Friday, March 23, 2018
Read Exodus 20:16
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
As I mentioned before, God gave us 10 Commandments and 10 fingers – I think so we could have 10 handy reminders of these 10 relational guidelines. Relationships matter to a loving, relational God. And false witness against another is anti-relational.
Now I’ll confess, I titled this devotional with a lie; I ommitted one of my fingers. It’s 90% true, but still a lie. Is that a violation of this commandment? I think not, because I find no grounds on which that omission does you any harm. It may not be helpful in establishing my character as truthful, which only harms me.
This commandment, in keeping with the relational theme, has as it’s standard harm to another. My lie, though 90% accurate and harmless, is still a lie. Some would say this commandment forbids it, but I don’t think it does (though Col 3:9 and Eph 4:25 would).
Importantly, the focus of this commandment is a lie or mistruth about or to another that could unjustifiably harm them or others. Let me explain… It is justifiable if a man comes to my door with a weapon, threatening to harm my wife and family, to lie to him to protect my family. It is justifiable, if you serve the U.S. Military in the battlefield, to wear camouflage to intentionally deceive (lie to) your enemy – you must, otherwise, you and your fellow soldiers will be hurt. This commandment does not compel truth that puts others in the way of unnecessary harm, but it forbids lies that wound another whom you are called to love.
For example, if a car salesperson lies to a prospective customer (neighbor) to win his business, he has violated this commandment, putting his gain above his neighbor. If you speak a falsehood about a person (or a half/unsubstantiated truth), then you potentially wound the perception others have about their character and wound that person. The point is, we are forbidden from deceiving or potentially hurting others with untruths, when such untruths are not clearly justified to protect the innocent (or those engaged in a just war).
The New Testament axiom to cover our 10 fingers would be: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mk 12:31). In other words, would I want to be talked about in this way or would I welcome this untruth as truly good for me? If the answer is no, then our mouths must at least be silent, or at best, speak the truth – for “the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).
Father, sometimes the truth is simple and sometimes these things are more complicated than we might like. Give me the wisdom to speak truth in love, for the good of others and for building them up in love. Amen.