Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness

A look at the ninth commandment: thou shalt bear false witness against thy neighbor.


Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Exodus 20:16 KJV
The ninth commandment is not to bear false witness against people, which is often taken as a command not to lie. John 14:6 tells us that Jesus is "the truth" with drives home the fact that truthfulness is an important part of righteousness. God's commandment here is about more than just lying, however.


Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.Exodus 20:16 KJV
Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.Deuteronomy 5:20 KJV

Bible Verses

  1. Exodus 23:1,7
  2. Leviticus 19:11
  3. Psalm 15:1-2
  4. Psalm 101:5
  5. Proverbs 10:18
  6. Jeremiah 9:3-5
  7. Zechariah 8:16
  8. Matthew 19:18
  9. Mark 10:19
  10. Luke 18:20
  11. Ephesians 4:25,31
  12. Colossians 3:9
  13. Titus 3:2



It's not hard to conclude that lying is wrong; we know bad things come from lying. The issues that really stem from this commandment are "little white lies" and gossip.

Little White Lies

The phrase "little white lie" is used to describe a lie that had good intentions,[1] like a parent telling their child they sound good singing even though they sound horrible. What's the harm? Well, when the child goes singing in front of their peers and gets laughed at, it's probably going to hurt worse, especially since the child's peers will be more brutal about the situation. We all tell these, sometimes without even thinking; I did so just today, twice.

The first time was due to me not wanting to attend something; instead of simply saying "I don't want to come" I said I had a prior obligation a few hours before the event (which was true) and would drop by if I finished in time. The fact of the matter was that I knew I would be done in time to attend, and I knew I would likely not attend. Some of it was the intention not offend those inviting me, but the other part was laziness. I knew that if I said I didn't want to come, a distinct difference and truth than being unable to attend, questions would arise to why.

Laziness is at the root of the second lie I told today as well. This time it started with me not paying attention to what was being said and inadvertently saying I went to one store when I actually went to another. I could have corrected the person once I realized what was happening, but laziness convinced me otherwise—why bother, it didn't really matter did it? That was the devil's voice in my head. The conversation was brought up later, likely God's way of giving me a chance to tell the truth, but instead of doing the right thing, I gave into laziness again. I didn't want to explain why I didn't say something earlier. I didn't want to explain why I went to the other store. But this behavior reveals much more about me and a deeper problem that God wants us to avoid.

I didn't want to explain why I didn't want to attend because that is a form of validation—without a reason not to attend, they would have insisted I come, that I would have fun, etc. With the other scenario it was more about embarrassment and not wanting to explain a complex story. But what happens when someone is asking me about my faith? When they ask about why I can't attend something on Saturday or why I follow God's dietary law, what will I say? Will my avoidance of confrontation lead me to deny my Lord?

At the time, I didn't think it was a big deal, but as I sat to write this post I thought about the deeper issues involved. I lied twice without even thinking about it... I broke one of God's holy commandments twice, knowingly and didn't think about the wrongness of it until tonight. Plus it's possible I only thought about it because I was writing this post. "White lies" are gateway lies. We are deceived into believing it's ok to disobey God for the good of another person, or because it doesn't really matter whether we went to McDonald's or Wendy's (not the stores from my story, just an example). This is the same prideful pitfall that lead Eve to think it was ok to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. We can't fall down that path. I know I'll be thinking more about the words coming out of my mouth. No more laziness.


Gossip is one of those things that shifts and changes as we age. In middle school and high school, being the first to know something made you cool, or at least made you feel cool. As an adult, gossip is more of an inquire, an "is this true" type of conversation. However, once a thought is placed in someone's head, you can't get it back. Gossip is slander, even if you admit you don't know if it's true. An example is when one of my male friends outted himself, he placed suspicion on others, claiming they wanted to date him or had dated guys he had dated. In particular, two of these guys were also my friends; one was dating my best friend and the other was the guy every girl (including myself) had liked at some point. I felt guilty suspecting my best friend's boyfriend of being both closeted and a cheater (based on on my friend's story). Eventually I told my best friend, who ended the relationship. It's possible he was gay and cheated on her, it's possible that he was gay but didn't cheat on her, but it's also possible that neither occurred. Once that box of worms was opened, it couldn't be closed. Even "positive" gossip, such as that a person received a promotion, can lead to negative consequences if it turns out to be false. It could be an embarrassment for that person. That old adage "believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see" is quite true here. We often don't know the entire situation when it comes to gossip and we shouldn't make it worse by listening (allowing our own perceptions to be sullied) or passing it along.

Examples from the Bible

Abraham is a habitual liar. He uses the same lie twice, and both times it causes trouble. Like little white lies, Abraham's lie isn't a full-fledged lie, but really is an omission of truth. He tells introduces his wife as his sister without ever admitting that she is his wife. This leads people to covet a married woman and even lead to adultery in one case. This brings about God's wrath on an unsuspecting king.[2][3]


  1. Quinion, Michael. "White Lie". World Wide Words. 2015
  2. Genesis 12
  3. Genesis 20


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