Why putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
As the saints had put off lying at their conversion, it was their duty henceforth to speak truth with their neighbor's. Consider the social duty prescribed and the motive to its faithful performance.
I. THE SOCIAL DUTY. "Speak every man truth with his neighbor." What is truth? There is truth as opposed to falsehood, which is an express intention to deceive. There is truth of character, which is opposed to insincerity. Both kinds of truth are manifest in three circumstances - in common conversation, in bearing testimony, in making and in keeping promises.
(1) Christians ought to be truthful in ordinary conversation, on the most trivial as well as on the most solemn occasions, because if a strict veracity is not maintained in the unguarded moments of life, it seldom remains long unshaken under a stress of temptation. The slightest deviation from it, either in the way of exaggeration or distortion, is inconsistent with the candor and simplicity which ought to adorn a Christian. The prohibition of falsehood is absolute in Scripture. "Ye shall not lie to one another" (Leviticus 19:11); "Lie not one to another" (Colossians 3:9); "Speak every man truth with his neighbor" (Zechariah 8:16).
(2) Truth must be maintained in bearing testimony. "A false witness speaketh lies" (Proverbs 6:19), and thus "soweth discord among brethren." It is the characteristic mark of a citizen of Zion that he will not take up a report against his neighbor (Psalm 15:3). No affection, no prejudice, no fear of man, ought to lead to a false, or partial, or misleading representation of facts. Perjury undermines society more than murder.
(3) Truth must be kept in the matter of promises. There must be a real intention to fulfill them when they are made. The citizen of Zion "speaketh the truth in his heart" (Psalm 15:2). Promises to men stand on the same footing with vows to God. "Better it is that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay "(Ecclesiastes 5:5). We must be as conscientious in performance as we are in promise. There may be cases, no doubt, in which the obligation is superseded by higher considerations. Herod was not bound by his oath to the daughter of Herodias. There may be cases likewise in which there is a providential disability to carry out a promise. But if we possess a full capacity of action, our duty is to fulfill our engagement. The citizen in Zion "sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not" (Psalm 15:4).
II. THE MOTIVE TO THIS SOCIAL DUTY. "Because we are members one of another." This is a religious consideration that is not designed to exclude other grounds of obligation to truthfulness.
1. But the principle here laid down applies equally to mankind in general.
(1) A lie is a breach of the social contract. It tends to make society impossible, for society only exists through the trust that man exercises in man. It turns that instrument of speech, which God has given us for our mutual comfort, into a means of estrangement. Therefore "the righteous man hateth lying" (Proverbs 13:5).
(2) It is a breach of the golden rule that we should do to others as we would have them do to us. Liars expect others to speak the truth to them, and complain when it is not done. Therefore truth is what every man has a right to expect and desire from another. We have no more right to deceive our neighbor than we have a right to defraud him.
(3) It destroys the comfort and peace of society. What a picture of its effects is in Jeremiah 9:4, 5! - "Take ye heed every one of his neighbor, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will walk with slanders. And they will deceive every one his neighbor, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity."
(4) It prepares the way for further demoralization of character.
2. The principle here laid down specially applies to Christians. They are not only members of Christ, but of one another. Chrysostom supposes the impossibility of the eye lying to the foot or the foot to the eye, in the presence of danger. Thus it would be equally unnatural, by the very law of their union, as members one of another, that believers should deceive one another by falsehood. The consideration of this membership suggests a relation
(1) to that God the Father who is "a God of truth" (Deuteronomy 32:4), who "is not a man that he should lie" (Numbers 23:19), who gave oath and promise as "the two immutable things, in which it is impossible that God should lie" (Hebrews 6:18);
(2) to that Savior who is the Truth as well as the Life - "the faithful and true Witness" -having "no guile found in his mouth;"
(3) and to that Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17), and has given us the Scriptures of truth.
1. Let believers be careful as to truth. "If any man seemeth to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue" - particularly from lying - "that man's religion is vain." Let them pray with the psalmist, "Remove far from me the way of lying." Let them not tolerate liars in their society (Psalm ca. 7).
2. Mark how religion tends to promote the well-being and comfort of society. Truth is the cement of society.
3. Remember that the devil is the father of liars (John 8:44), and that "whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" shall not enter the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 22:15). - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.