Pastor Mark Driscoll
November 10, 2013
FEATHERS IN THE WIND
So, there’s an old Jewish proverb about a rabbi who lived in a small town, and he was a man of good character. He had given many years of his life to serving the people in that community. They saw him as an honest, forthright, trustworthy, and hardworking man—until one day, a visitor came to town.
A new resident joined them in that small town, and for reasons unknown to the rabbi, started saying untruthful, horrible things about the rabbi, undermining his credibility and character. This led to a lot of speculation and division in the community. Some became suspicious of the rabbi’s character. Others assumed every negative thing they heard and turned against him. This really devastated this man, who had worked so hard for so many years to build up a reputation in that community. And this went on for some time. The visitor decided that he would remain in that town and call it his home.
After an extended period of time, the man who had moved to the town and undermined the rabbi’s reputation met with the rabbi and said, “I regret what I’ve said and what I’ve done. It was unfounded and untrue, and I want to make it up to you. So, what can I do to fix what I’ve broken, to straighten out what I’ve made crooked?”
The rabbi told him, “I want you to go home and take your pillow off of your bed. I want you to go outside on a windy day. I want you to tear the pillowcase and I want you to scatter all of the feathers from your pillow into the wind.”
The man did that, returned back to meet with the rabbi and said, “I did as you asked. Is there anything else I can do?” And the rabbi said, “You need to take your pillowcase and go collect every single feather.” And the man said, “But that’s impossible!” And the rabbi said, “Exactly my point.”
THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH?
Today’s topic is bearing false witness about your neighbor, lying about someone. And once we release that lie, we can never regain the truth. To some degree, it always lives on to harm someone that we were supposed to love.
And we find ourselves in the Ten Commandments at the ninth commandment. So, we’re going through Exodus 20. Today, we’re in verse 16. And the ninth commandment is, “Do not lie.” Here’s exactly how God says it through Moses: Exodus 20:16, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” In one sense, this is regarding legal proceedings. In a day when they didn’t have video cameras, CSIs, or forensic investigation, truth and justice would rise or fall with eyewitness testimony and credibility.
In our day, it’s still the way that many things are resolved. A traffic accident happens and you get everybody’s number to give a report to the police. If someone is present for a crime, their information is collected, and they’ll be brought into the proceedings as witnesses. And for there to be justice in a society, there has to be credibility among the testimony.
And so here, it’s talking about those kinds of legal proceedings where—some of you have been involved in legal suits, or you’ve been brought in as a witness, or you’ve been asked to testify. Those kinds of circumstances most assuredly fall under the jurisdiction of the ninth commandment.
And the whole point here is to tell the truth, to tell the whole truth, the nothing but the truth. And we tend to add, “So help me God,” though the Air Force has omitted that and our culture tends to take truthfulness away from the judgment of God.
But the big idea is the truth, the whole truth, the nothing but the truth. That is what God intends, seeks. That’s what God commands and demands, because that’s what God demonstrates.
LYING AT WORK
And this would include our workforce and our workplace, so let’s make this as practical as we can. Don’t raise your hand, especially if your boss brought you today, but how many of you lied on your résumé to try and get your job? How many of you, if Jesus came back and you were holding your résumé, you’d drop your résumé and hope he didn’t pick it up, because there’s stuff on there that’s not true? We tend to lie. It’s the violation of the ninth commandment. It’s bearing false witness. It’s giving testimony to something that didn’t in fact happen like we are recording that it did.
Then what happens even in the workforce, once we are in our position, there’s a lot of what we call “office politics,” which is a bunch of people, in varying ways, violating the ninth commandment, trying to pass off responsibility. “Oh, you need to own this failure. This was their job, not mine. I didn’t know; I was out of the loop.” Various ways of not communicating the entire truth to abdicate ourselves of our responsibility.
And sometimes this includes formal things like a 360-degree review, where you can anonymously say something about a fellow employee and you are impugning their character, you are attacking their productivity. Whether or not it’s true, you think you can get away with it because it’s anonymous, and maybe by taking them down the food chain, it arises an opportunity for you to go up the food chain. And our life is just filled with these opportunities to violate the ninth commandment, to bear false witness, to give false testimony, to say things that are not entirely truthful.
GOD HATES LIES
Well, how does God feel about this? He says this in Proverbs 6:16–19: there are things that he detests, there are things that he hates, there are things that he abhors. How about you? What really angers you? What frustrates you? What upsets you? What, do you not have ears to hear, eyes to see? You don’t have the patience to endure; you can’t tolerate that.
God has a list of things like that. There are six things that the Lord hates, very strong language, seven that are an abomination to him. And then it goes on to say that among them is, “A false witness who breathes out lies.”
Here’s why: it’s not just an offense on the person; it’s an offense on the God who made them. Because the Bible says it this way in Titus 1:2: “God never lies.” Some of your translations will say, “God cannot lie.” God is only truthful. God is always truthful. God is altogether truthful. There is nothing in God’s character that is untrustworthy or unreliable. There’s no deception. There’s no dishonesty in God at all.
Jesus says regarding Satan in John 8 that he’s a liar, that he’s the father of all lies. So, when you are lying, you are giving birth with Satan to death. And he says that lying is his native language.
Now, how many of you are bilingual, you can speak multiple languages? Your native language is your strongest language. It’s your first language. Satan’s bilingual. He can communicate lies to the whole world, but his first language, his native language, is lying. That’s what Jesus says. So God says, “If you’re one of my people and you reject the truth and you participate in a lie, I hate that because it’s satanic, it’s demonic. It’s an offense against me. It’s an affront against me.” Do you get that?
