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Ten Commandments | The Eighth Commandment: ‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness’

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The Ten Commandments | The Eighth Commandment: ‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness’

The eighth commandment, ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour,’ is one of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses in the Book of Exodus. This commandment is understood by Christians to prohibit any form of deception or dishonesty in relationships with other people.

The eighth commandment is understood to prohibit lying – ‘speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.’ The Catechism states as categorical: ‘By its very nature, lying is to be condemned.’ This is because it violates the truth and harms relationships of trust between people. The Catechism also notes that ‘offenses against the truth express by word or attitude a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant’. (CCC 2486-2487)

One area where the eighth commandment applies is in the legal system. The commandment is often understood to prohibit giving false testimony in court, and this has been used to justify legal oaths and oaths of office, which are taken with the intention of ensuring that people speak the truth when testifying or fulfilling their duties. The Church affirms the importance of bearing witness to the truth: ‘The Spirit of truth will bear witness to the Truth. He will lead you into all the truth’ (John 16:13).

The eighth commandment can be understood as a call to authenticity and integrity in all aspects of life, for Christians and non-Christians alike. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:25: ‘Therefore, putting away falsehood, let everyone speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.’ The commandment instructs us to speak truthfully and authentically in our interactions with others, rather than living a ‘double life’ where we present ourselves differently to different people.

Many Christian leaders and spiritual writers have emphasized the importance of truthfulness and integrity in the spiritual life.

C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian author and theologian, wrote in his book Mere Christianity: ‘If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake.’

Pope Francis, in his teachings, has emphasized the importance of bearing witness to the truth, even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient. He said: ‘To bear witness to the truth, to live the truth and to speak the truth is always a risk. But it is the only path to peace.’

Protestant Christians have also emphasized the importance of truthfulness and integrity.

Timothy Keller, a prominent Protestant pastor and author, wrote in his book The Reason for God: ‘When you believe in Jesus Christ, you accept his lordship, and you begin to live a life that’s open and transparent before God and other people. You don’t have to hide anymore.’

John Piper, a prominent Protestant pastor and author, has also written of the importance of truthfulness and integrity in the Christian life. In one of his sermons, he said: ‘Integrity means that the inner self is conformed to the truth and is in agreement with the testimony that is given to others. In other words, it means that your heart is right and your life is congruent with your message.’

Francis Chan, Protestant pastor and speaker, stated: ‘I have come to realize that the biggest challenge of my faith is to be truthful with God and others, to be honest about my thoughts and feelings, my questions and doubts.’

In recent years, Protestant leaders have also spoken out against lying and deception in politics and public life.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has written and spoken about the importance of Christians being honest and truthful in politics and public life. He said: ‘Christians must be truth-tellers in a culture that is increasingly post-truth. We must be those who refuse to play along with the culture’s games of deceit and manipulation.’

In What Ways Do People Lie About Themselves?

Some common forms of self-deception include:

  1. Omission: This form of lying is when a person leaves out important information or details when describing themselves, in order to make a better impression. It’s like giving an incomplete version of themselves to the other person.
  2. Exaggeration: This form of lying is when a person exaggerates their achievements, abilities, or experiences in order to appear more impressive or successful.
  3. Fabrication: This form of lying is when a person makes up stories or information about themselves that are completely untrue. They could present themselves as something they are not like a false profession, or a false identity.
  4. Appearance: This form of lying is when a person uses physical appearance to mislead others about their true nature or character. They could make themselves look better than they are in reality, or use clothing and other accessories to give off a false impression.
  5. Masking: This form of lying is when a person hides their true emotions, thoughts or intentions, to present a façade that is opposite of what they are feeling, thinking or planning. They could be smiling while they are unhappy or pretending to agree with something they disagree with.
  6. Image Management: This form of lying is when a person curates their image through social media or other forms of communication in a way that presents a false or altered version of their real life and personality. They present a filtered version of their life and try to project a certain image to others.

How Might This Relate To Matters Of Gender And Sexuality?

Lying about oneself can be particularly relevant in matters of gender and sexuality, as people may feel pressure to conform to societal expectations and hide their true selves.

