You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exod. 20:16; Deut. 5:20)
The ninth commandment prohibits lying. However, there are two questions that need to be answered here when we discuss the ninth commandment. First, is it always a sin to lie? Secondly, does the ninth commandment strictly forbid lying about other people, bearing false witness against your neighbor? Is it permissible to lie about oneself, to embellish our past or our talents?
For the first question: it is always a sin to not tell the truth. Christians sometimes argue over this because of certain examples we see in the Bible. For example, there is Rahab who lied about the spies and then is listed in the ‘Hall of Faith’ in Hebrews 11 (Josh. 2:4-5; Heb. 11:31). We also see God putting a lying spirit into the mouths of the false prophets (1 Kings 22:23). However, we first need to understand that God operates on a level that is beyond our comprehension—God is transcendent. This is not to say that it is a sin for us to lie, but not for God to cause people to lie; i.e., the false prophets. It is to say that this is the same God who allowed Satan to commit great evil on Job (chap. 1-2). God does not commit evil but does use evil for his glory and toward a good end. As for Rahab, she is praised in Hebrews 11 for helping the spies, not for her method. Nevertheless, there are tines when lying is a necessary evil. For example, the Christian hiding Jews in his basement in Nazi Germany and then telling the authorities he has not seen any Jewish people. The choice is between telling the truth and allowing this Jewish family to be murdered or lying and preserving their lives. The latter is certainly the more Christian thing to do. Nevertheless, the lie would still be a sin, but not an unpardonable sin and certainly the lesser evil.
Secondly, does the ninth commandment strictly forbid lying about other people, bearing false witness against your neighbor? Thus, is it permissible to lie about oneself? While the ninth commandment does not expressly forbid lying about oneself, to do so would be a violation of the first and tenth commandments. To lie about yourself is to portray yourself as something or someone you are not which is to make yourself into a god. It is to say we desire that others think more highly of ourselves than they otherwise would, and it is to say we are not happy with how God has made us. We are not happy with the past or talents or possessions God has given us. Thus, to lie about ourselves is selfish, self-serving, and is driven by covetousness—the desire to be something or someone we are not. Besides that, the New Testament makes clear that “having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). God’s people are always to speak the truth.
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