The Ten Commandments Part 9
Who Are You Trying to Fool?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 27, 2005

 

Main Passage: Exodus 20:1-17 (NLT)

 

[Top section used at the beginning of the service as a welcome/teaser]

Good morning. Welcome to Sunrise this morning. We’re going to sing a few songs today as a way to express our love and worship to God, and I would encourage you to devote yourself to doing just that this morning. Glenda has a song she’s going to share with us later on, and then we’ll be continuing with our series on God’s Top Ten… the Ten Commandments. We’ve already looked at the first eight, so today it’s on to number 9 which tells us not to lie. So with that in mind, I thought we’d start today by looking at…

The Top Ten Lies People Tell…

10. I just need 5 minutes of your time.
9. This time I’m sticking to my diet.
8. Leave your number, and the doctor will call you right back.
7. I’ll still respect you in the morning. (Okay, so not all the lies we tell are laughable.)
6. I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.
5. This hurts me more than it hurts you.
4. Your money will be cheerfully refunded.
2. Your table will be ready in just a minute.
2. I’ll start exercising tomorrow.
1. The check is in the mail.

That’s my Top Ten list for the morning. Later on we’ll be taking about the lies we tell… why we tell them and some of the forms they take. Right now, here are a few announcements…


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Let me ask you a question… What do you look for in a friendship? What quality or characteristic is most important to you when it comes to choosing your friends? More times than not, the answer you’ll get to that question is “honesty” or some variation of that word. (i.e. truthfulness, openness, integrity, loyalty, trustworthiness). None of us wants to be friends with someone we can’t trust. In fact, if at all possible, we avoid those people.

Conversely, if you asked someone who has been hurt in a relationship what caused that hurt, more times than not the answer will be dishonesty. Oh, how we hate to be lied to! Most relationships can withstand a few bumps and bruises along the way, but when dishonesty and deception is involved, chances are the relationship is over. And if the dishonesty has not been fatal to the relationship, it will at least put it in the ICU for a long, long time. And it can take ages to get past the dishonesty and rebuilt trust.

We value honesty in our relationships. We value truthfulness and integrity and trustworthiness. And when that trust is broken, it can be very difficult for any relationship to survive. We cannot tolerate lying in our relationships.

But if you think we hate lies, you should consider how God feels about them. Imagine if a world-class piano player came to Charlottetown and you went down to the Confederation Centre to hear his recital. And imagine that the lights dimmed, the spotlight came on, and he walked out onto the stage for the recital to begin. He might take a bow, walk over to the 9’ Steinway Grand piano, pull out the bench, walk around to the other side, flip out the tails on his tux and sit down. Now imagine that he gets all set to play and starts into his first piece only to discover that the piano is badly out of tune. Not just a little out of tune… badly out of tune. What would happen? Any musician with a good sense of pitch would not be able to continue that performance. The dissonance would be unbearable for him. And the better ear he had for music, the worse it would be for him. He would bristle at every out-of-tuned note, and even if the audience tried to convince him that it didn’t bother them that much, he just wouldn’t be able to handle it.

I believe God has much the same reaction to our dishonesty. Our God is a God of truth. And when He hears the lies we tell, it pains Him. Oh, we may not think they’re such a big deal and they may not keep us awake at night, but for a holy, righteous, and completely honest God, the sound of our lies is unbearable.

John 14:6 (NLT)
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

God is complete truth. Nothing but that can ever proceed from Him, so it’s no wonder that He can’t stand lies. It’s completely contrary to His character.

I think another reason God can’t stand lies is because He realizes that the whole reason the world is in the mess that it’s in can be traced back to the telling and believing of a lie. If you go all the way back to the beginning, you’ll find that sin entered the world because of a lie. The very first chapters of the Bible in the book of Genesis tell us how God created everything that exists. And He created the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve. And he placed them in the Garden of Eden where they had free reign. There was only one thing that was off limits to them… a tree. There was a tree, called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that they were to never touch or eat the fruit from. And God warned them that if they ever did, they would surely die.