GOD LOVES YOUR NEIGHBOR
So, you and I need to get out of the categories of “Oh, what do I think?” or “How do I feel?” but ask, “What does God say?” And he puts lying at such an incredible position of hatred that we have to start to see it as God sees it, and feel as God feels, and respond as God desires. And here’s why: God loves his glory, and God loves your neighbor.
One of the things that happens as we transition in our culture from theology to therapy is that our lives move from being God-centered to me-centered, and what is lacking then is any love for our neighbor. So we use people; we don’t love them. And when we lie, what we are saying is the lie will benefit me at your expense, and I’m OK with that because I’m more important than you.
They came to Jesus, and they asked him, “So, summarize the Ten Commandments.” And Jesus says, “Well, if you’re gonna tweet the Ten Commandments, here it is: love God and love your neighbor.” That’s the summary. The first four commandments are about loving God, the last six are about loving your neighbor. And God doesn’t just love you; God loves your neighbor. And you may lie because it benefits you, but it comes at the expense, out of the account of your neighbor.
So, read with me, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” because God loves your neighbor, and God cares about your neighbor, and a lie is an offense on his glory, and it’s an offense on your neighbor’s good, and it hurts people.
Now, as I say this, I’m deeply convicted by this sermon. I’ve been preaching it to myself all week, so I invite you into my conviction. I communicate a lot—that’s my job. And it’s got me running 17-plus years of content through the ninth commandment filter. My hands are dirty, your hands are dirty, right? Isaiah says, “I’m a man of unclean lips and I come from a people of unclean lips.” There we are. But to lie about someone, to say something that is untrue is to assault them in the eyes of God.
Here’s how it is stated in Proverbs 25:18: “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.” It’s beating someone; it’s assaulting someone; it’s murder of their reputation. If you’re lying about someone, really what you’re doing is—it’s the equivalent of pulling a gun on them. You’re intending to do malicious harm. It’s willful intent to harm them.
So, by definition, a lie is two things: it is saying anything that is untrue or not saying all that is true. It is saying what is untrue and not saying all that is true. I’ll give you two illustrations.
The first, saying what is untrue. I knew my life was going to get harder some years ago. We started the church, and then the Internet sort of became more popular, and people started doing this new thing called blogging, and then this whole concept of social media. I’m old enough, we’ve been around a while. And I had a grandma come up, real sweet, nice, you know, great-looking, cute face, big smile, happy old granny—come up to me, somebody I knew, somebody who had been in the church for a little bit. She walked up to me after the sermon. “Pastor Mark, I just wanted to let you know I’m leaving the church, and I’m never coming back.”
I was pretty devastated. “Well, why?” She said, “I cannot be part of a church that accepts men who beat their wives.” I said, “Well, that’s not our church. That’s not what we—you tell me what man is beating his wife, and I promise you, I’ll deal with him.” She said, “It’s you.” I said, “Are you saying that I beat my wife?” She said, “Yeah.” I said, “Ma’am, I have never raised a hand to a woman in my life, and I never will, especially my wife.” I said, “Where did you hear that?” She said, “I read it on the Internet.”
OK, now this is in the early days of the Internet, and she’s a grandma, OK? But she thought, “It must be true.” For her, there was no difference between the Internet and the newspaper, and I’ve come to find the newspaper’s not entirely true either, OK? I used to write for the newspaper. I can just tell you, don’t believe everything you read.
But I said, “Ma’am, who said this?” She said, “Well, this person who wrote this. This is what they—” I said, “I’ve never met them. They don’t live in our city. They’ve never been to our church. They don’t know my wife.” I said, “This is a lie.” She said, “I think it’s true, so I’m leaving,” and she left, and I’ve not seen her since. It’s been many years. A lie is when we say something that is untrue, or we don’t say everything that is true.
RELEASING, HOLDING, ARRANGING
How many of you, you’ll release a little bit of the facts, hold a few back, arrange them in a particular order so that what was the truth is no longer the truth, but it benefits you and maybe you’ll get away with it? I’ve used this analogy before, this illustration, but I learned this very quickly in ministry, there was a couple that Grace and I were helping. And she called me up, “Pastor Mark, my husband is—he’s become very physical with me. He grabbed me and restrained me. You need to deal with him.” OK, maybe we’ve got an abused wife. Maybe we’ve got some sort of crime, we’ve got to get the cops involved, I don’t know.
So I called him up. I said, “You need to come into my office right away. You need to bring your wife. We need to get to the bottom of this.” He showed up with her and I said, “Is it true that you grabbed your wife, you physical restrained your wife?” He said, “It’s true,” and he said, “but did she tell you the whole context?” I was like, “No.” He said, “You see this huge gash in my head?” “Yeah, I did notice that.” “That’s where she slammed a plate into my head.” So, they’re having dinner, she got ticked, grabbed his plate, and slammed it into his head and cut him open. And he said, “Then, she grabbed a steak knife and was going to stab me in the face, so I grabbed her wrist.”
I looked at her and asked, “Is this what happened?” She said, “Well, sort of.” I was like, “Well, it did or it didn’t.” It’s like, “Are you pregnant?” “Sort of.” Well, you either are or you’re not. I said, “You left those details—those are—” OK, jury, jury, those are important variables. She was going to murder him by stabbing him in the face, and he grabbed her wrist to save his life. Does that factor into our verdict? Yeah. Yeah.
