Ninth Commandment: You Shall Not Bear False Witness

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.

Why does God hate lying?

Jesus identifies Satan the devil as “the father” of lies. Dishonesty is in opposition to the character and identity of God because it distorts and twists the truth, damaging relationships and creating uncertainty. 

The Ninth Commandment explicitly prohibits making false statements against our neighbor. What does this mean, and what else does this commandment cover?

Who is your neighbor?

Jesus expanded on “who is my neighbor?” in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. He showed we are to be good neighbors to everyone.

Obviously the good neighbor Jesus Christ wants us to be will not lie about anyone.

Preventing perjury, slander and perversion of justice

Modern laws about perjury are based on this concept of reinforcing the importance of truth and truthfulness.

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.

Is lying a sin?

All lying is against God’s law, so it is sin.

Lying is clearly labeled sin in Leviticus 6: “If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbor …” (verse 2).

This is reinforced in scriptures that show that God hates lying and that liars will not be in God’s Kingdom:

  • “These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: … a lying tongue, … a false witness who speaks lies” (Proverbs 6:16, 19).
  • “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (Proverbs 12:22).
  • “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelations 21:8, emphasis added throughout).
  • “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city [New Jerusalem]. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:14-15).

Thankfully, since all have sinned, God has made a way for us to repent and be forgiven. Sin is serious—it required the death of our Savior to pay our death penalty! So we must not take lying lightly. Learn more about repentance and forgiveness in our free booklet Change Your Life.

The intent of God’s Ninth Commandment goes even deeper than not lying. It emphasizes the importance of truth, and of becoming more like our Creator God who hates falsehood and loves truth.

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).

God does not lie

Is there anything that is impossible for God? Yes!

Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that He should lie.” The Bible even says “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18) and that He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). He will not do it.

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.

Are white lies okay?

God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6), and white lies—regardless of our intentions—fail to meet this standard.

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).

The Ninth Commandment remains vitally important today. Learn more about what the Bible says about lying, dishonesty and the importance of truth in the following resources: “Lying vs. Telling the Truth,” “There’s a Proverb for That: Liar, Liar, Plants on Fire,” “Enemies of Honesty: Lies,” “Enemies of Honesty: Half Truths,” “Enemies of Honesty: Spin,” “Speak the Truth in Love” and our video “The Ninth Commandment: Take It Easy Pinocchio.”

For further study of the other commandments, read the article “What Are the 10 Commandments?

About the Author

Mike Bennett

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