The Ninth Commandment is found in Exodus 20:16: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This principle includes all forms of lying.
Modern laws about perjury are based on this concept of reinforcing the importance of truth and truthfulness. The intent of God’s Ninth Commandment goes deeper.
God of truth
God is a God of truth. He wants us to learn to hate lying and dishonesty and to love truth. Consider these scriptures about how important truth is to God:
- “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
- “His truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).
- “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
- “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
- “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).
The Ninth Commandment is designed to prevent slander and perversion of justice.
As God told Moses and the Israelites: “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. …
“You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous” (Exodus 23:1-2, 6-8).
Lying and dishonesty pervert and corrupt hearts and are abominations to God.Lying and dishonesty pervert and corrupt hearts and are abominations to God.
The father of lying
On the other hand, Satan is the father of lies. Jesus Christ explained to those who were justifying themselves and sneering at Him: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
The first recorded lie was when Satan, through the serpent, told Eve that God was lying: “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5). What a diabolical act of deception—lying by calling our totally trustworthy God a liar!
We long for the day when Satan will deceive the nations no more (Revelation 20:3).
No need to swear
The spirit of the Ninth Commandment goes further than not swearing falsely. Our every word should be trustworthy—there should be no need to swear.
As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37).
God wants us to replace lying with honesty in our words and our hearts and our thoughts.
What about “white lies”?
Some wonder if it is possible to always tell the truth and suggest that “white lies” are needed to avoid hurting others. But the Bible says we should be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). White lies are not necessary; but tact, kindness and courtesy should always be practiced.
The apostle Paul also told the Christians in Ephesus that by “putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).
For further study, read the article “What Are the 10 Commandments?”