And in comes Satan in the form of a serpent. And He begins to talk with Eve. “God says that if you eat from this tree you’ll die. But you won’t die. No, you’ll become like God yourself.” And the telling and believing of that lie and the subsequent actions of Eve and of Adam are the reason for the mess we’re in today. And God looks on our heartache and on our pain and on the turmoil all around us, and He knows that it’s all because of a lie. And so in addition to lying being against the very character of God, He can’t stand it because He knows the devastation that can result. Jesus said in John 8…

John 8:32 (NLT)
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Our freedom in Christ is based in truth. The converse is also true… if the truth sets us free, then lies continue to bind us and enslave us to sinfulness. You and I cannot live the life of freedom that we were meant for and that God promises us if we continue to live with a lack of honesty.

And so it’s out of this context that He gave us what we know as the 9th Commandment:

Exodus 20:16 (CEV)
Do not tell lies about others.


Now let’s talk about this commandment, because the original meaning was pretty specific. It dealt with what we might say about someone else that would unjustly ruin their reputation and destroy their good name. And even more specifically it refers to telling the truth in legal situations. It dealt with perjury. You know, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

This is a little clearer if you compare a few different translations…

Exodus 20:16 (CEV)
Do not tell lies about others.

Exodus 20:16 (NLT)
Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.

Exodus 20:16 (NASB)
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Now let me expand a little on that. In Israel, a capital case could be brought to trial only if there were two eyewitnesses to the crime. And that makes a lot of sense. If someone’s going to be sentenced to death, you’d better make sure they actually did the crime. Check it out in Deuteronomy 17…

Deuteronomy 17:6-7 (NLT)
But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be at least two or three witnesses. The witnesses must throw the first stones, and then all the people will join in.

Now let me ask you, why would the witnesses be the first to throw the stones? Anyone see the significance here? If the witnesses had lied and the accused was later found innocent, then the witnesses were essentially guilty of murder. And so they would end up being punished themselves. A couple chapters later in Deuteronomy 19 it confirms this…

Deuteronomy 19:18-21 (CEV)
If you are lying and the accused is innocent, then you will be punished without mercy. You will receive the same punishment the accused would have received if found guilty, whether it means losing an eye, a tooth, a hand, a foot, or even your life.

The crime of perjury was taken very, very seriously. And whenever people heard what happened to witnesses who lied, if they were called to testify they were sure to tell the truth.

And so in its simplest form this commandment deals with perjury and protecting people from being falsely accused of a crime. However, as we’ve worked our way through these commandments we’ve seen that each of them deals with principles that go far beyond the letter of the law. So in the broader sense, this commandment refers to untruthfulness in any form. We’ve even come to understand this commandment to mean “Do not lie.” And when you look at the Bible as a whole, it is clear that we are commanded to speak truthfully in all situations, and that God absolutely detests dishonesty. To put this into perspective, listen to what else the Bible says concerning lying:

Proverbs 6:16-19 (CEV)
There are six or seven kinds of people the Lord doesn’t like: Those who are too proud or tell lies or murder, those who make evil plans or are quick to do wrong, those who tell lies in court or stir up trouble in a family.

Not only does God not like liars but listen to the end result of people who constantly lie,

Revelation 21:8 (NLT)
“But cowards who turn away from me, and unbelievers, and the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all liars—their doom is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death.”

In other words, they will spend eternity in Hell. And looking at that verse, if it’s true that we are known by the company we keep, then liars aren’t very well thought of in the Scriptures. But that’s nothing new. You already know that. Most people know that lying is wrong, regardless of what else they may believe. But does that stop us? It doesn’t seem to.

I read a section from this book last week. It’s called The Day America Told the Truth and it’s the result of the most extensive survey ever done on moral issues. It’s an American survey, but I think the results would hold true for us here, too. Let me read about some conclusions the surveyors were able to reach regarding the lies we tell…

“Just about everyone lies—91 percent of us lie regularly.
The majority of us find it hard to get through a week without lying. One in five can’t make it through a single day—and we’re talking about conscious, premeditated lies. In fact, the way some people talk about trying to do without lies, you’d think that they were smokers trying to get through a day without a cigarette.
We lie to just about everyone, and the better we know someone, the likelier we are to have told them a serious lie.
Lying has become a cultural trait in America. Lying is embedded in our national character… Americans lie about everything—and usually for no good reason.
The majority of Americans today (two in every three) believe that there is nothing wrong with telling a lie. Only 31 percent of us believe that honesty is the best policy.”
~ selected passages from The Day America Told the Truth

