You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. [Exodus 20:16 ESV]
God’s ninth statement demands we never bear (respond, sing, shout, testify, announce) false (that which is not true) witness (testimony, to record) against your neighbor (anyone). We are to tell the truth because this is the way we are created, as part of the image of God, and is expected by God.
These statements are explicit requirements founded on the eternal character of God and the laws under which we have been created. We cannot fulfill His expectations or be who we eternally are without naturally living according to God’s moral law. We are a reflection of His character, having His image. Sin did not destroy the image but corrupted the vessel containing the image, making everything we do unacceptable. Still, God created us, sustains us, governs us, and gives us purpose.
Jesus began His sermon demanding we acknowledge the truth of sin and our absolute poverty of spirit before Him. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:3 ESV]. One of the characteristics of those who are poor in spirit is their love for the truth and their hatred of the lie. This is the driving motivation behind their confrontational lifestyle. They first confront the lies which have been trained into them, the lies of sin and self-righteousness. Then, they confront the lies of the world, which seek to remove God completely from the equation, from the pieces and sum total of self. If we can get Him out of one of the pieces then we can remove Him from the rest. He will not be removed from any part.
Those who persecute the followers of Christ because of their righteous relationship with God attack truth, desperately trying to change it, demanding “truth” conform, not to God but to their sinful, arbitrary, even anarchist standard. Truth is integral to the eternal character of God. No one will come into God’s presence who has believed, taught and demanded rebellion against God by following a lie.
Just as murder tries to destroy the image of God in man and adultery the relationship of God with man, as stealing tries to devalue God’s authority over all things, so lying is an attempt to remove God from the equation of our lives. What we do reflects who we are and dictates what we will become. If what we do is based upon a lie then the evidence of who we are shows we are liars and will only reinforce and solidify us as those who hate the truth. God’s statements to us reach deeply into the heart of our relationship with Him, reflected in the relationships we have with everyone. But it especially reflects how we think of ourselves. We do not have the option to divorce our lives from those around us or from God. It is a whole package.
God gives an explicit statement. Do not lie to anyone about anything. He is not a liar and He did not create liars. Yet, we are liars. He tells us to not lie. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves we will see that all we can do, have done and will do is lie about every facet of our lives, our relationships, our thinking within the world. When you lie you are not doing what is eternally natural to God and showing the evidence of a corrupted nature.
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (cited from Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3)
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” (cited from Psalm 5:9)
“The venom of asps is under their lips.” (cited from Psalm 5:9)
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” (cited from Psalm 140:3)
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” (cited from Isaiah 59:7-8, see Proverbs 1:15-17)
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (cited from Psalm 36:1] [Romans 3:9-18 ESV]
Jesus tells us to expect persecution because of our relationship with Him, because of the righteousness given us by Him. We are compelled by the Spirit of God to see and know truth. Yet, we remain ensconced in a temporary but corrupted body which tends to rebellion. Our hope is only in the truth of Christ’s person.