I said, “Has he ever done that to you before?” “Nope, this was the first time.” I’m going to go out on the edge of a limb and say I think I know why it started on that day—because you were going to stab him in the face. It’s a huge variable, right? But what she did is, she didn’t say anything that was untrue—”my husband grabbed my wrist.” What she said was not entirely true, not entirely true, OK? We take spousal abuse very seriously, and also attempted murder, OK? So, lying is when we don’t tell what is true, or we don’t tell all that is true.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MISTAKES AND MALICE IS MOTIVE
Now, let me say this because some of you are very religious, you’re very tidy. You’re very, very tidy. Your spice rack is in alphabetical order. All your shirts are ironed, even your t-shirts. You’re just very tidy. You’re engineers, you’re accountants, you’re control freaks. Right now, you’re like, “Hey, hey, move on with the sermon already. This is taking too long.” OK, you guys are very tidy, and what you’re going to do, you’re going to go to the ninth commandment and you’re going to give no grace to anyone. You’re going to hold to the letter of the law and violate the spirit of the law, so let me tell you that there’s a difference, when it comes to lying, between a mistake and malice.
The real issue is the motive. When there’s malice, it’s intent to deceive, but people make mistakes, right? People make mistakes. I’ll tell you something about my wife. She has a peculiar Spidey sense ability to find lost things.
So, if one of the kids is like, “Where’s my shoe?” “It’s in the attic under the luggage, the red one.” You’re like, “How does she—this is amazing.” Like, she could just see lost things like Spidey—she finds lost things all the time. So, anytime something is lost—recently it was the Roku remote—”Where’s the Roku remote? Mom, hey!” We just ask her. She never uses the Roku remote, but she could find it, OK? That’s my wife. “Oh, it’s under the couch, on the left, in the dark part. You probably didn’t see it. Get a flash light. Lift up the couch,” and there it is. That’s amazing.
So, anytime I lose something, I will diligently look for five to six seconds, and then I’ll yell out, “Hey Grace, have you seen my car keys?” because I know she has. She’s got this amazing ability. So recently, I asked her, “Hey, have you seen my keys?” I lost them again. She said, “They’re on the counter.” So, I go to the counter. They’re not there. Should I invoke the ninth commandment? “Liar, I married a liar! My wife is a liar! The pastor’s wife is a liar! Liar! How can I trust you? Our whole relationship is now built on the foundation of deceit!” Probably not, right? They probably were on the counter and I moved them, or they were there two days ago, or the dog ate them. Something happened. It’s a mistake.
There’s a difference between that and malice. So, malice—I’ll use an illustration from my life. I was raised by a mom and dad, Deb and Joe, and I love them, and I just want to publicly apologize for my childhood, because raising me was like raising a small attorney with nefarious intent. I, pound for pound, was quite a litigator. I know this is hard to think—”What? “Mark would build a case, and hold to it, “and was very difficult to argue with? Hard to imagine.” But just strain your imagination to consider that that was reality, as hard as it is.
So, as a little kid, I would negotiate everything with my parents. And they would argue, and I’d build a case, and I’d defend myself, and I could be the accusing or defending attorney, whatever the case was.
And I’ll give you one occasion. I was a little kid and I wanted to go out and ride my bike, and have fun, and play with my friends. And it was summer and I wanted to go have a good time. And I came to my mom and said, “Hey, Mom, can I jump on my bike? Can I go to so-and-so’s house? We’re going to go play and do this and that.” She said, “You can’t go anywhere until your room is cleaned, OK?” She looks at me and she said, “So, is your room clean?” I said, quote, “It should be,” OK? My mother then says—Deb says, “OK, well have fun with your friends.”
I jump on my bike, ride as fast as I can, get far away, and have a nice day with my friends. I’m gone until late. It’s dark. I come home for dinner. I walk in the door, and here’s Deb, “You lied to me! Marky,” she still calls me that, “you lied to me!” So, little attorney, “Explain that, Mom. Present your case. How do you think I lied to you?” “You said your room was clean.” “No, Deb, I didn’t. I said ‘It should be.’ And it should be. We both know it’s not, but I didn’t say it was clean. I said, ‘it should be.’”
Was that a mistake? No, Deb, Joe, Deb’s wooden spoon—right—three witnesses would all testify my intent was to deceive. That’s what happened to Marky. It wasn’t a mistake, it was malice. My motive was to manipulate and to deceive. There’s a difference.
So, there are times we’ve got to give one another grace. It was a mistake—you know, you thought the keys were on the counter, they’re not. There are other times when you’re like, man, that was intent to deceive. The motive there was impure.
5 AREAS WHERE A LIE CAN CREEP IN
So, what I want to do now is, I want to look at five areas where a lie can creep into your life. Sin is like water. It always finds the crack. It always finds the low point. It always finds the opportunity. It settles in so that it can erode. That’s why, as we’re dealing with the Ten Commandments, I’m dealing with the principle, then I want to make it really practical to deal with all the potential areas in your life and mine where sin can seep in. That’s why we seal our countertops, and we seal our decks, and we seal our driveways, so that it doesn’t have an opportunity to find the low point.
Well, there are low points in our life and in our soul where sin gets in there, and I want to look at five of these with you. These are areas where the ninth commandment is frequently, if not even easily, violated.
The first is flattery. Have you enjoyed the Ten Commandments? Has it—have I done a good job for you? OK, do you like the vest? It’s a new look for me, OK? How about the beard? Do you like the beard? It’s sort of like Hipster Dad. I feel like I’m really bringing two worlds together, OK? And you guys, during the series, you’ve been amazing. The attendance has been strong, the giving has been strong, the response has been strong because you guys are the best. I’ve got the best people on the earth. Thank you for being the best people on the earth. So, one of the ways that we violate the ninth commandment is flattery, Psalm 12:2.
