“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (Ex. 20:16).”
A Jewish Rabbi, known by the community as a friendly and trustworthy man, lived in a small town for a number of years. He was highly involved in service projects and volunteered his time to make the town a safe and positive environment. One day, a visitor came to the town. He began telling negative stories about the Rabbi, calling him a liar, an egotistical jerk, and a fraud. The community started to believe this visitor and cut off their contact with the Rabbi.
A couple years later, the visitor felt bad for what he had done and admitted that the rumors were untrue. He asked the Rabbi, “What can I do to make up for this?” The Rabbi said, “Take this pillowcase, go to the middle of the forest, cut it open, and throw out every piece of feather to the ground.” The man was confused but went ahead and agreed. Then the man said, “Is there anything else?” Yes, the Rabbi stated. ” Now, collect every piece of feather from the ground and put it back in the pillowcase.” The man responded, “That’s impossible!” The Rabbi immediately exclaimed, “That’s exactly my point. You can’t undo the havoc that has been done.”
Unfortunately, stories like these are commonplace. They happen in all cultures, regardless of ethnic background, religious affiliation, or socioeconomic status. Based on Scripture, there are two aspects to lying and gossip. 1.) Saying anything that is untrue or 2.) Not saying all that is true. Which mode of lying are you more tempted by?
Here are 3 areas where a lie can creep in.
1. Flattery – Psalm 12:2 “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor, with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.” Have you ever given insincere and excessive praise to someone before? This is not the gift of encouragement, but an intent to please others for selfish gain. Do you know of those in your workplace who suck up to the boss in order to get a raise or promotion? They may not be deliberately lying, but the person is falsifying how they feel about a certain person to gain approval or appear more likable.
2. Deception – 1 John 3:7 “Little children, let no one deceive you.” We are inundated with deception in our culture. If you watch the news, you are aware commentators twist or alter political reports to deceive society. Look at beer commercials. They tell you if you drink this beverage, you will have fun, be popular, and have a successful life. I wonder why these ads don’t show car accidents, an individual throwing up on a toilet, or someone getting arrested for battery because of alcohol. It’s because their intent is to deceive. How many of us struggle with deception? Have you ever exaggerated or left out details in a story to appear better in front of others?
3. Slander / Libel – Lev 19:16 “You shall not go around as a slander.” Slander is malicious information used to inflict harm on someone’s character. Libel is the written form of this. There is now more opportunity to slander than any other time in history as a result of technology. You can text, email, Facebook, or tweet out a message with the intent of harming others. Teen bullying and suicide is a major problem as a result of slander. Be careful what you say and how you say it on the internet. It’s there permanently. Don’t worry about what the NSA will store in their database in Utah because Jesus has the book of remembrance that far outweighs any technology we have. He may say to you on judgement today: “Okay, Tom, let’s pull up your Facebook page, your Twitter page, here’s what you said a couple years ago on Tumbler and Linked in.”
Application – Throughout the week, be mindful of what you say and how you say it. If you feel like your motive was the intent to deceive for selfish gain or you were afraid to tell someone the whole truth, repent and ask for forgiveness.