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“Why We Believe We Should Speak Truth”

(Exodus 20:16; James 3)



I. Introduction.
A. Orientation.

What most powerful ability Lord has given?

Isn’t it tongue?

Isn’t it the power of speech,

Whether spoken or written?

Someone once wrote, “Pen mightier than sword.”

Author might have meant administrative power,

Or the power of ideas.

James narrows it down for us –

It is the power of ideas

Communicated in words.


Consider how powerful tongue is:

Can be used for such good:

Means to share Gospel,

To save souls from eternal damnation;

To build one another up

To make more like Christ.


But can also do great deal of damage:

Can turn people off to Gospel,

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Can tear others down,

Even to point where kill selves.

“See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” (3:5).

B. Preview.

Because so powerful

Shouldn’t be surprised

That a commandment devoted to it:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (20:16).

Tonight, consider how to love neighbor – and so God – with tongue.


Let’s first consider

What command specifically aimed at.


Second, expand a bit

To see it applies to everything we say about others.

II. Sermon.
A. First, what specifically aimed at.

Command not merely against lying –

Though has to do with that –

But bringing false witness against neighbor.


Are times when called to testify –

In disputes,

In court –

This calls us to tell truth in those situations.

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That’s what behind laying hand on Bible

Swearing to tell who truth,

Nothing but truth,

So help you God.


Here, both third and ninth commandments invoked:

If swear by name of God,

Better be calling Him bear witness to truth.


If going to bear witness regarding neighbor,

What say better be true.


Have one example of abuse

Of this command in 1 Kings 21.

Naboth owned a vineyard

Next to king Ahab’s palace

That Ahab wanted for himself.


When the king approached Naboth

To buy or trade for it,

Naboth refused

Because it was family’s inheritance.


When Jezebel saw Ahab was depressed

And found out why,

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She said she’d get vineyard for him.

It was really quite easy.

All she had to do

Was have the king throw a feast,

Invite a couple of worthless men

To accuse Naboth falsely

Of cursing God and the king,

Have him executed,

And then take the vineyard.

That’s what she did,

And apparently Ahab agreed,

Only what they did

Not pleasing to the Lord.


Why not?

Because she, Ahab, and these worthless men

Broke the 9
th
Commandment –

As well as the 3
rd
and 6
th
;

And Ahab beginning by breaking the 10
th


They bore false witness against their neighbor.

This is exactly what the command forbids

And for obvious reasons.


In those days

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Any fact could be established

On basis of two or three witnesses (Deu. 19:15).

What kept two or three

From banding together

And taking just about anything they wanted?

The warning: “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any
iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three
witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. If a malicious witness rises up against a
man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men who have the dispute shall
stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in
those days. The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false
witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as
he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among
you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing
among you. Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for
tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deu. 19:15-21).

Whatever intend through false testimony

Will be done to you.


Love to neighbor dictates

That speak truth about them,

Especially when testifying.


Purpose of testimony

Is to punish guilty,

But also to vindicate innocent.


B. But there is larger principle:

Need to love neighbor with our words,

Not use to injure them.
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1. There other ways can be false witness.

Such as spreading damaging lies about someone.

Call this slander.

What God think about?

One who practices this sin

Not inherit kingdom of heaven.

Psalmist writes, “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your
holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks
truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his
neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend” (Psalm 15:1-3).

This perhaps most damaging thing can do

Against anyone.

Some have ruined neighbor’s life.


2. But what if what you tell about others is true?

Does that mean alright to share with everyone?


What if truth damages their reputation unnecessarily?

Say unnecessarily, because sometimes

Truth needs to come out

To help them repent,

Or so someone else not falsely accused.


If not necessary, then called gossip.

What God say about gossip?

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For one thing,

Will undoubtedly injure our neighbor

And possibly destroy their relationship with others.

Solomon, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter
separates intimate friends” (Prov. 17:9).

Can be loving them if do this?


Gossip actually form of slander,

So falls under same censure.

We’re told further not to associate with those who do

Because if listen, partake same sin.

Solomon, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not
associate with a gossip” (Prov. 20:19).


So what do with potentially damaging truth

Find out about someone?

Keep to self, “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is
trustworthy conceals a matter” (11:13).


3. What if you tell lie that doesn’t damage reputation,

What if actually helps them?

Two kinds of lies:

Those that hurt –

That’s called slander –

And those that could potentially

Make the person seem better than are.

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God says should try outdo one another

In showing honor (Rom. 12:10),

If there is honor is to be given.


But if try to influence someone

Through exaggeration –

Lying to them about selves –

Then called flattery.

Flattery is never good,

And is always done for a bad reason,

Which is why Solomon, “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his
steps” (Prov. 29:5).


Of course,

If exaggerate about self,

Then bearing false witness about self.

Paul calls that boasting/bragging,

Something love does not do (1 Cor. 13:4).

Again Solomon, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and
not your own lips” (27:2).


4. What should do if someone slanders you,

Or gossips about you,

Or tries to flatter you?

The same as when

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They try to injure you in some other way:

Don’t try to get even,

But return good for evil.

Jesus says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who
hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever
hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your
coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. . . Love your enemies, and do
good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and
you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil
men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-29, 35-36).

Paul writes, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12:14).


Instead of taking to heart,

Getting angry,

And plotting how to get revenge,

Think about how to help them turn around

And do what’s right.

Paul writes, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a
word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it
will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by
whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath
and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in
Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:29-32).

In many cases,

Means going to them

And working towards overcoming their anger with love.


You should try to do this

When the attack first comes,

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Or you’ll make matters worse, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh
word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

Personal example from water softener company.


Use your tongue for good.

Build up with your words.

Bless and don’t curse.

That’s how love neighbor.


5. Let’s not forget,

Most important way to love with words

Is share good news

Of what Jesus done to save sinners.


Have a commission from Jesus

To tell everyone good news.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I
commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”
(Matt. 28:19-20).

No better use of tongue,

Nothing more honoring to God,

Than share what He’s done to save sinners

Through His Son.


So try to use every opportunity

To lead others to eternal life in Christ,

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And you will be doing what is most honoring to the Lord.

May the Lord help us all to do so. Amen.


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