We do not earn our salvation or even maintain our standing before God. Rather this commandment now becomes a way to honor the One who saved us and testify of his goodness out of love. Because of what Christ has done, stony hearts that formerly suppressed the truth have been replaced with hearts of flesh that learn to love God and his Word. The Holy Spirit is at work, changing our desires and renewing our minds to esteem others in our attitudes and speech. And when we do sin, we can run to Christ as our only hope.
At face value, the 9th commandment could be read as merely a prohibition against committing perjury or lying under oath. However, this commandment encompasses so much more. According to both the Westminster Shorter and the Baptist catechisms, “The ninth commandment requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing.” This “promoting of truth” is fleshed out even further in Q&A 144 and 145 of the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC), which discuss the duties required and sins prohibited by this commandment. It leaves no stone unturned regarding the thoughts and heart motives that fuel our speech in addition to the actual words themselves. “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) We will also stand before God on judgment day and give an account for every idle word, which is convicting and sobering. (Matt. 12:36)
When I first read these sections in the WLC, I immediately thought of the toxicity of social media and the ease with which fake news is spread far and wide. If there ever was an environment that spurned the 9th commandment and encouraged its breaking, this is it. But while it is easy to point the finger out there, I need to ask myself, not if, but where have I broken the 9th commandment? Are my words motivated by a desire for my neighbor’s best, or am I cold and indifferent? Are my assessments impartial with every attempt to portray the situation as accurately as possible to the best of my ability, or are they biased to put myself and my interests in a more favorable light?