So lying is part of our society. It’s at epidemic proportions. I do it and you do it. But why? Why do we lie? Let me give you six reasons why we lie…

 

Six Reasons People Lie:

1. To Impress People

Sometimes we make things up or imply things that aren’t necessarily true just to impress people. You’d probably be surprised if you realized how much we do this. Like when we drop names… you know, when we imply that we know someone important when we are just barely acquainted with them. Or when you make your job out to be more than what it really is or when you kind of move your kids’ marks up when you’re bragging on them. Or when your golf score mysteriously drops a few points. Pastors do it when they stretch their statistics, like when people ask how many people attend Sunrise and I say, “Oh between four and five hundred. After all, 30 is between 4 and 500.”

In the Bible, Ananias was a man who lied to impress people. And he didn’t do it alone… his wife joined him in the lie. Let me read about it…

Acts 5:1-5 (NLT)
There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.”
As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died.

And if you keep reading, you discover that his wife came in a few minutes later, told the same lie, and suffered the same fate.

 

2. To Please People

We want them to like us. Did you ever disagree with someone, but you said you agreed with them because you wanted to make them happy? You lied. Ever hide the truth from someone because you didn’t want to hurt them? Then you lied.

Sometimes we do this by our silence. Like when you hear someone spreading lies and slandering someone else. Instead of stepping up and saying “No, that’s wrong,” or, “I disagree,” we reinforce the lie by remaining silent.

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence. A man may have sat in a room for hours and not opened his mouth, and yet come out of that room a disloyal friend.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Psalm 12:2 (NLT)
Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and insincere hearts.

Proverbs 28:23 (NLT)
In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.

Do you understand that? We spend so much time justifying what we describe as “little white lies”, but in the end people would prefer to know the truth. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you prefer for people to just be honest with you, even if it hurts a little, than for them to feel they have to lie to you?

I used to justify these “little white lies” myself, but more and more I’m convinced that God wants us to be honest in every situation.

 

3. For Revenge

You want to get even with someone so you purposely deceive them. Or someone has done something to you so you tell a lie about them. Or you spread a story that you know is untrue, just to get back at them.

Why do you think Jesus was murdered? The Religious leaders of the day felt threatened by him and so they had him charged falsely with blasphemy and treason. They lied about him. And they coerced others to do the same…

Mark 14:55-59 (NLT)
Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would testify against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But their efforts were in vain. Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. Finally, some men stood up to testify against him with this lie: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.’ “ But even then they didn’t get their stories straight!

 

4. To Make a Profit

One government study came to the conclusion that 1 in 3 people are hired with educational or career credentials that were altered in some way. In other words, they lied on their résumé. About a decade ago (1993) the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ran a help-wanted ad for electricians with expertise at using Sontag connectors. The response they got was interesting. They received 170 applications from people claiming they had expertise with Sontag connectors, even though there is no such thing. The Authority had run the ad to find out how many applicants falsify résumés. And as someone said, the closest any of us will come to perfection is our résumés. (Leadership, Vol. 15.1)

So when you apply for a job, is your résumé just a work of fiction? When you’re trying to sell something, do you ever misrepresent it? For example, if you’re trying to sell your car do you let the prospective buyer know about all the work it needs, or do you let them worry about it after the deal is done? Ever deceive someone so they thought they were getting a better deal than they actually were? Or when you’re bargaining to buy something, have you ever exaggerated your financial pressures or played up your family to get a better price? Speaking to people involved in commerce, the Bible says…

Proverbs 11:1 (NIV)
The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.

 

5. To Escape Punishment

“I didn’t know I was speeding officer, my speedometer must be broken.” “I didn’t know this was a no parking zone. I didn’t see the sign.” It’s the old, “The dog ate my homework” kind of excuse. Kids do this all the time… they lie to get out of trouble. You remember what it was like, don’t you? I mean, you knew that you weren’t supposed to take a cookie from the cookie jar, but you took one anyway. And just as you were pulling your hand out of the jar, remember how your mother walked into the room? What did you do? You hid it behind your back! Your mother saw what you did, but she gave you a chance to fess up. She asked you, “Did you take a cookie from the cookie jar?” And what did you say? “No, I didn’t.” You were hiding it right there behind your back, but you still tried to deny it! We like to think we’ve grown out of lying to avoid the consequences, but I’m not so sure.

