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Apr 30, 2023

The Pinocchio Prohibition

Passage: Deuteronomy 5:20

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Deuteronomy

Keywords: truth, judgment, speech, lying


The 9th Commandment is one of the farthest reaching and relationally important commandments of all Ten. This message helps us see why, how massively it is violated in our culture today and what we as Christ-followers can do to not fall prey to this sin.


The Pinocchio Prohibition

Commandment #9—Deuteronomy 5:20

INTRO:  How many of us loved the story of Pinocchio when we were children?  I’m guessing not a lot.  Besides being a bit creepy with puppets coming to life and whales swallowing people, I think there was just a bit of a natural aversion to the idea that our nose would grow if we told a lie, right?  After all, is there anyone in this room who didn’t tell a single lie of any kind as a child?  (If there is, we’re going to require parental verification before we accept your claim.)

            Today we’re finishing up our series in Deuteronomy with the 9th Commandment.  RECAP:

  • Purpose of these/all God’s Law: not to restore us to right relationship with God by showing us how to earn God’s favor.  Getting right with God has always been about the sacrificial system that demanded faith in God, not oneself.  The Law of God was given us to…
    • Reflect the nature of God, i.e. help us know what God is like.
    • Convict every human of their sinfulness and need of saving from sin by a divine Savior, the Christ.
    • Provide the essential elements for a successful life and society.
  • So, speaking specifically of the 10 Commandments, every one of them reveals something about the nature of God. Every one of them has the power to convict us of our sin and lead us to the Savior of the world, Jesus.  And every one of them, if obeyed, will lead to a better personal life and a better society

In that regard, perhaps none of the 10 Commandments does all of that more powerfully than the 9th Commandment:  You shall not bear false witness against your brother (Exodus 20:16; Deut. 5:20).

How we will tackle this today:

  1. To WHAT does this command refer?
  2. HOW are we seeing this command violated today?
  3. WHAT are some of the consequences we experience when we break this command?
  4. WHAT must we do as Christ-followers to obey this command?

#1.  To WHAT does this command refer?

  • Most directly and narrowly: not lying about, withholding information about or saying anything untrue about anyone when called to testify or give a report about them.  Clearly this applies to court proceedings, letters of reference or recommendations we’re asked to give…anything where we are called to talk about someone else
  • More broadly: But if God had meant for it only to apply to a court of law, He would have added “in a court of law.”  Clearly, as far as God’s word is concerned, “bearing false witness against” someone encompasses anything we say (or even don’t say) TO or ABOUT someone that is false, not true or deceptive.
    • Restatement of this law in 19:11--“You shall not steal [the 8th Commandment]; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another,” [the 9th Commandment].
    • The T. reenforces this command in
      Colossians 3:9—"Donot lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.

So, what does this command reveal about God’s nature.  The Bible clearly teaches that lying is never a part of God or his nature and that truth always is his nature. 

  • Paul tells us in Titus 1:2 that we serve the God “who never” Why?  Because He IS truth and therefore the ground of all truth in this universe.  (Jn. 14:6—Jesus told us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”)  The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Jn. 4:6 & 5:6)

Lying in any form is wrong because God, in whose image we are made, never lies.  He is Truth itself.  He cannot lie.  And He knows that when we do, we damage ourselves and others because we are made in His image to reflect Him, not the evil of Satan’s nature.  This is also why Jesus says what he says in John 8:44 speaking about the nature and activity of Satan, the one being in the universe utterly and completely anti-God.  “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  God is the antitheses of that.  

            So, if you hate God, you will hate truth and truth-speaking.  But if you love God, knowing what the truth is and speaking that truth about everyone from God to yourself will be your passion.  And it will be the place of blessing, too.

#2. WHERE & HOW are we seeing this command violated today?  In short, everywhere and in virtually everything.  But let’s think about some specific places and ways people are violating this commandment.

