Sunday, June 6, 2010

What is Sin - Part 6 : Bearing False Witness

Part 6 - Bearing False Witness
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |


Exodus 20:16 “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

The ninth command from the 10 commandments


We have heard, read and been taught “thou shall not lie...”, but many times we do not even understand what “is” a lie, and what is not.

Simplified, one may say, anything that is not the truth is a lie.

However, if this were the definition, then the following must also be true;

·        If you or your child were ever in a school play, you are liars.
·        If you color your hair, you are a liar.
·        If you wear make-up, you are a liar.
·        If you get a hair do at the parlor, you are a liar.

It seems ridiculous, but over simplification can cause, and does cause, confusion.

Today we will look at the different types of “lies”, and discover what it is God is telling us not to do in the commands.

I.                   A LIE IS A LIE IS A LIE?
a.      Types of lies as defined by Saint Augustine

                                                             i.      Playful lies
1.      These are jokes, or performances by actors who obviously are not really the people they are telling you they are in the plays and movies.

                                                          ii.      Obliging lies
1.      These are to protect someone else from coming to harm or violence.

                                                       iii.      Destructive lies
1.      This type is the sin.  Self-serving, or destructive falsehoods that bring harm or violence to another or in some way allow the teller selfish gain.

2.      All sin is selfish, and all selfishness in sin.

b.     Playful Lies
                                                             i.      Many of us have told jokes, or pulled pranks on someone for fun, not to harm them but for jesting.

                                                          ii.      For a prank or joke, some sort of a playful lie must be employed.
1.      When I Saran wrapped the toilet under the seat in my friend’s college dorm room, the playful lie was that there was nothing obstructing his use of the toilet.  This was actually a playful lie, because nothing able to pass through the Saran.

                                                       iii.      When you or children are in a school play, you are acting as if you were someone else.
1.      You are obviously NOT the person you are pretending to be to tell a story, but in a joke or play or movie, others are either aware, or quickly become aware of the playful lie.

                                                         iv.      For it to be a playful lie, one MUST KNOW it was a joke, or that you were acting.
1.      If your joke was to harm, or your acting to deceive for gain, then it was NOT playful, but driven by selfish motivation, and therefore sinful deceit.

c.      Obliging lies
                                                             i.      These are sometimes called “Righteous Deceit”, or “Law of Higher Good”, such as in Seminary.

                                                          ii.      When a police officer goes undercover to stop crime.

                                                       iii.      To best explain this, two references are always made.  One for our modern understanding and illustration, and one from scripture to “prove” the teaching.
1.      Joshua 2:4-61 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. "Go, look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho." So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
 2 The king of Jericho was told, "Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land." 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: "Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land."
 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don't know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them." 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.


We are all familiar with the atrocities that took place during World War II. 

·        Many know of the story of Anne Frank, who along with her family hid from the Nazi’s, and were helped by friends, who lied about knowing they were there.

·        To protect a person’s life, or to protect them from coming to harm, is not a destructive or selfish, self-serving lie, but one that puts the higher good first, which is protecting the innocent.

·        Schindler’s List is another example of a German businessman who had the power and money to save Jews, and so lied to his government, and friends to protect and free Jews to safety.

·        One day, Christians may have to go into hiding, and I pray that they receive the same protection that many of the Jews did during World War II by people willing to risk their own lives, and lie to the evil government wanting to carry out Satan’s plan of destruction.

·        Martin Luther said, ““[the obliging lie] not only serves the advantage of someone else, who would otherwise suffer harm or violence, but also prevents a sin. Therefore it is not proper to call it a lie; for it is rather a virtue and outstanding prudence, by which both the fury of Satan is hindered, and the honor, life, and advantages of others are served. For this reason it can be called pious concern for the brethern, or, in Paul’s language, zeal for piety.” (This was taken from Luther’s Lectures on Genesis).

Satan is the Great Deceiver. With his sly tongue he tricked Eve into eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil - while Adam stood by and failed to protect her. Because of this, Adam, Eve and the serpent were cursed.

The Lord God said to the serpent…..”I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

And thus began the greatest battle between good and evil.

What’s interesting to note is that both parties – the woman and the serpent – would have offspring. Clearly the ultimate fulfillment of the woman’s offspring is Jesus – who crushed the serpent’s head on the cross – but there are many minor fulfillments as well – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, etc. And the battles these godly men fought were covenant battles – Satan’s seed trying to destroy the woman’s seed by destroying the covenant.

A good example of this is the story of Moses’ birth. The serpent (Pharaoh) tries to destroy the woman’s seed by killing all the male Hebrew babies. Naturally, he failed.

But how, exactly, did he fail? By the strength of an army? By the appeals of a great leader? No, by the deception of the Hebrew midwives.

But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” (Liars!) And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

So, the midwives feared God, lied to protect the seed, and God blessed them.

Later on in the same story, Moses’ mother and sister use deception and are blessed as well.

The higher good saves and protects, it does not harm nor destroy!

Women’s shelters do this every day, to protect the women and children hiding from abusive MUST be done to protect them!

Protecting women and children is not a sin...

d.     Destructive Lies
                                                             i.      So what lies are we to avoid?
1.      Satan is a liar
a.      John 8:44 “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

2.      Satan comes to destroy
a.      John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;”

3.      If your words are to cause harm to another in any way, or selfishly motivated in any way, then it is sin.

                                                          ii.      Bearing false witness is to say something meant to harm another, in thought, word or deed.


Telling Aunt Millie she looks good in her dress that appears to be a size or two too small, and obviously, plaid is out of style, is not sin.  An uplifting and encouraging word is not meant to cause harm.

But, if you are jealous of another, and tell them they do not look good in that new coat that you wish you had, is sin, because it was selfishly motivated to harm another person, and was brought about by another sin, jealousy.

We must always act in love, which is an action (I Cor 13) of putting others before ourselves.

Anytime we put ourselves before others, we are exalting ourselves, which is pride.

a.      Bearing false witness (lies that harm others in thought, words or deeds) or cause another to come to physical harm are forbidden by God.

                                                             i.      Satan deceived Eve - Genesis 3:4-5
                                                          ii.      Cain lied to God about his brother - Genesis 4:9
                                                       iii.      Josephs brothers lied about his death - Genesis 37:29-35
                                                         iv.      Potipher’s wife lied about Josephs advances - Genesis 39:14-17

b.      All of these examples were selfishly motivated and caused harm to others.

The kingdom of God has no room for liars...

The ninth commandment forbids it.

Revelation 21:7-8 7He who overcomes will inherit all this (speaking of the Kingdom of God), and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

Why do YOU come to church?

a.      Weekly Gathering to hear the Word of God
                                                             i.      To receive understanding of the Word
                                                          ii.      To build up, encourage and strengthen each other

b.     Communion
                                                             i.      To take that understanding and examine one’s self
                                                          ii.      To look for where you may ERR and remove roadblocks between you and the Lord
                                                       iii. well as the outward expression of acceptance of the covenant between God and man

c.      Have YOU Examined Yourself Today?

Ephesians 4:25 25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

Ephesians 4:2929Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”