Maybe you’ve heard about the four college guys who were on their way to an exam but it was a gorgeous day so they decided to skip the exam and head to the beach. The next day, they told their teacher that they tried to make it to the exam but had a flat tire on the way. The teacher seemed to accept that and said they could rewrite the test. He put one in each corner of the room with a copy of the test, and said, “Now to start, there is an extra question. Without speaking to the others or looking around, what tire was it?”

Earlier I mentioned how the serpent deceived Adam and Eve. He lied to them, and as a result they chose to disobey God. But what happened next? Well, God knew exactly what Adam and Eve had done. He had caught them with their hand in the cookie jar. He knew that they had disobeyed Him and had eaten from the tree that was off limits to them, and when He confronted them about it, it’s as if they hid the evidence behind their backs and said, “No, I didn’t.”

First, He asked Adam. And, well, Adam didn’t exactly deny that he ate the fruit, but he did try to place the blame on someone else. When God asked if he had eaten it, he said…

Genesis 3:12 (NLT)
“Yes… but it was the woman you gave me who brought me the fruit, and I ate it.”

So God moved on to Eve. What did Eve say?

Genesis 3:13 (NLT)
“The serpent tricked me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

They both tried to deceive God and thus avoid the ramifications of their actions. How many times do you and I do that? We lie to God or we lie to others, we make them think that it was someone else’s fault, all so we can escape the consequences of our actions.

 

6. For Convenience

Like when you have your spouse tell callers you’re not home when what you mean is you don’t want to be disturbed. Or when you call in sick to work, but you’re still well enough to go shopping or play a round of golf. What about when you say you’ll serve on a committee, go to a meeting or attend a party when you have no intention of doing it but it’s easier to say “yes” and not show up then to try to think up an excuse?

Proverbs 12:22 (NLT)
The LORD hates those who don’t keep their word, but he delights in those who do.

It was Walter Scott who wrote:

O, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!
~ Walter Scott

More to the point might be the addition made by J.R. Pope who wrote:

“But when we’ve practiced quite a while, How vastly we improve our style.”
~ J.R. Pope

So we lie for a variety of reasons. And God screams, “Stop it! You don’t realize what you’re doing! You don’t realize the harm it can do. And you don’t realize how it breaks my heart each time you tell a lie.”

 

Four Steps to Becoming a Truth-teller:

So the question is, how do you stop telling lies? I was thinking… and it’s always dangerous when I do that… but wouldn’t it be great if we could rig something up to give us an electric shock every time we told a lie? Kind of a polygraph buzzer that gave us a little jolt? Actually if you’re a Christian, you already have something like that. We call Him the Holy Spirit, and if you’ve got Him in your life, then you’ve already felt that little jolt. And when it happens you have one of two choices: you can correct yourself or you can keep on lying. And if you keep on lying, then you’ve chosen to disobey God. We need to be sensitive to the correction of the Holy Spirit. That’s the first step…

 

A. Be sensitive to the correction of the Holy Spirit.

John 16:8, 13 (NLT)
And when [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convince the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.

 

B. Work at becoming ruthlessly honest yourself.

Don’t allow yourself to justify even the “little” lies, if there is such a thing. When you catch yourself saying something that isn’t exactly true, then stop and correct yourself. Apologize for it. Say something like, “I’m sorry, that’s a lie. The truth is…” And yes, if someone asks you, “Do these pants make me look fat?” and you can’t find a tactful way of answering that doesn’t involve lying, the go ahead and tell them the truth. Maybe they’ll stop putting you in that situation in the future. Besides, if they ask you a question like that, then they deserve to hear the truth.

 

C. Invite others to challenge your lies.

Talk with two or three of your trusted friends and explain to them that you want to be a truth-teller. And ask them to confront you when they catch you stretching the truth a bit or telling a bold-faced lie. And please, remember you asked them to do it, so don’t get ticked off at them when they follow through with it.

 

D. Remember what lying does to God.

When you’re tempted to lie, I think if you will just stop long enough to recognize the dissonance it causes in the ears of God and understand the complete disdain He has for lies, and if you can contemplate the consequences of your lying, then you will start to break the habit of dishonesty and find yourself committed to being a God-honouring truth-teller.
 

 

 

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