Telling a lie has to do with intention. To lie, I must deliberately communicate a falsehood with the intention of deceiving. If I relay wrong information, not knowing it’s the wrong information and with no intention to deceive, I’m not lying; I’m just foolish and hurtful.
Lying is intentional deception.
Here’s the ninth commandment:
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)
But why would I want to bear false witness against my neighbor? Why intentionally deceive?
I can think of lots of reasons:
- Maybe I want my neighbor to look bad so I can look good in comparison?
- Maybe I have a dispute with my neighbor and I just really want to win the argument?
- Maybe my neighbor did something that hurt me and now it’s pay-back time?
Lying has to do with intention.
This highlights another dimension of the commandments of God – they work like a spotlight on the heart. At one level the commands are simply about behavior. At another level they are about putting boundaries around things of extreme importance. But at the deepest level they shine a light on the inner workings of the human heart.
This is why Jesus used the Ten Commandments as a starting point to explore the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (see Matthew 5:21-48).
If you want to understand the Ten Commandments, start by asking: “What is the intention of heart being illuminated by this command?”
Is it my intention to love, bless, encourage, heal, serve and humbly build up others? Or is it my intention to promote myself, serve my own interests, gain power, or just win? What is in my heart?
In this way, every command of God leads us directly to Jesus and the promise of the Gospel: forgiveness and a new heart (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Yes, a new heart, which means — transformed intentions.
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