We all know lying is sin. It is one of the Ten Commandments, after all. But do we understand all that this means? Are we careful to lead honest lives?

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”  – Exodus 20:16

Do you think that the Ten Commandments are part of the Old Testament law that doesn’t really apply anymore? Can they truly have a significant impact on our lives…on our marriages? The truth is that they can–and must. This Couple’s Bible Study covers what the Ten Commandments mean to us today and how they can guide our lives and marriages to bring great blessing. 

As we continue our study of the Ten Commandments and how they apply to our marriages, this week we look at the ninth commandment. It is found in Exodus 20:16: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” 

The word translated “give false testimony” is the word “shaqar” in Hebrew. It can mean to deal falsely, to be false, to be deceptive, to lie, or to break a promise.

The word used in the New Testament when this command is quoted is the Greek word “pseudomarturia.” It means to speak falsely.

This word is used often of the legal process in Israel. So it would mean that one must not testify falsely during a trial. Remember the false accusations made against Jesus during His trial (see Mark 14:55-59)? They were breaking this commandment.

But it goes beyond that. This ninth commandment specifically prohibits testifying against “your neighbor.”

The word for neighbor used here in Hebrew is “rea.” It means friend, companion, or any other person.

Thus God is saying that we must not lie to anyone in any situation.

This is exactly the point Jesus makes in Luke 10:25-37 when answering the question, “And who is my neighbor” (v. 29)?

We can see how this applies to marriage because there is not a closer “neighbor” relationship than between a man and a woman who are married. As God says, “they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:6-9).

We know that God hates lying. He made it one of His Ten Commandments to us. And we read His disdain for lying throughout His Word. We find, for example in Psalm 101:7: “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.”

A similar warning from God is found in Revelation 21:6-8: “He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death’” (bold mine).

Of course, we can ask forgiveness if we lie. And out of His grace, God will forgive us. But if we are liars–if unrepentant lying is part of our life–then that is evidence we have not really given our lives to Christ as our Lord and, therefore, do not have the Holy Spirit living in us. The Holy Spirit would never allow us to go on living that way without convicting us of that sin and enabling us to repent of it.

Since we become one when we marry each other, dishonesty between us can only tear us apart.

Last week’s teaching discussed the sin of adultery. And this certainly begins and continues with lying and deception.

But lying does not have to be that obvious to be destructive to our marriage.

Other “false witnesses” include withholding the truth from our spouses or telling a “half-truth.”

A half-truth is not truth, though we may like to think so. No, a half-truth is a whole lie.

Exaggerating and slanting the truth in any way are also lies. Have you used a word like “always” or “never”? Have you said something to your spouse such as, “You always make us late”? I have. It’s a lie. (Rarely is my wife the reason we’re late. The truth is it’s usually me.)

And don’t be fooled by thinking “little white lies” are okay. A “little white lie” may be telling someone something that isn’t true to keep from hurting them. But in God’s Word there is no such thing as a little lie.

Anything that is not true is a lie. It is a sin. It offends God. And it always hurts our relationship with Him and with our spouse.

We must turn away from lying and ask God’s forgiveness–and the forgiveness of those we’ve lied to–in order to have good relationships. And this is especially true in marriage.

There is one thing I want to address before concluding this week’s teaching. I have been asked many times during my years of pastoral counseling if we should share every thought we have with our spouse. For example, is it a lie not to tell my wife if I have a bad thought about her? Again, let’s turn to God’s Word for the answer.

First, we continue to struggle against our sinful, fleshly desires even after we are saved. We may be dead to sin in the sense that we do not have to be slaves to it anymore, but we still battle against it.

This is why God instructs us through Paul in Galatians 5:16-17: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” 

We also battle against Satan. That’s why we are told in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” The devil cannot enter and possess us as believers, but he can influence our thoughts. He influences our actions by doing so.*

Second, because we know that Satan attacks our thoughts, it is wise not to tell your spouse every thought you have right away, maybe not ever. This is especially true if you believe it will be harmful to them and your marriage.

If you have doubts about sharing your thoughts, pray, read God’s Word, and seek His guidance. Remember that He already knows about it and wants to help you, your spouse, and your marriage. You can also seek the guidance of wise, godly friends.

If your thoughts are recurring, or are the result of a struggle with a life dominating sin such as pornography, you will want to share this with your spouse. These struggling thoughts will impact your relationship. You will also need your spouse’s help to overcome this. God gave you to each other for just such things. You should also seek help from your church and from biblical counselors. God also gives us those resources to help us.

God commands us to be honest—in our hearts, in our words, and in our actions. Only by following this commandment can we remain one with each other as husband and wife and have the beautiful marriage relationship we long for.

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♦   Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God has taught you through it. Discuss how you will apply it to your lives and marriage.

♦   We discussed some ways that lying can negatively impact our marriages. What are other ways you can think of? How can you protect yourselves and your marriage from these?

♦   Do either of you struggle with lying? If you do, this is a sin you need help with. Discuss it with your husband or wife and seek his or her help in dealing with it. If your spouse confesses this to you, forgive them. Commit yourself to helping them. Pray and ask God for His wisdom, guidance, and empowerment to deal with this His way.

♦   Search for Scriptures that would help you respond to this issue. They could be Scriptures that instruct on what to do if you are currently involved in lying or that guide you in how to live with an honest heart.

♦   Close your time together in prayer. Ask God to help you to be honest with Him and with each other.

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Next week we will continue our study by discussing the tenth commandment.

Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,

*I wrote a series on the importance of the full armor of God to our marriages. This series will help you deal with these attacks on your thoughts. Here is a link to the first post in the series: Protecting Your Marriage with the Armor of God.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Making God First
Part 3: Worship and Honor
Part 4: A Sabbath Day
Part 5: Honoring Your Parents
Part 6: Don’t Kill Each Other
Part 7: On Adultery and Stealing
Part 9: Being Content
Part 10: Love and Devotion
All Scripture is from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Header photo by Sabra Penley.
Phone photo by JESHOOTS via (CC0), cropped/text added.
Church photo by Aaron Burden via (CC0), cropped/text added.


About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.