1 You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. (Exodus 23:1–2, NKJV)
Israel was strictly charged not to 1) Spread falsehoods, 2) Support unrighteous witnesses, 3) Join others in committing evil, and 4) Affirm what is false and influence others to pervert justice. Honest people continue to earnestly avoid speaking and promoting falsehoods against others. So, shouldn’t we be just as concerned with not advancing falsehoods about God? Yet, untold millions of otherwise honest people see no problem with accepting and spreading false teachings as if they belong to God. By affirming doctrinal error as truth, they influence many others to twist the truth. False teaching in the name of God is a sin of injustice against God. We are sure this does not go unnoticed by the Almighty (Matt. 7:21-23). Before you assign a doctrine and a practice to “the will of God” you must be sure His word supports it (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Examine the Scriptures to see if what you or others are saying about God and His will is true (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1, 6). Accept no counterfeit gospels. They are false reports that bring souls under divine condemnation (Gal. 1:6-10).
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15:19, NKJV)
Jesus continues to discuss the fact that sin proceeds from the heart by taking note of the sins of “thefts” and “false witness.” The first word discusses stealing material property, while the second describes false testimony that steals a person’s good name. Thievery takes any number of forms, including pilfering, extortion, shoplifting, robbery and pillage (Titus 2:10; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 11:26; Nahum 3:1). An honest heart refuses to take that which does not belong to it. And, it is precisely such honesty of heart that refuses to tell a lie about another person. Lies not only cover up for one’s evil motives and actions, they do so at the expense of others. The “lying tongue” and “a false witness who speaks lies” are abominations to God (Proverbs 6:17-19). False witnesses led to the murder of Jesus and Stephen (Matthew 26:59-61; Acts 6:13-14). Stealing and lying takes advantage of others. Loving our neighbors and treating them like we want to be treated helps us treat others with integrity and decency. Respecting the rights and property of others is a hedge against these sins of dishonesty.
33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37, NKJV)
Jesus knows there are people who think what they say is only binding when they give their word with an oath. Without it, they feel at ease to break their word (see Matthew 23:16-22 for examples of this). Such people still exist. Honesty holds little value to them, so they break their word easily and repeatedly. Apparently, they think by emphasizing or exaggerating their honesty they increase their integrity and credibility. So, they swear by God, by heaven, by earth, and by many other things. They assure you they are telling you the truth as they say, “I swear…” For Christians, a simple “yes” or “no” is enough to establish the truthfulness of our words. Jesus said, “more than these is from the evil one.” Be the person whose integrity of heart means your word is your bond. Then, when you speak, others never need to wonder whether you are telling them the truth. (Revised, Sword Tips #320)
“In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;” (Psalm 15:4, NKJV)
The sweet psalmist of Israel is in the middle of answering the question he posed in the first verse of Psalm 15: “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” David draws our attention to the person who makes a pledge and keeps it even when, by doing so, it hurts him instead of benefits him. God accepts into His presence the person who measures honesty as a mark of integrity and personal honor. Truth is sacred to this person. This person does not pledge himself to honesty only if it results in a personal advantage. Are you such a person? How important is keeping your word to you? For Christians, our word is our bond (Ephesians 4:25). We keep our word, even if it disadvantages us to do so. The person who loves truth and fears God more than personal advantage dwells with God. Pledging our word and then breaking it because it puts us out, displays a lack of integrity that does not go unnoticed by God.
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … 4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; (Psalm 15:1, 4, NKJV)
There was a time when it was said, “a man’s word is his bond.” This still holds true for the righteous person who dwells in the presence of the Holy One. Even when he discovers that to which he gave his word damages him in some way, he continues to keep his word. The honor of fulfilling one’s word is a matter of personal integrity before God and before men. The honesty of our words does not depend on whether they help us or harm us, but upon the character of our heart. God, who knows our hearts, honors honest-hearted people with the joys of His presence.
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? 2 He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart… (Psalm 15:1-2, NKJV)
The honest of heart are given permission to enter and remain in God’s tent for the rest of His holy presence and the protection of His sovereign care. King Solomon counseled his son to guard his heart diligently, “for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). In another place he reminds us that a person is what he thinks (Prov. 23:7). Truth proceeds from the heart of the honest person. He speaks truth to his neighbor, rather than deceit (Eph. 4:25; 1 Pet. 3:10). A deceptive heart speaks lies, whereas an honest heart has the truth written upon it. When we speak, may it always be from a heart that esteems and demands the truth. With such a heart we establish and maintain the character of honesty, integrity and trustworthiness that pleases God.
37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37–39, NKJV)
Lying, cheating and stealing are widespread in America and around the world. Over one-half of 2012 American high school students surveyed admitted cheating on an exam, 55% to lying to a teacher, and 20% to stealing (2012 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth). At the same time, “99 percent agree that “it is important for me to be a person with good character” (Ibid). Their challenge (and ours) is a total commitment to honesty and integrity. The Bible is clear on this matter. Lying, stealing and cheating are sins against God and against one’s neighbor. Stealing is sin: “Let him who stole steal no more” (Eph. 4:28). Lying is sin: “Put away lying, ‘let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor’” (Eph. 4:25). Cheating is sin: “You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him” (Lev. 19:13; Prov. 11:1). So, when we lie, cheat and steal we are not loving of God and we are not loving our neighbor. Commit yourself to loving God and others by being honest in your every word and deed.