from the life-giving Lord. So it is with the ninth commandment against bearing false witness, which comes from the promise-keeping God of all truth, who does not and cannot lie (Numbers 23:19).
What does the Lord have in view when He instructs us not to bear false witness? It is surely safe to assume that this commandment concerns any form of speech that is less than truthful. There are many ways we fall short. We do it by outright deceit, when we provide false information or withhold the truth in some way. We do it when we participate in rumors, spreading gossip about others. We do it by slandering and flattering others. We do it when we exaggerate the truth, give false impressions, and are careless with the facts. All of this falls short of the divine standard.
A vital component of fighting against the temptation to lie is to understand why we lie in the first place. The source of lies is none other than Satan himself, about whom Jesus says, “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Deceit was his strategy in the Garden of Eden, when he approached Eve with a lying tongue. Tragically, we are often driven by the same motives as the Evil One when we lie: pride, hatred, and fear. We lie out of pride when we want others to think highly of us. We deceive out of hatred because we want to tear down someone else. We speak untruth out of a fear of the consequences that we think would result from the truth being known. In all of this, we lie because in those moments we love ourselves more than we love God and our neighbors.
The reality is that God hates deception (Proverbs 6:16-19). In order for us to walk in the truth, we must crucify our pride and be more concerned with what God thinks of us than with what someone else thinks of us. We must put away malice and pursue love for others, committing to never speaking slanderously or spreading gossip. And we must fight an ungodly fear of man, replacing it with the fear of God, who came in flesh and declared Himself to be “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
The Lord Jesus has given His people His Spirit of truth (John 15:26), who empowers us to walk in the truth and put away falsehood. Only by His power are we increasingly conformed into the image of Christ and ever more reflecting the character of the God who gave the ninth commandment. Consider now in which situations and in what ways you are most often tempted to bear false witness. How will the truth about Jesus, His saving gospel, and His indwelling Spirit motivate you to speak differently from now on—to speak the truth, as a follower of the truth?
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.