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Catechism Class: Lord’s Day 43 Lying and Deceit.


Telling lies – is it a sin?

Text. Psalm 15.

Catechism Q.112. What is required in the ninth commandment?  A: I must not give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard.  Rather, I must avoid all lying and deceit as the devil’s own works, under penalty of God’s heavy wrath. In court and everywhere else, I must love the truth, speak and confess it honestly, and do what I can to defend and promote my neighbour’s honour and reputation. 

In Q112 the Catechist discusses a real flaw in our fallen human nature, – our innate impulse to tell lies.  He is expanding and explaining the words of the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”  I mean who would do that?  The answer is simple! ME! And you.  And if you say that you wouldn’t ever bear false witness against your neighbour, you are a liar! 

Image by tswedensky from Pixabay

So, let’s look at the commandment, and the catechist’s teaching about it:-

1 The Human Tendency to Lie.

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So, we all do it.  It’s not something we need to learn, – it’s not learned behaviour, like foul language.   So, why is telling lies our personal ‘original sin?’  Let’s see…

  • The Ubiquity of Lies.  Lying is ubiquitous.  It is everywhere.  Look at the examples of lying that the catechist gives us here in Q112, and just ask yourself if any of these are vices that I’ve been involved in:-
    • Giving false testimony.  Bering false witness is primarily a legal misdemeanour.  To say something that is true about someone else, in an effort to convince others to adopt that same view of those people you you yourself have.  ‘I don’t like him, – so I’m going to speak ill of him to convince others not to like him too.’  And of course it can go further than that – reporting someone to the police for something they haven’t done, ruining people’s lives with false allegations.
    • Twisting someone’s words.  He said…. She said… – but did they?  Or was there a context in which they said something that actually makes the statement mean something entirely different?  
    • Gossiping and Slander.   Heard something slanderous about someone, and just can’t wait to tell it to someone?   Sadly this is endemic among Christians.   It’s sin!  
    • Condemning someone, without hearing their side of the story.  There’s a principle in law, that a person is innocent until proven guilty.  It’s a biblical principle, based on Judaeo-Christian principles. Everyone has the right to defend themselves, to tell their side of the story.  If we hear a rumour about a brother, or a neighbour, and that rumour is unsubstantiated, we cannot believe it ad condemn them without allowing a right of reply and defence.   Even joining in in such activity is sin.
  • The Origin of Lies.  The Catechist leaves us in no doubt about this when he brands, all lying and deceit as the devil’s own works.  Lies only come from one source, and that is the devil himself, who is the Father of Lies.  In John 8:44, Jesus warned the Jews about whose children they really are.  It was the Devil who told the very first lie, back in the Garden of Eden, when he told lies to Eve to deceive her into thinking that if she disobeyed God she would be like God.  From that day on, lies have been part of our fallen human nature.  Romans 1:28–32  
  • The Penalty of Lies. Again our instructor pulls no punches. Lies fall ‘under penalty of God’s heavy wrath.’  Just HOW heavy is well illustrated in Revelation 21:8   Lies, – actually JUST ONE LIE, in your whole life is enough to bring down the wrath of God upon the sinner, and condemn that sinner, under the penalty of the broken law, to the Lake of Fire for all eternity.  

One serious question though.  Is there ever such a thing as a ‘JUST LIE?’ Consider the story of Rahab in Joshua, who lied to the soldiers of Jericho to help the spies of Israel.  Joshua 6:17 describes how Rahab is rewarded by God for that act. It’s important to note that Rahab is not rewarded for her lies, but rewarded for hiding the spies.  Rahab is then mentioned as one of the human ancestors of Jesus in Matthew’s genealogy (Matthew 1:5) and is commended later in the New Testament,  Hebrews 11:31 James 2:25.  So, was Rahab justified in telling lies to the men of Jericho, in order that a greater good may prevail?  YOU will have to decide!  

2 The Ideal Christian CharacterPsalm 15.

NONE of us are perfect.  We are sinners until the day we die, and we struggle with our temptation to sin, and the temptation to ‘tell a wee white lie’ can be enormous.  The catechist gives us a metric that will help us to weigh up our own speech and witness, and repent when we fall short.  The ‘target’ for every Christian believer is to:-

  • Avoid all lying and deceit.  I must avoid all lying and deceit.  This is presented by the catechist as the opposite behaviour to what we have already discussed.  A summary of Christian character that is radically different from the character of the ungodly, unconcerned unbeliever. The Christian will not give false testimony against anyone, will twist no one’s words, will not gossip or slander, will not condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard.  He or she will avoid ALL lying and deceit.  
  • Love the TRUTH.  Now, here we get to the core of the Christian character.  The Christian loves the truth because he or she has been brought into a saving relationship with the God who alone is Truth, and from whom all truth derives  1 Corinthians 13:6  This marks out the Christian as different from everyone else. cf Romans 1:24-25    
  • Speak with honesty. But it’s not enough for a Christian to understand the truth, believe the truth, even fervently believe the truth, and accept it as a personal way of life.  The Christian is obliged to SPEAK AND CONFESS the truth.  The believer MUST speak up.   Ephesians 4:25   The Catechist illustrates this with a reference to the seriousness of perjury under oath.  That same sense of awe, of judicial scrutiny should accompany every word I say in every situation.   
  • Think and speak good of others.  1 Peter 3:8-12   

So, what have we learned from the Catechist?  We are all sinners, whose hearts are our worst enemy.  They are corrupted by sin, the sin that flows from the disobedience of our first parents, who were deceived by the Father of all Lies himself.  But the Christian who has been forgiven, who loved the Lord Jesus, has a new nature, and loathes the sin that besets him or her.  He or she will want to live to please the Lord, by long the Truth, speaking the truth, being kind and truthful to others…. When he falls short, as he or she inevitably will, we have the assurance, that when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

© BobMcEvoy November 2020

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