“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)
People talk about white lies, black lies and bald face lies. We can lie by telling part of the truth or by quoting the truth out of context. The spirit of this commandment cuts across all of that and prohibits our bearing a false witness or impression no matter how we do that.
In 1954 while I was driving a car filled with high school young people returning from a mountain retreat in California, a plainclothes policeman pulled me over for violating several moving violations. I knew that I already had so many citations for speeding this one would cost me my license and my job as a youth pastor.
While the policeman was writing up my ticket he paused for what seemed like forever. He then told me what I deserved but said he was going to let me off with a warning for only one reason: he knew my father. My father had never been in California so I realized he thought he knew my father. I responded by saying, “My father is a great man!”
I had a great discussion on ethics with those young people as we continued our trip home. Because I had not deliberately created the false impression of the policemen, did I break the ninth commandment when I made a true statement about my father? If I had said nothing would I have broken this law of God?
What do you think? What would you do if you were faced with similar circumstances? How many ways can we bear a false witness? Jesus answered that question when He used one of His favorite words: hypocrite!