See how easy that was? For a moment there, you’re like, “I kind of like this, but I think he’s setting us up because he’s not usually nice. There must be a point where he punches us in a second.” Well, here it is: Psalm 12:2, “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.”
You can have a double mind, you can have a double tongue, you can have a double heart. Flattery is this. Flattery is insincere and excessive praise intended to manipulate, right singles? How many of you singles are like, “Hey! That was my get-a-spouse plan”? “You are so smart. You look amazing. Have you lost weight? I saw you at work. That was incredible. You’re with that guy? He’s such a jerk. Somebody should treat you better,” right? Yes, OK.
How many of you, there was a kid in your family who was the favorite because they were the kiss up? “Mom, you look so nice. Have you lost weight? Could I have a cookie since you’re obviously not eating them anymore?” You look at that sibling and you’re thinking two things: “They’re evil” and “I should have thought of that.” Right?
How many of you, at school, there were the teachers—and they were the suck-ups: “Teacher, I showed up early. I brought you an apple. I prayed for you this morning. Are there any garbage cans I can clean? Do I have to take the test?” “No, you don’t have to take the test,” right? How many of you have this person at work? They’re the suck-up to the boss. They’re always sucking up to the boss so that they can manipulate the boss to get a raise or a promotion, or to avoid work. We do this all the time. It’s flattery.
Some of you have really carved out a successful life for yourself predicated, in large part, upon flattery. And let me say that flattery is a violation of the ninth commandment because you’re not saying what’s true, you’re saying what they want to hear so that you can manipulate them. And the motive of the heart is one of deception, and it is flattery, and that’s your motive. But this is different from the gift of encouragement. I want to distinguish these. Because flattery is not trying to encourage someone in the truth; it’s trying to lie to someone to manipulate the outcome.
But some of you have the gift of encouragement. You’re just naturally encouraging. You’re generally happy people, and you look at the bright side. And you’re like, “I got hit by a car.” “Praise the Lord it wasn’t a truck. Imagine how terrible it’d be if it was a truck.” You’re like, “I never thought of it like that. Thank you. Yeah, a truck would have been far worse.” “Or a bus.” “Well, yeah, a bus would have been horrific. And it was just a little—” and you have the gift of encouragement. Every scenario, you have a positive spin on it, and some of us are not like that.
All right, we have the gift of discouragement, OK? But those of you with the gift of encouragement, it’s a spiritual gift that God gives. That’s different from flattery. Somebody who truly has the gift of encouragement, they’re willing to say the truthful, hard things, but they do so in love for the good of the person. The person who’s using flattery doesn’t do so for the good of the person, it’s the using of the person. You’re not helping them; you’re harming them. You’re not loving them; you’re using them.
My daughter Alexi’s got the gift of encouragement. She knows I have a tough week, so yesterday I go to my computer, and there is a picture she drew and put on my laptop. It’s her and me smiling, holding hands. “Daddy, I love you. You’re going to do great this week. I’m praying for you.” She’s just encouraging. That’s not flattery. There’s a motive of the heart that’s different between encouragement and flattery, and we know when we’re doing it, right? We know when we’re doing it, and flattery’s a violation of the ninth commandment.
Number two, deception. First John 3:7, “Little children, let no one deceive you.” Here’s the big idea: How many of you really feel like you’re a little kid? You usually don’t right? You’re like, “I’m an adult.” God’s our Father, he looks at us, like, in some regards, we’re still kids. John here is a man who’s about 100 years old. He was one of Jesus’ disciples. He’s looking at the church and it includes people of all ages, like ours. And he says, “Little children, let no one deceive you.”
Have you noticed that kids are easy to deceive? You could fool a kid pretty easily, right? They’re a little gullible, a little naive. You could tell them something and they’ll actually believe it. Sometimes we’re like that. We don’t just have a childlike faith, we have a childish faith, and if we’re trusting someone who is deceptive, we find ourselves in a dangerous circumstance. He says, “So what this is is it’s a sin to deceive someone and it’s a sin to allow someone to deceive you.” This means that they’re responsible for their deception and we’re responsible for believing their deception.
So, we’re not always and only victims, we’re also morally culpable and responsible for believing lies. Deception is where we twist what was the truth into a weapon for harm and destruction.
How many of you don’t believe all the political advertising that rolls out during an election cycle? How many of you don’t watch your TV like, “Oh my gosh, that’s terrible.” Immediately, you’re like, “That’s probably not true.” They don’t tell you the whole story. They omit a few facts. Any time it’s a few words, and dot, dot, dot, and a few other words, that might have been something that somebody said 50 years ago and 15 minutes ago, and they put them together to communicate something that was never articulated.
We just assume that our politicians lie. “Lying politician”—you don’t even need to use both words. You could just use one. How about criminals? How about advertising? How many of you don’t trust marketing and advertising? You don’t watch TV like, “Look at that! That’s amazing.” It’s a lie. All the fine print at the end undermines everything they’re trying to tell you.
This includes, as well, academic fraud. Is it possible for a student to violate the ninth commandment by plagiarizing something and turning it in as their own work? Yes, it’s deception. It’s pretending like this is my work when it’s not. What about a student who cheats on a test? “Here are my answers.”
No, those aren’t your answers. You cheated. This is deception. You’re trying to present yourself as someone who is credible and trustworthy, but you’re lying in your answers. It happens all the time. This happens at work with embezzlement where you’re falsifying reports to get additional gain from your employer. This happens as well with your clients where you double bill them; you bill two clients for the same time.
