Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Ten Commandments Past and Present — The Ninth Commandment

In this, sermon Pastor Babij returns to his series on the Ten Commandments by looking at the ninth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Pastor Babij teaches that the main purpose of the command is to maintain an accurate witness. Pastor Babij also explains what kind of actions the ninth commandment forbids and condemns.

Full Transcript:

Today we’re continuing our study on the Ten Commandments. We look not only at what it says in the old testament, but fleshing it out in the practical application of it in the New Testament and in other passages of Scripture. So we’re looking this morning in Exodus 20:16. It says:

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Let’s pray. Lord, thank you this morning as we again come to the Word of God, the very food for our soul, to mature us in Christ. I pray Lord, that we would learn more of what the law teaches and how it is flushed out within our own personal lives today. I pray, Lord, as we learn these things, that we pray the spirit of God would work them into our lives, into the practice of our lives. So Lord, we definitely would have control of our tongue and what we say, and how we say it, and the motive in which we say it in, and the tone. I pray, Lord, that we would learn to speak in a way that honors You. I pray in Christ’s name, amen.

The Ten Commandments have already clearly spelled out what is involved in our relationship with God, who is holy, and our relationship with our neighbors created in the image of God. The first Commandment, it means we recognize that He alone, God, has first place in our hearts and our lives. To worship anything or anyone other than the redeemer God is absolutely prohibited by Scripture.

Secondly, men must not attempt to make any visible representation of the invisible God, to the degree that he distorts God’s holiness.

Thirdly, we have the responsibility to take up the name of God and are responsible for His reputation before a lost and dying world, by treating His name with honor, with respect, with reverence, in our thoughts and our words and our deeds.

Fourthly, we have the responsibility of one day in seven to attend to God’s honor and to our own souls.

Fifthly we have the responsibility to honor our mothers and our fathers.

Sixthly, we have the responsibility to care for and protect others’ welfare and physical life, where it says you shall not murder.

Seventhly, we have the responsibility to honor the marriage institution by remaining faithful to one’s spouse and by respecting the marriages of other people.

Eighthly, we have the responsibility for honesty to be the policy and practice of God’s people all the time. It says: you shall not steal.

And now we come to the ninth Commandment, the responsibility for all God’s people to value and to maintain accurate testimony. For it says in Scripture to you and I, that the ninth Commandment brings a first principle. Of course, the principle revealed in the ninth Commandment is the responsibility for all God’s people to value and to maintain accurate testimony.

Now, there are two things that are forbidden by this Commandment. The first thing forbidden is a false witness, to be a false witness. That’s what it says in the passage. Being a false witness is forbidden in this Commandment.

The ninth Commandment has a broader use than how it is usually used in the legal realm, such as lying to a judge after taking an oath to tell only what is true. The Word of God warns not to be pushed in to testifying according to the majority view by the masses of evildoers, because to do so would be actually to pervert justice. In fact, it does tell us in Exodus 23:2, it says:

You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice;

The ninth Commandment forbade any Israelite to give false testimony under any condition. He would not be guiltless if he slandered his neighbor, gossip about him, or twisted the truth in any way. It was only fitting that the people who had been chosen to serve the true God should be commanded to speak only what is true. So it is just as important in the business realm and the social realm.

The bottom line is: if the testimony of people is false, then there can be no fair and just and objective verdicts, neither can there be honest and forthright business dealings, nor wholesome and sincere trustworthy relationships, if someone in any realm should speak untruths or speak deceptively. It undermines everything and brings about an atmosphere of instability and mistrust. No one knows what to believe. When somebody does not tell the truth. Matter of fact, it confuses everything, and everything is suspect, what a person would say and do. That’s not a good place to be in.

The warrior David asked God not to deliver him over to the desires of his enemy. Listen what he says in this passage of Scripture. He says:

Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me. And such as breathe out violence.

See David knew that even the most skilled warrior who’s trained and tactics and battle find it very difficult, if not impossible to fight against deception and falsehood. Those who lie about others have underlining sinister motives, which are hard sometimes to detect. Also again, King David said this:

Stretch forth Your hand from on high; Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, out of the hand of aliens whose mouths speak deceit, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

Again, he’s asking God to rescue him from people who are deceptive, from people who do not speak the truth, from people who have underhanded motives that are not readily seen with the eyes. That’s what he is praying for. That’s what he asked the Lord for. We know David in Scripture was a great commander and warrior, and was trained in all kinds of battle tactics to do great warfare and win many great battles.

