The Ninth Commandment

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (v. 16).  

- Exodus 20:16

As with most other technological advancements, the Internet has proven to be something of a mixed blessing. Resources that used to be available only if one was willing to drive several miles to a library are now readable in seconds if one connects to the World Wide Web. Communication with those who live thousands of miles away is far easier with the advent of tools like email. At the same time, ungodliness has yet one more way into our homes, not only in the form of pornography and anti-Christian websites, but also in the guise of irresponsible bloggers and gossip columnists who can destroy reputations with half-truths and lies.

Gossip, lying, and other such sins are all encompassed within the scope of the ninth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex. 20:16). Although we do not always take such transgressions seriously, gossip in particular being a frequently overlooked sin, Scripture is clear that God hates false witness. Christ is the very embodiment of truth itself (John 14:6), and imitating Him requires us to pursue what is true in our speech.

The ninth commandment is closely connected to the eighth commandment, which prohibits theft (Ex. 20:15). For example, merchants can lie about their weights and measures and thereby defraud those who want to purchase from them. This explains the Bible’s concern for truthfulness in buying and selling (Prov. 20:10). Today, the truth is routinely stretched in advertising with ads that promise far more than any product invented by man can deliver.

Slander, libel, and other related matters are also prevalent in our day. Obedience to the ninth commandment means that we do not give ear to those who are clearly intent on maligning another’s character for their own personal gain. Also, we must not repeat something if we are unsure of its veracity.

In the church we must be careful to tell the truth as we share Christ with others. Out of a zeal to see others believe in Jesus, we can be tempted to say that coming to Him will make one’s life easier. Let us always be honest about the high cost of following the way of the cross (Mark 8:31–38).

Coram Deo

Take some time today to consider what you say to others. Do you repeat things told to you even if you are not sure that they are true? In your drive to get ahead do you subtly introduce doubts about your rivals to others? Do you have ears itching to hear the latest “dirt” about your church leaders? When others are tempted to tell you gossip, make every effort not to listen, and watch what you say in order that you might speak the truth at all times.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 12:19
Colossians 3:8

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