There are lots of ways that we practice deception, and again, it’s a demonic, satanic issue. It all goes back to Genesis 3. God creates our first parents, speaks the truth to them, and then Satan comes and he lies to them, and they sin against God. And Paul says on more that one occasion, regarding Eve in particular, that Satan, what? He deceived her. Deception is demonic. Deception is where you’re trying to pretend that you’re communicating the truth, but you know in your heart it’s just a lie.
Number three, slander—which is the spoken form, and libel, which is the written form. Leviticus 19:16, “You shall not go around as a slanderer.” Slander is malicious and often false information used to inflict harm.
Some of you are case builders and you’re looking for information to collect so that you might have stones to throw at someone else. You’re just waiting, you’re looking, you’re seeking, you’re searching and/or arranging information to impugn and attack someone’s character and integrity because you’ve already decided that they’re your enemy.
In our day, we have an opportunity to slander people more immediately and effectively than ever in the history of the world through technology. Communication today is instant, constant, global, permanent. Instant, you can get upset and send it out. Constant, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and then everybody else can hear it, and comment on it, and add to it. Global, the whole world can be involved. Permanent, once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.
This is particularly concerning in an age of social media. Think of—I’ll just use myself as an example—all the information that I put out. Think about yourself—all the information you put out. Texts, e-mails, calls, conversations, social media posts, blogs, whatever the case may be.
Now, listen to these words from the Lord Jesus. Matthew 12:36, “On the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak.” “Oh no.” How many of you didn’t know that Jesus has Internet access right now? You’re like, “Had I known that, I totally would have posted it differently.”
Imagine you die and you stand before Jesus and he pulls up all your social media accounts. “OK, we’re going to go through LinkedIn, next Twitter, next Facebook, next Pinterest, whatever the case may be, next Instagram. OK, we’re going to look at your blogs. By the way, I recorded all your conversations. I’m way worse than the NSA. I got it all.” “Huh? What?” “And you’re accountable for that.” “Well, Jesus, I don’t think anybody else heard.”
Jesus says, “I heard. It was slander; it was libel. “What you said about that person was untrue, where even if you told the truth, you told it with untrue motives to harm them. You didn’t love your neighbor. You didn’t love the truth.”
CHARLES SPURGEON, THE WOMANIZER?
I’ll give you an example from a friend of mine. He’s a deceased friend. His name is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I look forward to meeting him in heaven. But he is one of the greatest Bible teachers in the history of the world, somebody I’ve studied very diligently. And he started as an 18-year-old boy preacher in London, England. A dead, dying, formerly large church hired this young, Holy Spirit-anointed boy-preacher to teach the Bible at their church and their church exploded.
But for some years, early in his ministry, he was still single. And the local paper really went after him there in London, and one of the things that they reported was that he was a ladies’ man, a player, and took advantage of young women. They actually printed a story that young women would show up early to hear the megachurch pastor preach. He had a church of 5,000 or 6,000, which was the biggest known church in the history of the world to that day.
The report was given that young women would show up early, and they’d all get dressed up, and they’d sit in the front row, and just kind of fawn over the pastor, and they would go up to the platform like Cinderella, and they would take one shoe off, and they would leave it on the platform, hoping that he would come to their house, and it would fit their foot, and they’d live happily ever after.
Well, that was scandalous in that day, and it never happened. It never happened. Like, zero gals left a shoe, and he had no inappropriate relations with any woman. And it was a lie that devastated him. He struggled with depression his whole life. He said it was like fighting the mist. And what killed him was the story was reported falsely, and it was reported in the London newspaper, and then it was picked up by the international newswire.
This means, like, Reuters or the Associated Press, all of a sudden, the story just got printed in hundreds, thousands of newspapers all around the world, including the United States of America. He followed up with the press in London, and they eventually printed a retraction, “Sorry, we lied about Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” but the newswire never picked up the retraction. And all anybody ever heard across the world was that he took advantage of young women and manipulated them.
He said it really haunted him for his entire life because as he would travel and do media interviews, particularly those from America, they would always go back to that point. “So, Spurgeon, why did you take advantage of young women?” “Oh, not again.” Imagine if he lived today. Imagine if he lived today. And you and I, it’s incumbent upon us as worshipers of the one, true God, to worship him in spirit, and what? Truth. That’s what Jesus says.
- FALSE TEACHING
This includes as well, number four, false teaching. The Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Lord Jesus talk about this a lot. It’s a violation of the ninth commandment. The God who never lies is always lied about, and we call it false teaching. And the worst lie of all is a lie about the God who never lies, and we call that false teaching. Second Peter 2:1, “But false prophets also arose among the people”—in the Old Testament he’s referring to—”just as there will be false teachers among you.” They’re here, they’re coming, the latest book, bandwagon craze, trendy, weird, spiritual teacher, “who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.” And heresies are not violations of secondary issues but primary issues.
All right, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Assemblies of God, they love Jesus, believe the Bible, they’re not heretics. There may be things that they disagree over and we disagree over, but those are secondary, open-handed issues. Those are not primary, closed-handed issues.
The word “heresy” is a big word. It’s for things like the Bible is God’s Word, Jesus is God’s Son, Jesus is fully man, fully God, lived without sin, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead as our Savior, is judging the living and the dead and sentencing them to eternal heaven or hell—that kind of stuff. And what invariably happens is that false teachers are often motivated by their peculiar attempt to help God. They think they’re helping.
So, what they will do is they will oftentimes look at the Bible and say, “It’s an old book. God says some things that we now know aren’t true because we’ve evolved.” C.S. Lewis calls it chronological snobbery. “Well, back then, those stupid, naive people believed that, but now we’re smart and we know better.”