A second thing this Commandment forbids is this: the slandering of one’s neighbor. It says in the Scriptures that we are not to bear false witness against your neighbor. Now, if you look at Leviticus 19:16, it says this:

You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord.

So in Scripture, we again see that the Ninth Commandment is about more than lying. It is about how one ought to care for his neighbor’s character and integrity and ultimately his good name. So my neighbor, your neighbor is anyone that you and I would come in contact with in everyday situations. Everybody, everyone, in other words, is our neighbor. We should, of course, practice truth with our own family, of course as believers in the church family, but also when we go out into the world and we’re rubbing elbows with people, doing business with people, having to talk with people. In those situations too, we are to protect our neighbor’s character and integrity. That’s the responsibility of God’s people. This Commandment is warning His people not to give false statements or receive false statements that may harm my neighbor. That’s what it is saying.

So, a slanderer is someone who smites with the tongue. Listen to what Jeremiah the prophet said about this when he said this:

Then they said, “Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah. Surely the law is not going to be lost to the priest, nor council to the sage, nor the divine word to the prophet! Come on and let us strike him with our tongue, and let us give no heed to any of his words.”

So in other words, slanderer is someone who’s able to use their tongue as a battle weapon, as someone who could smite someone else. Slander beheads someone’s good name. Slandering is really to report things that are unjust.

An old puritan pastor wisely said: the scorpion carries his poison in his tail; the slanderer carries is poison in his tongue. We all have met people that are very good at slicing people to pieces with their words. Well spoken, well-chosen words. Sometimes, after they’re done slicing some of the pieces, again says to them: I didn’t mean that. I know you meant it, because what comes out of your mouth has already come from your heart.

And so we have to be careful about that. To slander is a great matter to the Lord because it misrepresents God, and it also misrepresents our neighbor. It also reveals the base sinful character of the human heart. It already tells us in Scripture where this comes from. In Mark 7, notice it says that: For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, fornications, and of course, then it mentions slander, pride, and foolishness at the end there. It’s right already there in our hearts. So all of us are very capable with our tongue to slander other people.

Slander also has no boundaries to it. If you notice in Psalm 50 what it says. It tells us this:

You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother son.

In other words, slander has no boundaries. It doesn’t matter who it is. Doesn’t matter if it’s their own family there. They want to do it. They think they have the right to do it because they say that words don’t hurt people and words really don’t do a whole lot of damage. But according to Scripture, they do. They do more damage than anything else.

And then of course, a slanderer has cowardly tendencies. Noticed this passage in Psalm 101:5, it says:

whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.

In other words, a lot of slander is done secretly, apart from the person they’re slandering. They’re doing it with somebody else, somewhere else about that person. And God is saying: No, that is not something I want my people to be involved with. I want my people to learn how to use their tongue and their words in the correct manner, in which they are protecting the character of God and the name of their neighbor.

We also know in Scripture that a slanderer is in the league of fools. This is what Proverbs tells us about the slanderer:

He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool.

But notice the rest of that, it says:

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but the one who restrains his lips is wise.

In other words, if somebody is verbose, if they just never stop talking, sin is unavoidable. You get that, right? It is hard to be around somebody who never stops talking. It’s annoying in the first place, but it also will lead to sin. You cannot avoid rattling out words from your mouth without thought and intention and expect to have a good result.

See, a slanderer has a character in line with the devil. When you slander, you act the part of the devil. Satan has always been a liar and accuser and a slander of the brethren. It says in John 8: he’s been a liar since the beginning. He’s good at it. And he can make a lie sound like the truth. So people who practice that kind of language will actually get very good at it. It’s very hard to detect when somebody is lying to you, or someone is being deceptive with you. Again, a puritan minister rightly perceived: he that raises slander has the devil in his tongue, and he who receives slander carries the devil in his ears.