People may feel pressure to present a certain gender identity or expression that aligns with societal norms, rather than being true to their own feelings and identity. For instance, men may feel pressure to present a masculine persona and suppress their feminine side, and women might feel pressure to present a feminine persona and suppress their masculine side, this is also related to gender stereotype.

Lying about oneself in matters of gender and sexuality can create a disconnect between the person’s sexual and gender identity, and their physical body, leading to a lack of acceptance of oneself and to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

People can face real consequences, such as persecution and discrimination, if they are open and honest about their true selves. For example, in some countries homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment or even death.

Some Christians believe that God created humans in binary gender, man and woman, and that any deviation from this is a sin. Other Christians believe that God created humans in a wide spectrum of gender and sexual identities, and that any form of discrimination or rejection of individuals on the basis of their gender or sexual identity is a violation of Christian teachings.

Religious texts including the Bible have been interpreted by some to condemn same-sex attraction and transgender identity. This is not a universal understanding within the Christian faith and many Christian communities welcome and support individuals regardless of their sexual or gender identity.

The Bible calls for truthfulness and integrity in all aspects of life. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:25: ‘Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.’ The commandment, then, instructs us to speak truthfully and authentically in our interactions with others, rather than living a ‘double life’ where we present ourselves differently to different people.

What Does It Mean To Be Truthful In Relation To God And As A Christian?

Being truthful in relation to God and as a Christian means being authentic and honest in one’s relationship with God and in one’s actions and attitudes as a follower of Christ. This includes being truthful about one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, and not hiding or disguising them. It also means being honest in one’s worship and devotion, not pretending or going through the motions, but being genuine and authentic.

The Bible teaches that God is all-knowing and all-seeing, and that there is no point in trying to deceive or hide from Him. Psalm 139:1-4: ‘O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.’

In addition, Hebrews 4:13: ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.’

Being truthful in relation to God also means being honest about one’s beliefs and doubts, rather than pretending to have faith when one does not. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus said: ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’

Being truthful as a Christian also means being honest and transparent in one’s relationships with others, in line with the eighth commandment: ‘You shall not bear false witness.’

Colossians 3:9-10: ‘Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.’

Being truthful in relation to God and as a Christian means being true to one’s conscience, and living in accordance with one’s beliefs and values. ‘Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.’ (Romans 12:9)

How Should A Christian Engage With Mass Media?

The eighth commandment ‘You shall not bear false witness’ relates to a Christian’s engagement with mass media, including tabloid newspapers, in that it calls for truthfulness and authenticity in all forms of communication. Tabloid newspapers in particular are known for sensationalism, exaggeration and even fabrication of stories, which can be in direct opposition to this commandment.

When engaging with mass media, a Christian should be discerning and critical, and be aware of the potential for misinformation and manipulation. The commandment to ‘not bear false witness’ means to be truthful and authentic in one’s communication and to not deceive or mislead others. As a result, a Christian person should be mindful of the sources of the information they are consuming and be aware of the potential for bias and manipulation.

The commandment to ‘not bear false witness’ applies to the way in which a Christian shares or repeats information they have read in the media. Before sharing or repeating something, a Christian should verify the information for its authenticity, and not spread misinformation or propaganda, which might harm people.

It is also important to note that this commandment applies to the way in which media outlets report on issues related to religious minorities or marginalized groups. Christians should be aware of the potential for media outlets to perpetuate stereotypes and misinformation about these groups, and to be mindful of the impact these stories can have on public perception and on the individuals and communities affected by them.

Should A Christian Buy And Read The Daily Mail?

The Daily Mail, like many tabloids, is known for its sensational and often controversial headlines, which can include misinformation, exaggeration and bias. As a Christian, it’s important to take the commandment ‘You shall not bear false witness’ into account when engaging with any form of media, including newspapers. This means being discerning and critical of the information being presented, and being aware of the potential for bias, manipulation, and misinformation.

A Christian should consider the newspaper’s editorial stance and track record on sensitive social issues, such as its coverage of marginalized groups, immigrants, and people of different religions and cultures. They should also consider the newspaper’s stance on ethical and moral matters, such as its coverage of environmental issues, poverty and inequality; this could give a sense of the general morality of the newspaper.