So, then they try to help God out. “Well, there’s some things in the Bible that these smart people don’t like, so we need to be God’s editor, not God’s messenger. We need to upgrade and update the teaching so that it is more acceptable to the hearer. We’re here to help you, Lord. We’re trying to help.” But the result is false teaching. It’s destructive heresy. During the modern age when Hume and other Enlightenment philosophers were prominent, people stopped believing in the supernatural and the miraculous.
So, certain Bible commentators come along and say, “Well, you know, we don’t necessarily believe the miracles in the Bible. When it says Jesus was walking on water, really what it was—” and I’m actually telling you what a very famous Bible commentator wrote in that day. “Jesus didn’t really walk on the water. The water was shallow; the tide was shallow. Jesus was walking in shallow water, but from the distance, those who saw him misperceived him to be walking on water. There’s a logical explanation to this: They reported what they saw, but that’s not what really happened because we know that nobody walks on water.”
Yeah, one guy does—that’s why he’s special. That’s why he’s special, truly special. You say, “How many guys walked on water?” One. “Well, that doesn’t happen.” No, the truth is that doesn’t happen a lot. That’s why we wrote it down, because he’s special. The water was deep enough, it says that Peter tried to walk on water, and he didn’t do so well and was going to drown. There was at least that much water. But what that is, that’s an attempt to help God out.
Well, there’s certain people like, “You know, hey man, these single people. You know, you can’t be single and, you know, not have sex. That’s not reasonable, so, you know, we will talk about maybe God has a different way of viewing this, and homosexuality, gay marriage, and other religions, and nobody’s going to hell, and everybody’s a good person. When we talk about sins, it’s really negative, and hurts self-esteem. And you know, people are really struggling, so maybe we give God a makeover.” God doesn’t need your help. God knows that when we communicate the truth, his truth, the initial response will be negative. It’s because people are wrong, and they need to change.
How many of you, the first time you heard the Bible, you’re like, “I don’t agree with that”? It’s because the Bible is an anvil, all right, and your life gets laid on it and it gets hammered into shape. And God knows there’s going to be some conflict there, and he loves you enough to have it. And the person who comes along and says, “Let’s replace the anvil with a cotton ball,” is not helping. They’re not helping. They’re getting rid of the conflict that helps you become the person that God intends for you to be. And this includes as well—if you’re not all convicted yet, right, if you’re like, “So far, you haven’t got me. You haven’t got me, Mark, you haven’t got me.” We both know that’s not true, you’re lying
Here’s the fifth point, gossip. Oh, it got quiet. “Oh man, really? Gossip, we’re going to talk about this?” 1 Timothy 5:13, “Besides that, they learn not only be idlers.” You’re not busy enough, you don’t have enough to do—too much free time. “But also gossips and busybodies.” See how that goes together? You don’t keep yourself busy; you become a busybody. And a busybody is the one fishing for gossip.
How many of you, you’re like, “It’s amazing, everybody tells me all their stuff.” That’s not necessarily a good thing. If they come to you and tell you their stuff and everybody else’s stuff, it’s because you’re the gossip repository.
All right, you’re the officially designated busybody. “Well, but Pastor Mark, I pray for people.” OK, so you’re the religious, busybody, gossip repository. OK, this is going to be super offensive.
How many of you gossip as a prayer request? “Pray for Sally. Her husband committed adultery.” Yeah, I’ll pray for her and your gossip problem, you busybody. If she wanted me to know, she would have told me. She didn’t tell you so you could tell everybody. You’re not helping anything. This is not prayer; it’s gossip. It’s a violation of the ninth commandment. “Well, I said prayer.” You can’t throw a Christian word in with a non-Christian deed and expect to fool anyone. If somebody has a prayer request, they can tell the people that they want to pray what they want to be prayed for. It’s not your job to tell everyone everyone else’s business. “Saying what they should not.” It doesn’t even say that what they’re saying is untrue. Sometimes the gossip says things that are untrue, but sometimes they say things that are true with a heart that is untrue. It’s like, you’re not supposed to say that to those people. It’s not their business. It’s not loving your neighbor.
Gossip is sharing damaging information with the intent of murdering someone’s reputation. Sometimes you murder a person physically; sometimes you murder them emotionally. And in our day, let’s just admit that we have a celebrity gossip culture that just encourages us and that social media allows us to do what only stalkers used to do. “What do they eat? What do they wear? Where do they live? What do they do? What-a, what-a, what-a, what-a, what-a? I’m just checking, just checking, just checking, like a stalker for the Lord.” No.
How many of you follow people and you need to just stop following them, because even if the information you’re getting is not bad, your motive is not good? Well, I was thinking about it. There are a lot of reasons why we lie, and I’m throwing myself in the guilty bucket, all right? I’ll throw myself in the guilty bucket with you.
REASONS WE LIE
Here are some reasons that you and I lie.
Number one, we lie to avoid negative consequences for ourselves. “If the truth comes out, boy, that’s not going to be good for me. I need to lie to change the future.” It’s an attempt to be God.
Number two, we lie to create or protect an illusion of who we are. “If they know the truth, they’ll think I’m a terrible person.” You know why? Do you know why? Because you’re a terrible person. That’s reality. OK, apparently that was convicting.
Number three, we lie to get what we want. “I want that. I can’t get that so I’m going to lie so I can get what I’m not supposed to have.”
Number four, we lie to remain in control of a situation. “I know I’m supposed to think that God’s sovereign, but I want to be sovereign. I don’t like how this might play out, so I’m going to change the information so that I can alter the outcome.”