Proverbs further exposes the tongue as not only being capable of good (it is), but is of course capable of being evil. The deceitful person’s mouth is, once again, laid bare in the book of Proverbs. Right there in the Old Testament, turn to Proverbs 6 and look at just a few verses there, and then I want you to turn over the 1 Kings 21. I want to look at an example of when somebody uses deception to actually go against their neighbor, and what kind of language the Bible uses to do that. Proverbs 6:12 says:

A worthless person, a wicked man, is one who walks with a false mouth,

And then noticed where it uses the word worthless, it’s actually the Hebrew word Belial. It means good for nothing, unprofitable. And of course it even includes the word wicked, a wicked man, literally, a man of Belial or a man of badness. This is not a good person by any means, but someone here who is empty of all truth and empty of all goodness, righteousness, and justice. There’s nothing more that betrays the crookedness of a person than their speech. Now look down at Proverbs 6:14 and it says:

Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, who spreads strife.

In other words, there’s nothing good about the intentions of this person. This kind of person is a scoundrel, one of Belial. That’s what the word worthless means. This is the devil himself. Who has a false mouth? The devil has a false mouth. This is where the apostle Paul picks up the term belial. If you remember, from your New Testament, and refers to Satan with this word. He says this in 2 Corinthians:

Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

This word Belial means actually Lord of the forest, or Lord of the dark places. The word Belial is another name for Satan. It is another name for Satan.

Now take your Bibles and turn over the 1 Kings 21. I want to give you a case study on this whole subject of the worthless person, and how this worthless person uses their words and situations to get their way. Of course, this is the subject or the narrative about Jezebel and Naboth and Jezebel’s husband Ahab. I want you to see how it goes. Look at and 1 kings 21:1-7. Let me read that first. It says:

Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if you like, I will give you the price of it in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” So Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no food. But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you are not eating food?” So he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you a vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

Now how did she go about doing that? Well, look at verses 8-13.

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city. Now she wrote in the letters, saying, “Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people; and seat two worthless men before him,

Now, do you know what the Hebrew word for worthless is there? Belial. Remember, if you want to convicted anybody of something, you have to have two witnesses. Of course, according to Scripture, those two witnesses have to be reliable witnesses, right? Well right here, it’s already telling us that these are not reliable witnesses. Look at verse 10 again:

and seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”

So the men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them, just as it was written in the letters which she had sent them.

Because they thought it was coming from the King. Verse 12:

They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the people. Then the two worthless men came in and sat before him; and the worthless men testified against him, even against Naboth, before the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones.

You see the damage that a false testimony could result in. In this case, a very innocent man who was just doing the right thing before God not giving up his inheritance. He wasn’t even allowed to do that. He had no choice that matter. He couldn’t sell it. He obeyed God and he ends up getting stoned to death because someone got worthless witnesses, two of them, to come against him falsely and charge him of something that was not true, which resulted in his death. That is the power of words. That is the power of words. The result, in this case, was very devastating.

That means that this commandments, just thinking back to Exodus, condemns three things.

It condemns first thing: speaking that which is false. In other words, basic lying with the mouth. Now no one can deny that lying is one of the greatest moral problems of our day. In fact, people do not think lying is a big deal often. It was only a little lie, a pink lie, a white lie, you know. Those kind of things, we add those words to the word lying, and we think that it’s alright. It’s never all right with God, because God is the God of truth. It is doubtful whether anything is more ferocious and does more damage than a lying tongue.

According to the epistle of James, James points out that your tongue tells a lot about who you are. James points out this in James 3:2, it says:

For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

And then he goes on to say in James 3:8:

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

That’s our tongues. Some said that that’s the reason why God put two gates before our tongue: our lips and our teeth. It didn’t hang outside your body. That would probably even be worse.

See, James is saying what we all really know. And it’s this: that the most likely area that any one of us will sin is in the area of speech. That will be the most likely area. That’s why he says in James: listen, if people are going to stumble, they’re going to stumble in their words.

No one can raise their hand this morning (if you can just come talk to me) that you’ve never lied. You never told a fib. You never didn’t just give the whole story. Sometimes, it’s just to make yourself look better. Sometimes you’re preventing yourself from being embarrassed. Or you just couldn’t admit something. We all have been there. We are all in a sinking boat here. We are in a sinking boat.

