The ninth commandment is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16.
This commandment is far broader than just dealing with the justice system. At the time, Hebrew laws were set up to treat people fairly. Apparently, the laws did not rely on just one witness. The judges tried to get two or three witnesses. However, if any one was caught not telling the truth, the punishment against the person who bore false witness was pretty strict. Some times it even led to death to the person who lied. This caught everyone’s attention and made them think twice about not being honest.
This commandment also deals with being honest. Do not lie. When you lie about someone, you are not just harming that person but you are disrespecting God. How many people are completely truthful today? We are surrounded by so many dishonest statements. How many people believe all the advertisements they see? The news media has stretched the truth so far that it snaps. What about politicians and lawyers? We have become a society of stretching the truth, as we like to think it. What can it hurt, we think.
It does hurt. Reputations of people have been destroyed within minutes. Everyone likes to hear the bad, not the good. Everyone likes to gossip. Gossiping has become the norm today. And as soon as a hurtful lie has been said about a person, it stays with them no matter how wrong it was. People remember the bad, not the good. Gaining back your good reputation is difficult.
Not only is the gossiper breaking the ninth commandment but the people who listen to the gossip are also breaking the commandment. It is so tempting to hear the juicy bad stuff. But it is wrong. I have fallen victim to listening. I try hard to say, I don’t want to hear this and I think it is wrong that you are spreading such news. The problem with saying this is that some times the gossiper then turns on you. Not an easy situation.
How about little white lies where the truth would actually hurt the person more than if you lied? For example, your friend just had her hair cut and she is absolutely thrilled with the style. You don’t really like it. What would be best? Tell her you are glad she really loves it? Tell her it looks fabulous? I think a small white lie is fine. Besides, even though it isn’t something you absolutely love, your friend does and you should not deflate her happiness. It’s just your opinion and it’s just hair. It’ll grow again.
We need to be more aware of how much we are not telling the truth. Once you start being dishonest, how easy is it to remember all the lies? The lies build one on top of the other until the truth is so far gone, you can’t even remember what the truth was. You are disrespecting God by being dishonest.