  1. In business: On the employee’s side…
    1. Absenteeism—not showing up for work when you should due to non-excused issues. Effectively lying to our employer.  Absenteeism refers to an employee's habitual absence from work—usually intentional and without any good reason. It goes beyond any absences related to things like occasional sickness, vacations, and other personal time:  unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,660 each year for salaried employees.”  [Found at https://www.investopedia.com/articles/ personal-finance/070513/causes-and-costs-absenteeism.asp]  So, lack of truthfulness in business leads hundreds of millions of people annually to violate the 8th commandment, “Do not steal.”
    2. Lost Productivity (either passively or actively): Employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, according to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report. That's equal to 11% of global GDP. [Found at https://www.gallup.com/ workplace/393497/world-trillion-workplace-problem.aspx]   A McKinsey Global Institute report revealed that the average employee spends just 39 percent of their day accomplishing role-specific tasks, i.e. doing their job! [https://bloomfire.com/blog/lost-productivity/]
    3. On the employer’s side…False advertising: [2 slides
      1. “Fresh Onions”??? Lucky Cigs??? Climbing Rope???
      2. False claims about life:
  • Disneyland—The happiest place on earth???
  • De Beers Diamonds—Diamonds are forever???
  • Hallmark—When you care enough to give the very best???
  1. In politics: way too many people, some Christians included, are peddling the lie that politics, political parties or political positions can create a sort of eutopia, a heaven-on-earth.  Many non-Christians are believing lies when they peddle Marxism, fascism and socialism.  The problem with those latter political systems is that in the last 100 years, lies about what they can and will deliver have caused the intentional and premature death of over 100 million human beings.  Yet less than 1/3rd of Americans (30%) today have any idea how many millions of lives Marxism has cost the world.  NOTE:  Isn’t it interesting that the state-run newspaper of Marxists Russia was named Pravda.  Know what the means in Russian?  “Truth”!  Anytime a government claims to be THE truth, watch out!  You can be sure it isn’t!

Not all political systems are created equal and some are factually, historically and demonstrably inferior.  Those that are that way consistently bring greater suffering and misery to more people than those political systems that recognize biblical teachings on God, man, work, love, law and the like.  Yet today, 42% of 18-24 year olds think socialism is the best political system (while only 1/3rd of them had close to an accurate definition of what socialism actually is).

  1. In economics: lies that declare that economic systems that violate biblical law and wisdom are superior to what God calls for in economics.  Genuinely free market economies were designed to be rooted in Judeo-Christian worldview.  Historically, they have brough THE greatest economic progress and blessing to more people than any other economic system in history.  Why?  Because Judeo-Christian free-market industry recognizes some basic biblical TRUTHS about…

a.) the biblically understood nature of man as created to work productively but also now fallen, looking out for/ working hard for his own self-interests (be that the false god of wealth or materialism OR the true God who calls us to care for our families, steward the earth, be productive and pass along blessing to others.

b.) the biblically expressed nature of freedom as being free to do as much good for others as possible rather than do whatever you want regardless of how it may affect another human being.

I say all this, not to advocate for any one political or scientific or educational or economic system but to advocate for TRUTH.  Of course, this brings us to the questions of “What is truth?”  For the follower of Jesus, that drives us right back to God and His Word

  1. In EDUCATION: Wherever lies are being told about God, people and life in the educational environment, we are breaking the 9th  Those lies are not limited to ‘secular education.’  Most of the previous lies I referred to can be found in most schools today.  But let me pick some “low-hanging fruit” as examples in the educational arena.
    1. Lies about the role of parents: that parents don’t have the primary responsibility to educate their children, schools do.  That parents don’t have the primary responsibility to determine who and what is taught to their children.  That children are as wise as their parents and their desires should trump the desires, wishes and wisdom of their parents.  Those are all lies you will find in the vast majority of K-12, college and post-college government schools as well as many private schools & colleges.
    2. Lies about the nature of people: that gender is fluid, that one sexual practice is as good as the next, that humans are basically good, that freedom to do what I want to do should be absolute, that people are less valuable depending on their age, location, abilities and disabilities, productivity and usefulness to society.
    3. Lies about the nature and function of science itself: Function = to discover and properly utilize as much knowledge as possible.  That is accomplished through the scientific method (the construction and testing of scientific hypothesis).  Lies about science from science might include…
      1. that macro evolution is a settled fact.
      2. that climate change is completely within human control.
  • that science can or will be able to explain everything we need to know to flourish as human beings.

Virtually everywhere we turn today, lies are being mixed with truth.

  1. Finally, we must be honest about lying that happens in the church. I’ve saved this for the last, not because it is the least frequent or damaging but because it is THE most damaging and way too frequent.  Lying in the church has sadly been resident from the first days of the church.
  • Acts 5—Ananias & Saphira lied to the Holy Spirit first and then the church leaders.
  • The Judaizers lied to non-Jews and new converts in the early church, telling them they must keep the Law if they had a prayer of eternal life.
  • Hypocrisy, where ever it is found, is lying in the church. And I doubt that there is any one of us who has not been hypocritical at some or many points in our spiritual journey.  We all like to project and present an image of being or doing better than we actually are.  Preachers, pastors, priests—we’re all especially vulnerable to this form of lying.  We don’t want you to know that we’re worse sinners than most of you because we actually know more about what God wants and don’t measure up to our knowledge nearly like we should or want to. 

God actually has quite a bit in His Word to say about lying in the family of God.  Dozens of times in the O.T., the true O.T. prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke in the name of the Lord against the false prophets who led God’s people astray or told them God was going to protect and bless them when God was about to drop the hammer of judgment for their spiritual adultery and idolatry.  (See Is. 9:5; Jer. 5:31, 14:14, 20:6, 23:14, 25,32; 27:14-16; 29:9, 21,23,31; Ezekiel 13:19; Zech. 10:2) 

APP:  This is a clear message to the American church today, tempted to avoid tough biblical teachings in order to avoid criticism or persecution from the culture.  God’s servants are obligated to bring the truth of God’s blessings as well as His discipline.  Failure to do so is lying, not just omission of truth. 