But thank the Lord, He gives us the information in the Word of God to rescue us. He wants us to speak in a way that is honoring to Him. And so the hardest part of our natures is to control the use of our tongue. That’s going to be the most difficult. I believe the spirit of God has a huge job to sanctify us in the area of using our words in a way that honors him, that is edifying to others, that is is seasoned with salt as it says in the New Testament, that is encouraging to others. Even when we have to rebuke somebody, we sit back, think about how to do it, how to say it in the right way so it actually helps the person and not hinders them.

A second way that this is condemned is: witnessing that which is false. This is more than just talking. This is lying against someone. This is witnessing against someone, actually in two different areas. There is bearing false witness for another. In other word, someone comes and sometimes asks you to lie for somebody, may be a boss. Maybe someone asks you to not tell the truth.

It could also be when we are giving testimony for a person who is a criminal and guilty, and we justify him as if that person was innocent. We kind of say: no that person didn’t do it, when we know the person did it. We don’t want to get involved. Today we have a culture of let’s not get involved. Let’s not say anything. That person is doing what they’re doing. We’re doing what we are doing. But if you see it and you hear it and you’re involved with it, the Bible gives gives this responsibility. If you’re called to be a witness, be a truthful one. Don’t be a silent one. Be a truthful one, and that’s hard to do. There’s nothing easy about it. But notice what Isaiah says here in this passage of Scripture. He says Isaiah 5:23:

Who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!

We can rob somebody of their rights by unjustly taking something to pervert the truth. Or to say something other that someone else wants us to say, and they give us a little money. They grease our palms, so we say what they want. We say: that’s not a big deal. I don’t know the person anyway. No, we can’t do that. You know why? Because everyone’s our neighbor. Everyone’s our neighbor.

Then there’s the second area, and that’s the area of bearing false witness against another person. That is, when we accuse someone in open court falsely. The wisdom literature has something to say about this kind of witness. It says it like this:

Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.

In other words, your words can be just like a club and a sword. You might as well stick me through and hit me in the head with a club and stick me through with a sword, because your words can do just the same thing and sometimes worse, because it’s very hard. You can heal from wounds, physical wounds, but it’s very hard to heal from someone having false accusations against you. Very hard to recover often in a atmosphere that propagates that kind of thinking.

Of course that also leads to this next one. It’s condemned in the area of swearing. Now swearing, of course, is more of a formal type of speaking. It’s under oath. So today, it’s more commonly referred to as perjury. That is giving false evidence in a court of law, lying under oath when you promise to tell the truth. That is what it means. So the Old Testament attaches a very severe command to the sin of lying.

In fact, at this point, I’d like you to take your Bibles and turn to Deuteronomy 19. Let’s look at this section here. It’s talking again about someone who would be a malicious witness that rises up against the man, and then it has to be judged. Somebody has to find out what really happened. So it says in Deuteronomy 19:18:

If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely,

then something’s going to happen. There’s two reasons why a severe penalty is attached to the sin of lying. If you notice in verse 19 of Deuteronomy 19, it’s to first put away the evil influence of the false witness, where it says in verse 19:

then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

A second reason why a severe penalty is connected or attached to the sin of lying is found in verse 20 and 21 of Deuteronomy 19. That’s really to let the punishment serve to show others that it doesn’t pay to break God’s Commandments. Look at what it says in verse 20:

The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

In other words, going back to verse 19, if the person brings an accusation, if you can’t becomes a false witness, whatever he tended the result to be, that would fall on the somebody who was the false witness. In the case of Jezebel, it would happen to her. She was thrown off a ledge, fell to the ground, splattered on the ground, and the dogs ate her. That was the result. Why was that? Because she intended Naboth to die. God says: you’ll die the same way, worse, because of your false witness, because of your lying, because of your manipulation of the facts.

What does the psalmist David say about the character of those who actually dwell on God’s holy hill? This is what he says about it. Notice this passage of Scripture, it says:

O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

Now, isn’t that the kind of person that you would want to have around you? Someone who is honest, someone who is watching out for you, someone who’s not going to slander you to other people, someone who you consider them to be your neighbor and that you are not going to take any reproach against them.

In fact, Proverbs tells us a lying witness is one of the six things that God actually hates. I say it in our membership class. One of the things that God does in our heart is that He sanctifies us. We learn to hate what God hates. Right? One of the things that God hates, well look for yourself. It says this:

There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies,

and one who spreads strife among brothers.

