The Importance Of Truth-telling For Our Society

IDEA: The ninth commandment, if followed in Christ’s power, would fundamentally change our society. TEXT: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

PURPOSE: To help listeners recognize the benefit of truth in a society.

Take the Ten Commandments and rate each one of them on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most serious and 1 being the least serious. How do you think people would rate them?

Looking back, where do you think the ninth commandment would fall?

I. How important is trust in the way our society operates?

When you purchase a product at the supermarket, you trust that the people who sell the product aren’t lying to you.

When you make an appointment, both people depend on the honesty of the other.

If you go to a movie, you expect that the movie will start when the listing in the paper says it will.

“Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

II. Do you think that our society cherishes truth? Perhaps it does in the abstract, but not in the particulars. In what ways does it fail to honor truth?

By exaggeration

Advertising thrives on exaggeration that is a “false witness.”

The front label promises that the product is healthy (e.g., “no cholesterol”) but the back label reveals that it is not.

Ordinary products are labeled as “fancy,” with better grades labeled “extra fancy” or “select.”

Churches and ministers exaggerate so that it becomes a joke. “Evangelistically speaking” comes to mean false witness about results.

Business people, educators, and coaches pad resumes with positions they haven’t had or degrees they haven’t earned.

All of this is done to make ourselves look better than we are. This is in stark contrast to Jesus who was willing “to make himself nothing” for our sakes.

By telling half-truths

Political advertising majors in this. They take an opponent’s statements out of context or “spin” an opponent’s actions to look evil.

The “truth” can be told to deceive people, not to inform them.

By coloring the truth

We hide the truth behind impressive words: “My grandfather was pursued by a number of top officials in the nation and he occupied a chair of applied electricity in one of America’s best-known institutions. He held that position until his death.” It is true, but it is false.

III. The ninth commandment, if it were followed in Christ’s Spirit and in Christ’s power, would change society.

G. K. Chesterton observed, “The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”

Stephen Crotts, author of The Ten Commandments for Now, finished his chapter on this commandment with these words:

So I write in praise of integrity…
Full bushels, honest weights, and accurate counts,
Fair prices and exact change,
Honest labels, authentic ingredients;
I write in praise of honesty…
Trustworthy news coverage,
Performance as advertised.
A well-built house,
An accurate tax return,
A good day’s work;
I write in praise of true words…
Marriage vows kept,
Membership vows maintained,
Appointments met on time,
Fair descriptions,
A person’s word their bond,
I write in praise of honesty.
A pure life,
All being what it seems,
A firm handshake, eyes that meet in sincerity,
Clear conscience and sound sleep.

There is forgiveness for the sins of bearing false witness. Peter vowed he would follow Jesus to death, but later cursed and swore he never knew Him. He was forgiven. He was filled with the Spirit, and the first thing about Peter that God used was his tongue. It was used to proclaim the truth. That can be true of us as well