Number five, we lie to play God and punish someone else. “You need to pay. You hurt me; I’m going to make you hurt.” And number six, we lie about someone to be accepted by someone who despises them. Peer pressure, fear of man. This person doesn’t like this person, so this person is slandering this person. This person is punishing this person, and you know both of these people, and you need to pick. “OK, I’m going to be on your side so that you don’t say bad things about me or punish me. And then I’ll give you gossip about them, so I’ll provide the rocks and you throw them. How’s that? And then we’ll be friends, and I won’t be alone, and I won’t get harmed.” If you have a friend like that, you don’t have a friend.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER BEFORE SAYING ANYTHING
As I was thinking about it, I’m writing this down, putting it in my wallet. I would encourage you to consider it. I think there’s a series of questions, if we ask ourselves, it’ll change how we communicate and help us to avoid violating the ninth commandment.
Here it is: Does this exact information, exactly like this, need to be communicated? Does it even need to be articulated? By me, or do they need to say it and they’re being a coward, and they’re telling me because they don’t want to have the conflict, but I need to tell them that they’re in sin and they need to be the one to communicate it.
So, does this exact information need to be communicated by me to these people or this person? Is this exactly the group that needs to know or have I opened it up to others that have no right to know? At this time, or is this just a bad time? With this motive—what am I seeking to accomplish? God’s glory and their good? Through this medium, phone call, text, e-mail, social media, blog, discussion, prayer request? What’s the medium? Does this exact information need to be communicated by me, to these people, at this time, with this motive, through this medium? If we ask those question, we will greatly reduce the number of times that we violate the ninth commandment.
3 CATEGORIES PARENTS CAN TEACH THEIR KIDS
Let me briefly give a bit of counsel for the parents. How many of you are parents who’ve got little kids? How many of you found that you don’t need to teach your kids to lie? You’re like, “Where’d my kid learn to lie?” The Garden. It’s been around for a while. They pick it up. It’s part of their nature. It’s why they need a new nature. It’s why we all need a new nature.
But when you’re teaching a child about lying, they can get very confused, so let me give you three categories, parents: lying, secrets, and surprises.
With your children, you cannot allow them to lie. “It’s OK, tell me the truth. If you don’t tell the truth, you’re going to get in trouble for what you did and lying about it. So, you’ve got two options: tell the truth and deal with the consequences, or don’t tell the truth, and then tell the truth, and then you’ll deal with the consequences and the other consequences. You’ve got two options: bad, really bad. OK, those are your options. Now, I love you, yay Jesus, so be nice about it, but that’s it, OK? Don’t lie.”
Secrets—don’t allow your children to keep any secrets. Anybody comes to your child and says, “I want to tell you a secret,” your child should say, “No. I don’t keep secrets.” Because you know what? That’s what pedophiles tell little kids. “Don’t tell your mommy. Don’t tell your daddy.” No, no, no, no, no. What they’re saying is, “Lie to your mommy. Lie to your daddy.” A secret is something bad that we don’t want others to know. A surprise is something good that we want them to know at the right time.
So, let’s say you’ve got little kids, and Mommy’s had some miscarriages, and they find out their pregnant, and Mommy tells the kids, “Mommy’s pregnant, we’re going to have a baby, but don’t tell everybody just yet. We need to get through the first trimester.” It’s a surprise. Dad takes the kids out for Christmas. “Hey, we’re buying something really nice for Mom. She’s going to love it! but don’t tell her, kids, because it’s a surprise.” It’s a good thing we’re going to tell her at the right time as opposed to a bad thing that we don’t want her to know at all. That’s a secret. So, when you’re parenting, it’s lying, secrets, surprises.
Now, here we go, ready? And immediately, some of you who are attorneys like me, or philosophers, or guilty, trying to change the subject, you’re going to talk about hypothetical, theoretical, philosophical scenarios. You’re like, “Well, Pastor Mark, you know, lying, don’t lying. What if the Nazis come to your door? What if the Nazis knock on the door and the Nazis ask if you’re housing any Jewish people, and they’re going to kill them. What do you do?” You’re like, first of all, there’s not a ton of Nazis. Second of all, you don’t have a lot of Jewish people at your house. And thirdly, you’re just trying to change the subject.
Some of you learned this as a kid. Your dad walks in, you know, “Who set the dog on fire?” “Geez, Dad, have you seen the economy? It’s really in the tank.” “Yeah, who set the dog on fire?” Right, we tend to change the subject when we’re guilty, and sometimes we’ll do that in sort of a philosophical way.
So, here’s the question that comes up: what about good lies? Be honest, don’t lie. I mean, how many of you, really, you were like, “I was wondering this”? What you’re looking for is an exception clause. You’re the attorney reading the fine print. Are there exceptions in the Bible where you can lie and it’s a quote-unquote “good” lie, yes or no? Well, let me unpack this.
So, Augustine said, “Sometimes you can just remain silent.” I never thought of that until I read that from Augustine. Silent, I would have saved myself so much grief had I done that. That’s a great idea. I wrote that down. I share it with you, OK? Sometimes you can just go, “I’m just going to remain silent. I’m not going to get into it.” Martin Luther distinguished between harmful, humorous, and helpful lies.
So, the harmful ones are—well, in the Bible, there’s a very powerful man who’s got a wife who wants to commit adultery with a guy named Joseph. It’s in Genesis 39. He says no, she gets offended, falsely accuses him of rape, he goes to prison. That’s a harmful lie. That’s a harmful lie.
So, harmful lies violate the ninth commandment. What about the other two categories? Humor. How many of you hope we don’t get rid of humor to maintain the ninth commandment? How many of you already have because you’re religious? You’re like, “I never tell anything that’s a lie, or untrue, or funny. I’m lonely but biblical.” OK, OK? Martin Luther left open the possibility of a good lie in regards to humor, telling a joke, OK? So, I Googled “Funniest joke ever.” I won’t tell you everything I read. Some of it’s totally inappropriate.