See, that is what God hates. And if God hates it, then we should hate it, to the point that we don’t want to be involved with it. We don’t want to do it. We don’t want to have any part in it. That means you really have to think about what you’re going to say before you say it.

And you have to think about it if someone comes to you with information that’s going to enter into your ear and go into your thoughts. You have to also discipline yourself. You are not going to listen to information about another person that comes to you that is very questionable and you don’t know if it’s true or not. You have no ability to know if that’s true or not. We have to be very careful, not only what we say, but what we hear other people are saying about other people. If we practice this, then you you develop a trustworthy, wholesome environment where things can get done and people can trust each other to know that what they say, they mean. If you say something to me, I’ll believe you. I’ll believe you. And if I say something, you believe me. When we do misspeak, we own up to it. We say: you know, I didn’t say that right. I didn’t communicate that right. This is something we have to do in every area of our life, whether we’re doing business, with our relationship in our family, with our spouses, with husbands, with wives, and husbands, children. Parents of children, the way you speak to them, you’re teaching them how to speak. If you are yelling at them all the time, or if you are bribing them all the time with things, that’s not a good practice, because they’ll learn to do that first. They’ll learn to do that before they learn to do anything good. And they’ll pick it up. Then when they do it, you get mad at them for doing it, but you’ve been teaching them all along. See, be very responsible about what’s going on in our life.

So, there is a principle in the Ninth Commandment. The principles are really related to today. And that relationship that’s related to today, it is simply this from Ephesians 4:15 and 25: if you were in the habit of lying, speak the truth in love.

Lay aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor,

It goes on to say why are we to speak truth with our neighbor, at least in the context of the body of Christ? Because we’re connected to one another. We’re so connected to another. If we’re practicing these things, they affect the whole body.

Now, what are the some of the types of lying? I already mentioned one: perjury. That’s giving false evidence in court of law, lying under oath. But also lying can be communicated in the area of hypocrisy. That’s giving the impression that you are what you are not. Like giving the impression that you are living for the Lord when you are really dragging your heels in Christian things, or masquerading as a Christian when you don’t even care what the Lord thinks, because you don’t even know the Lord. The Lord knows who are his sheep. The Lord’s sheep listen to His voice and follow Him. Not perfectly, but the direction of our life is wanting to honor the Lord.

So hypocrisy is a way that we can lie to people. We can just play act. This is what this person expects from me, and I’m just going to put my chameleon suit on and be what they want me to be. Then I go over here, and I know what to say to them. People know those things. Children pick those things up. They know how to act within certain groups, with certain people. And sometimes you come in the Christian realm, you know how to act as a Christian. You go into the world, then all of a sudden you’re cool and you now act like the world. No, that’s hypocrisy. That’s lying.

Also silence is a way that we lie. It is possible to lie without saying anything, because lying is deceiving and misleading. Let’s suppose you hear someone telling another a falsehood about somebody, but you decide to keep mum rather than get involved. Your silence lets a lie stand. And therefore it becomes a lie itself. So silence is something we have to evaluate also.

Of course, I’ve mentioned already slander. Slander is smiting somebody with your tongue. Slander beheads people. It reports things about others that are unjust.

And then of course, there’s flattery. Bible says nothing good about flattery. Everyone can easily be hooked by flattery. Everyone wants somebody to say good things about them, right? We all do. But it says in proverbs 26:28:

lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

A flatterer has wrong motives about what they want from you in the future. They’re setting you up so they can get something or use you in some way. There are two different ways to define flattery. Flattery can be insincere compliments given to gain favor, or it could be excessive undue phrase to gain an advantage – someone always complimenting you. I’m always weary about people that are always complimenting, because I’m wondering to myself: what do they really want? Because this is going on and on, and I know that I’m not that great. So something’s wrong here. The key to identify flattery in others and yourself is that it is marked by insincerity. It’s not sincere and it’s marked by falsehood.

Then of course, there’s the big one: gossip. That’s such a big one in Scripture, next week i’m doing a whole message on gossiping. Gossiping and tale-bearing – they are both the same thing. The college dictionary defines gossip as idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal and private affairs of others. Yeah, we’re going to look at that next week a little bit more in detail.

