Commandment 9 gets a pretty loosy-goose treatment when we’re taking about fibbing. Is it possible the entire list of 10 commandments are all based on the same principle, though?
The essential premise of the 9th commandment seems to be “commit no harm,” but that doesn’t go very far explaining why some on the list condemn “thinking things.” This is the main contention against holding the lie to this standard, as this command seems to avoid the mere thought of it as a problem, and also seems to refer to some action, to “bear” it, as the condemnable act. Yes, you can bear a thought, too, but then there’s also a reference to a “neighbor.” Can you bear, as in, “suffer,” a thought that is against your neighbor? Well, yes, you can even bear one against yourself. We do this all the time. This is sometimes referred to as being human.
But, what if it’s falsehood itself that’s the problem here? How’s could we ever avoid that, being humans? It does seem to go along with “Love the Lord thy God,” and “him only shalt thou serve.” These are thoughts that become actions, too. The point is that the Bible goes into great detail about our humanness, and defines it as our inability to follow his laws in our own strength. Yes, maybe all falsehood is bad, but simply condemning yourself for a false belief? It turns out that, yes, God even abhors thoughts that lead to deceptive behavior because these are the entire reason for the commandments themselves. We can’t suffer an errant thought, because it will eventually bring the ultimate damage, separation from God.
What we can suffer is the loss of denial and self delusion. But, one more ingredient has to be clear now, and that is grace. We, in fact, lie to ourselves, and create a kind of false grace, too. We have to, at least we think we do, when we have a problem that we think can be solved by simply ignoring it until it goes away. That’s where we begin to get wishy-washy about lying. God’s solution is different. When someone fails, when you fail, God’s solution isn’t to lie about it or ignore it, God’s solution is grace. Bring out the falsehood, and terminate it, with love. We think we should use our humanness as an excuse, when actually it is the very thing that saves us.
If we don’t suffer the lie, and instead suffer the guilt, grace comes in and says, “I know you’re human, but you’re also forgiven.” Our first thought about the ten commandments isn’t usually that they’re inherently about grace, but that is precisely what they are about. It is for this reason that all the questioning over which falsehoods are acceptable is utterly, well, ignorant. All falsehood is condemnable, but the God of the commandments does not condemn, he forgives, if we come to him in truth. What should we do with lies, then? Condemn them all, with grace. If you’re not living by the greatest commandment, to love God and love your neighbor as yourself, you are in the greatest deception of all, already. We all fall, but grace is supposed to lift us out of condemnation, not keep us in fear of it. Tell your neighbor the truth. That’s it. Then, give them the grace you would give yourself when they fall, when you fall. Grace is truth. Lies are lies. And God never stops loving us.
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