I won’t encourage you to do it, but I’ll give you one example that came up near the top of the list. Two guys are walking in the woods and a snake comes up and bites one guy on the buttock and infects him with deadly, venomous poison. And immediately, he falls to the ground. He’s in an almost paralyzed state. Death is coming upon him and he is certain to die, and they are 10 miles away from the nearest town.
And so he looks up at his buddy and he says, “I need you to run into town, find the only doctor, and bring him to save my life.” He says, “OK, you got it.” Ten miles, runs, runs, runs, runs into town, finds the only doctor. The doctor’s in the middle of delivering a baby, a complicated birth. The doctor says, “I cannot leave. I need you to follow my instructions: You need to run back to your friend, you need to get a razor and cut him where he was bit and infected, you need to put your mouth on his buttocks and suck all of the poison out and spit it on the ground to save his life.”
The man runs ten miles back to his friend. His friend looks up, “What did he say?” “He said you’re going to die.” OK, did we just violate the ninth commandment? All right jury, did we just violate the ninth commandment? No, because it’s humor. God has a sense of humor.
Is there such a thing as a helpful lie? Well, there are some occasions in the Bible. In Exodus 20, we see the Ten Commandments. Back in Exodus 1, we see a powerful, political leader tell the midwives, the gals that are helping with the birth, “If a Hebrew boy is born, kill him. Will you do that, ladies?” “Oh yeah, we’ll do that, sure. No, we’re not doing that.” And then they help the boys be born and they don’t kill them.
See, the Bible not only says, “Don’t lie,” it says, “Don’t murder,” and they’re left on this—the horns, rather, of a terrible, ethical dilemma. “Well, if we tell the truth, a bunch of boys are going to die. If we lie, we’re going to spare a bunch of lives. We’re going to obey the ‘Don’t murder’ commandment.” And the Bible says that God blessed them, and honored them, and they did the right thing.
Same with Rahab, she was a woman who was hiding some of God’s people because they were coming to murder them. And when they came to her like, “Have you seen them?” She’s like, “I didn’t. I don’t know where they’re at.” And she’s listed in Hebrews 11 as a woman of great faith, and she did the right thing.
So, there are occasions where there’s a good lie, but let me say this. You’ll probably never have one. You’ll never have one. But, there are occasions where it’s hard to be polite. So hypothetically, you’re married. Any of you married, married people? So, your spouse comes to you, it’s date night, you’re going out. Your spouse got new jeans. Your spouse looks at you and asks, “Do these jeans make my butt look big?”
You’re like, “Oh, ninth commandment. Ninth commandment, let me think. What was Pastor Mark saying? Augustine said don’t say anything, so, I’m not going to do that.” But your spouse keeps pushing, “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” You say, “OK, OK, how do I—” You can just say something truthful, like, “I love jeans,” and hopefully that gets you through the checkpoint. You can move on with your relationship.
Let’s say that doesn’t work. “No, do these jeans—I need to know. Do these jeans make my butt look big?” You could just tell her. You could say, “No, the jeans do not make your butt look big. Your big butt makes your big butt look big.” Ninth commandment, OK? Right? Sometimes you’re just polite, all right? You’re just polite. Your spouse comes up, gives you a kiss. “Is my breath bad?” “No, and I hated my eyebrows anyways.” There are certain times where you’re just polite, amen? Just polite.
CHRISTIANITY RISES OR FALLS ON THE NINTH COMMANDMENT
Now, let me say this, friends: Christianity rises or falls on the ninth commandment, because the Bible is written by eyewitnesses, or eyewitnesses were interviewed by the authors, all of which was overseen by God the Holy Spirit, the God who cannot lie.
And so really what’s at stake with the ninth commandment is, as we read the Bible, if they say that there were people, times, places, and events, are we going to believe that or not? And if you’re here and you’re not a Christian, this is actually 66 books written by roughly 40 authors over a couple of thousand years, and they were there to see the things that happened and to hear the things that were said. And they write them down so that we might have a faithful accounting of what has happened, because Christianity is not like philosophy or spirituality. It’s history: people, times, places, circumstances, and events that actually happened. And if the testimony is not credible, then all of Christianity crumbles.
But it is credible, and it is truthful, and we have faithful witnesses who were there. This is why roughly 40 times in John’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus says, “I tell you the truth. I tell you the truth. I tell you the truth. I tell you the truth.” I found three occasions where the Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, says, “I’m not lying.” First John says, “What we’re talking about is the stuff of Jesus that we heard with our ears, we saw with our eyes, and this is the guy that we hugged with our own hands. We were there. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus’ brothers were there. Jesus’ enemies were there—and then became his friends as they saw him rise from death.”
The resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact, that he died on the cross in our place for our sins, for our sins. And he tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” It’s all about Jesus, and he is the truth, and he says the truth, and he does the truth, and he is the truth. And he dies in our place for our sins, all of us liars, and he rises to conquer sin and death, and he pays our debt to God. And then 500 people at a time see him risen from death. They’re the eyewitnesses. He appears to people over 40 days. They’re the eyewitnesses. Guys like Thomas come to see the scars. They’re the eyewitnesses. Jesus’ mother, Jesus’ brothers see him conquering death, proving that he’s God and Savior, and they’re the eyewitnesses, and all the testimony is true.
I need you to be one who testifies, and we testify by telling the truth. Jesus’ brother, James, tells us, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” God’s people should be plain speech in their communication as God is.