I was going to do that today, but there’s so much stuff about this, i’m just going to do a whole message on it. So I’m going to do that next week. It’s an extension of this message.

Just by way of application in concluding, here are some things. Kevin deYoung in his book on the Ten Commandments mentioned some of these things. I’m kind of adapting it for my own use. He says this: listen, there are several things that we can glean from the Ninth Commandment.

Number one is never give false testimony against anyone, ever.

Secondly, never twist someone else’s words. Leaving out certain things when you communicate it again to someone else or adding things that they did not say. Or passing along information with the wrong tone. You can pass along correct information with a tone that tells the other person: you don’t like that person. And that would be just as wrong and deception. Something a Christian should not be practicing. And then of course never gossip or slander, passing along a report or rumor that cannot be substantiated or fact-checked. If you don’t know the facts, don’t say anything. If you don’t know the facts, don’t even get involved.

It says in proverbs 18:17. This is an interesting passages:

The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.

You can come and tell me something, and I say: wow, that seems pretty accurate. And then someone else comes and tells me the rest of the story. Then the rest of the story puts things in confusion or clears things up, or shows one or both parties not telling the whole thing.

Also, never join in condemning anyone rashly or without a hearing – no hypocritical judging. Matthew 7:1, the Bible didn’t say just do not judge. We are to be discerning. It says don’t judge hypocritically. Take the log out of your own eye before you tell somebody about the speck in theirs. That’s what it says. So we are to discern things correctly with investigation, getting the facts, knowing what we’re going to say. Always withhold a final verdict if there is not enough factual information. Always withhold a final verdict.

Also avoid exaggeration. The fishermen love this, don’t they? I caught a 14 incher. Well, it was more like a 10 incher, says the person that was with him. We all do stuff like that. We’ve all been guilty of those kind of things, but we have to be careful that exaggeration is just another way of lying, maybe in a nice way, in a playful theatrical way. Keep the story going type of thing. Don’t embellish things. Just tell it the way it is. And sometimes the way it is is not so exciting. It is not as dramatic, but it’s true. And truth always goes a long way.

I always learned that if you tell the truth, you’ll never have to wonder what you said. If you had to talk to somebody about it more than once. But if you lie, you don’t know what you said over here. When months go by and somebody asks you to say it again, you say: what did I say back then? Unless you have it on tape or you take good notes, you don’t want to do that.

And then one last thing is: always give others the benefit of the doubt. Always give others the benefit of the doubt. One pastor used to say to me: give them the benefit of the doubt and give them a long rope. And if they’re not truthful, they’ll hang themselves. You won’t have to do it for them. It’s true. People will get themselves in their own trouble. Especially if they’re not being upfront about things and open about things.

So give others the benefit of the doubt in your heart before you say one word. You have to remember: a fool is someone who just spews out things. Someone who’s wise knows how does zip the lips before they say another word.

So in conclusion, we have an obligation. We have an obligation in love to protect our neighbor’s good name. Proverbs 22:1 says:

A good name is more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.

It takes a long time to develop a good name. Just one false accusation can destroy you. Like people going on the internet and giving bad comments about your business or about you or about your family or about even your ministry, and saying things that are not true, cannot be substantiated. Once it gets out into cyberspace, how do you undo that? How do you unravel it? Be very careful when you post things on your Facebook and on your Twitter accounts. You make sure that when you post things, they’re true. And some things that are true should never be on Facebook, because you’re protecting your neighbor. You wouldn’t want somebody doing that to you. Why would you do it to somebody else? That only honors the Lord. It’s keeping the Ninth Commandment. That’s what it’s doing. I’m keeping the Ninth Commandment in the spirit because I want to honor my neighbor and protect his good name, protect his honor, protect him, because I love that person in the Lord.

So, that’s this morning’s message. Let’s bow together in a word of prayer. Lord, thank You this morning for the Word of God. I pray, Lord, as we everyday consider these things. I pray, Lord, that You would just impress them upon our heart. And Lord, I pray that You would silence us from any hint of using our tongue to sin. And that, Lord, You would free us from whatever fears we have, so that our words may be sincere and true, based on honest, unselfish motives coupled with a desire to care for my neighbor’s character, integrity, and good name. And I pray this this morning in the precious and holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen.