The Eighth Commandment

The Eighth Commandment declares “You shall not witness against your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 5:20

There are many ways we can bear false witness against someone. Most people understand the importance of telling the truth in a court of law, and the consequences that may occur if they do not. However, we do not have to be in a courtroom to be concerned about whether we are living according to the Eighth Commandment. We can violate this commandment everyday in ordinary conversations with our family and friends. By gossiping and perpetuating rumors, we can ruin another’s reputation. In addition, we are not honest with others if we flatter them or if we just plain lie to them about something. We tend to lie because we want to hide something, mislead others, or avoid the consequences of our actions. While it may be tempting to be dishonest in the short-term, lying can cause long-term damage. Not only does it ruin one’s relationships with others, it destroys the liar’s soul and reputation for the truth.

What do the Scriptures tell us about God, His Word and truth? Notice what several verses tell us: “Every word of God is pure…” Proverbs 30:5. Daniel refers to God's Word as “the Scripture of Truth.” Daniel 10:21. Jesus Christ said of God the Father, “Your word is truth.” John 17:17


The Bible throughout teaches that “God is not a man, that he should lie.” Numbers 23:19. It explains that “the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.” (Psalms 33:4) because He is a “God of truth.” Deuteronomy 32:4. And “His truth endures to all generations.” Psalms 100:5


As the source of truth, God requires that His servants always speak truthfully. Under God's inspiration, King David writes, “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow-man … and who keeps his oath even when it hurts.” Psalms 15:1-3. God expects truth to permeate every facet of our lives.


Christ and the truth as a universal way of life will be a priority when Jesus Christ returns to establish His rule. 3Thus says the LORD, “I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.” Zechariah 8:3


Looking forward to Christ's rule in the Kingdom of God, Psalms 85 reveals the emphasis God will place on righteousness and truth. “ 8 Show us, LORD, your love; grant us your salvation. 9 I will listen for the word of God; surely the LORD will proclaim peace To his people, to the faithful, to those who trust in him.10 Near indeed is salvation for the loyal; prosperity will fill our land. 11 Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss. 12 Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven. 13 The LORD will surely grant abundance; our land will yield its increase. 14 Prosperity will march before the Lord, and good fortune will follow behind. Psalms 85:9-14. At that time Jesus Christ will insist that all of mankind follow His footsteps in accepting, believing and speaking the truth.


Truth in our relationship with Christ. Our personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ begins with our acceptance of and surrender to God's Word as truth. 13 “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, 14which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14


When Jesus stood trial just before His crucifixion, the Roman governor Pilate asked Christ if He were truly a king. Jesus responded by summarizing His mission and noting who would respond to His message, 37 “So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." John 18:37


Jesus Christ's character was and is a perfect reflection of the character of our heavenly Father, the God of truth. In response to a question from one of His disciples, Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6.


To be disciples of Jesus Christ we must resolve to consistently speak the truth demonstrating the sincerity of our love for others. We must also accept and obey, as “the way of truth,” the Commandments and teachings of God (Psalms 119:30, 151, 160).


Lying abounds. It is almost impossible nowadays to be certain who if anyone is telling the truth. Almost everyone tries to balance the risk of being caught against the perceived benefits of lying. Some businesses display amazing creativity in camouflaging deceit when they advertise their products. Almost everywhere we can spot individuals, businesses and other organizations involved in a sophisticated game of seeing how deceptive they can be without attracting lawsuits or alienating potential customers.


Lying is an accepted way of life. Our world is accurately described by Isaiah's description of ancient Israel: “None call for justice, nor any plead for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.”


Then as now, people routinely inject deceit into their relationships, personal, social, political, religious and economic. The dearth of honesty is so widely accepted that public censure no longer even discourages lying. That demand must come from within.


Just how important is being truthful to you? Is lying repulsive to you? These questions are crucial. You need to ask and answer them truthfully to yourself.


Temptations to lie never cease. They are always present. Lying is such a quick and effortless way to gain an advantage over others. It appears to offer easy and swift escape from embarrassment, fear and guilt. But the Bible says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who are truthful are his delight.” Proverbs 12:22


We face a fundamental choice. We follow God's example of truthfulness and honesty in our actions and communications or we follow the example of the originator of lying, Satan. Jesus tells us that the devil is a liar and the father of lies. “You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44. He deceived Eve then she talked Adam into partaking of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-6, 17). This act of disobedience brought suffering and death on our first parents. The devil has relentlessly misinformed and misled people ever since. Satan's malicious influence is so great that he deceives the whole world. “The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.” Revelation 12:9. It is all too easy for us to follow his example in our dealings with others and especially when lying is so commonly practiced all around us.


Human nature is deceitful. Learning to be firmly and consistently truthful requires self discipline and courage and in our firmness and consistency we must rely on help from God. We often find ourselves doing things that we know are wrong.


God understands our nature and reveals how to combat it. Jesus explained that even though we may be willing to obey our flesh is weak (Mark 14:38). We lack the resolve and strength to resist temptation. God through the pen of the apostle Paul explains the cause of and solution to this universal human problem. Citing himself as an example, Paul described the timeless human struggle, 14 “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin.

15 What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” Romans 7:14-15


We can relate to Paul. We have experienced the same frustration and remorse. Paul continues: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 22 “For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, 23 but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Romans 7:22-24. Paul had learned that people need help to rise above the weaknesses of human nature.


The apostle Peter denied Jesus Christ and even lied on the night of His betrayal about being acquainted with Him (Matthew 26:69-74). Like Peter, most people find it almost impossible to abandon all forms of deceit until they surrender their lives to God and begin sincerely seeking His help. That help is readily available, 13 “For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.” Philippians 2:13. We must ask for that help.


We have at hand the solution to this pervasive and insidious human weakness. Paul urged Church with members in Ephesus to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” By 24 “and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth. 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Ephesians 4:24-25


Those who willingly believe and obey the truth of God can by being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit become members of the Church that Jesus Christ built. He refers to them as the “light of the world.” Matthew 5:14. They represent “the way of truth.” 2 Peter 2:2. Paul calls God's Church “the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15. Its members are the servants of “the living and true God.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9. By “rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15), it is commissioned by Christ to preach “the truth of the gospel” to all the world (Galatians 2:5; Matthew 24:14; 28:19).


Everything in the life of a Christian is anchored to truth. God wants us as His children to commit ourselves to truth and reflect it in everything we do. That is why God commands us: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16

The Eighth Commandment invites us to truthful living. It liberates us from lying and deceit. When regard for the truth declines, it calls everything into question and breaks down families, associations, and communities. Truth is essential to trust.

You shall not bear dishonest witness against your neighbor. (Deuteronomy 5:20)  It is important to realize that this commandment is calling us to do more than just “tell the truth.” We must speak the truth in the context of love.  Living a life of truth is one of the ways we love others and become closer to God and his promise of the eternal life.