Now let’s move to our 3rd question:  WHAT are some of the consequences we experience when we break the 9th command?

  1. Lack of truthfulness damages personal relationships.  This is so evidently true that I hesitate to take time to talk about it.  Every one of us in this room knows that when we’re lied to, trust dies, distrust blossoms, hurt increases, joy and happiness decline.  Whether it’s lying that happens with a marital affair or with a hidden addiction or with a simple “shading of the truth” about anything, lying always damages personal relationships. 

ILL:  My one rule in premarital mentoring:  be 100% honest with us.  We usually won’t know the difference.  But even if you shade the truth to us, even if your partner doesn’t know it’s a lie in the moment, they will find out and that lie to us will damage the trust in your marriage. 

  1. Lying does irreparable damage to those you lie to and about.
    1. Lying about someone in COURT: some of you have experienced the effects of those lies and it’s cost you years in prison, years of hardship once out of prison and untold personal harm…all because someone didn’t keep this command.  See movie Just Mercy.
    2. Lying to YOURSELF: this is not one most of us think of when we think about the cost of lying.  But my guess is that many people engage in this kind of lying more often than most forms.  In what ways and how often do we find ourselves telling ourselves lies about ourselves, about what is really important in life, about our worth to God and others, about where life is really to be found, etc?  We can lie to ourselves about sin and tell ourselves we haven’t sinned when we have.  1 John1:6-- If we say we have fellowship with him [God] while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

Then there is the other side of lying to ourselves—telling ourselves we are worse than God says we are.  Oh, in the moment, we may think we’re speaking truth to our discouraged or depressed self.  But when we’ve recovered perspective, we all know we weren’t telling ourselves the truth, certainly at least the whole truth and “nothing but the truth.”  Lying to ourselves is a well-traveled road with ditches on both sides—one that tells ourselves we’re better than we are and the other that denies what we are in Christ.

(Recommend Search for Significance and Bondage Breaker for those wanting truth about themselves and God’s work in their lives to dominate.)

  1. Lying corrupts a whole nation. Proverbs 29:12 says, “If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked.”  We’re all feeling this in spades these days.  Has your trust in government or medicine or business or media gone UP in the past 3 years?  More and more leaders/ officials in every arena of life are listening to falsehoods.  The result is that more and more people around them are turning to lying to achieve what they value.  The social fabric of basic trust is being ripped and torn because of lying.  A nation, a culture, even a city cannot survive if it lives on lies.  The God of truth will not be mocked; whatever we sow we will reap. 
  2. Lying, particularly lies about God, corrupts a culture. Romans 1:18-- For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools….”  The result24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!”  I heard the statistic last week that 25% of Gen-Z considers themselves LGBTQ+ today, 1 in 4.  What was that statistic 20 years ago?  2-3%.  We cannot lie to ourselves about God and not do tremendous damage to ourselves.  The fact that our culture utterly rejects that the LGBTQ lifestyle is in any way damaging or has worse outcomes than either celibate singleness or monogamous heterosexual marriage is a form of further lying.  Study after study on LGBTQ+ lifestyles reveals inferior outcomes for everything from medical to mental health not to mention spiritual health.

  1. Lying brings judgment on ourselves. Proverbs 19:5—A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
  2. Lastly major question: WHAT must we do as Christ-followers to obey this command?
  3. We must know the truth and love it! The easiest form of the truth for each of us to know is what we’ve experienced, seen or heard; truth about eyewitness 
    1. What’s the truth about a robbery if you were the bank teller on duty?
    2. What’s the truth about an accident you witnessed follow the car that got hit?

But knowing the truth about people and life is not always self-evident.

ILL:  If you observe me coming out of a night club at 11:30 p.m. downtown with a mid-thirties aged woman, what is the truth about what I’m doing and who I am?  (The only truth you know is that I was coming out of a bar at 11:30 along with a mid-30s something woman.  You can draw lots of possible conclusions about that.  But until you find out more, you may not know that the woman was my daughter and we were there to listen to Andrew perform jazz that night.) 

But so often what we think we “know” as “truth” about someone is even harder to figure out than that—their motives, their intent, their attitude, their thoughts, the meaning of their words, character, etc.  Knowing the truth about other people takes hard work.  If we want to speak truth about our neighbor, no matter how much we disagree with them or perceive ourselves to be different, we must spend time actually getting to know them.   

  • Knowing absolute truth about God and life, truth that we intend to govern our own lives and pass along to those we love, can only be found by knowing God and His Word. This is why we read and study God’s Word daily and weekly. This is why we listen to teachers and preachers and compare their teaching with God’s word.  This is why we seek the counsel of wise, godly, mature, more seasoned saints in the church.  We cannot hope to be people who speak truth and avoid lies if we are not people who personally and transformationally know the God of Truth. 
  • Loving the Truth:

Zechariah 8:19—“Therefore, love truth!” That is as simple as loving the One who is “the Truth”, Jesus.  The best antidote against lying is being in love with the Truth. 

John 1:17—“For the law was given through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  The Law was truth too.  But that winning balance of truth and grace only finds us in Jesus himself. 

  1. We must practice repentance when we have lied. People who love truth value it more than covering up their embarrassment when they find they have not been truthful.  The know that the blessings of truthfulness far outweigh the embarrassment of being caught living or saying a lie.  Living IN repentance on a daily, moment-by-moment basis will lead us to be honest with God, honest with ourselves and honest with everyone around us. 
  2. Learn the discipline of We don’t have to say every truth we know.  Jesus was asked a number of questions when he was tried that he knew the truth about.  But he chose silence rather than speaking truth that would only further condemn guilty people.  He chose silence to show us that you don’t have to answer every question someone asks.  You may suffer for being silent, but at least it will be suffering for good, not for saying something that is a lie. 
  3. The flip side of practicing silence is bearing true witness to what Christ has commissioned us to speak about—Him. Jesus told us to bear “witnesses” in this world to the only truth that will set people free rather than leave them condemned. 
  • Acts 1:8 --“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
  • Nearly a dozen times the book of Acts talks about God’s people, the church, being true witnesses to what they had experienced of Jesus life, death and resurrection. Acts 3:15—“…and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”  (See also Acts 2:32, 5:32, 10:39, 41; 13:31; 22:15; 26:15.)  It is not enough to simply not speak false things to others.  As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to bear verbal witnesses to the truth we know that can rescue sinners from eternal condemnation. 
  1. When we speak, we must speak only what we know to be true. In studying this command this week, I’ve wondered, “How much of what I say about and to other people do I really know is absolutely true?”  Opinions may or may not be true.  Preferences, likes and dislikes may or may not be true.  Even my beliefs about many things or people may or may not be true.  I can, in the course of a day, “bear false witness” about somebody or something SO easily.  My knowledge is limited.  My wisdom is far from full.  My judgment is clouded.  That is why I need to hang out more with the God of truth.  That’s why I need to live more in the Word of Truth.  Doing both of those things will make me a man who speaks fewer lies about others and life itself. 
  2. Lastly, I must value truth more than life itself. One of the best books I’ve read this past year is Live Not by Lies.  The title comes from a line in one of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s writings.  Solzhenitsyn, a Christian man who live 9 years in the Russian Gulag, calls people not to cave to the coercive demands that communism made on people to “live by lies.” 

EX:  The lie of atheism.  Everyone was told to be atheists, that God did not exist, that if you were a god-fearing person you would not get jobs or promotions or higher education, etc.  So people who didn’t really believe in atheism played the part, stopped going to church and started attending the Communist Party meetings, gave up their Bibles for Marxist writings, etc.

EX:  Movie A Hidden Life—about an Austrian farmer husband and father of 2 girls who refused to swear allegiance to Hitler, refused to simply sign a piece of paper just months before the war’s end that said he had been in error about Nazism.  He was beheaded, leaving his wife, mother and 2 daughters to survive alone in an Austrian village hostile to his conviction about the truth.  He was a man who refused to live by lies.

Contemporary examples:

  • Say that a male can become a woman and a female can become a man. Allowing clear lies to persist and be peddled unopposed is to “live by lies.” We are valuing some form of life more than we are valuing truth.
  • While I was reading this book, Sandy and I were traveling somewhere by air. As we were waiting like cattle in the gangway, I was looking at the company signs and slogans on the wall.  One of them was a picture of a woman wearing the Covid mask.  It said something like, “Wear your mask.  We can see your smile.”  Now, I don’t care what you think of masking or non-masking.  That is simply a lie.  You cannot see my smile when I’m masked.  But this is a company telling everyone to believe a lie so we’ll all conform to the latest government mandate.  The truth would have been, “Wear your mask because the FAA says so.” 

CLOSE:  Obedience Questions for the 9th Commandment

  1. What am I doing to daily know and love the TRUTH? (Do you need to start by acknowledging Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior and Lord, God himself?)
  2. Am I practicing humble repentance when I realize I’ve lied?
  3. What am I doing to learn the discipline of silence rather than always responding?
  4. Am I being a true witness to the Gospel of Christ?
  5. Am I really only speaking what I know to be true, especially about people?
  6. Am I following in the footsteps of Jesus—valuing truth more than life itself and refusing to “live by lies”?