Commandment 9: You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
Lying, like the other commandments we've looked at over the past few days, hurts others. What does lying do to the person lied about? How are they victims? How does it affect others who hear the lie? How does it cause a community of people to make decisions based on untrue statements?
Remember, the Israelites were wandering in the desert. They were making decisions on how to live as a community. They were no longer living under the rule of Pharaoh; they were making communal decisions. If somebody lies, therefore, it causes problems with the whole community.
This is still true today. Lying affects decisions that are made between people. Lying affects relationships between two or more persons.
We lie because it's easy. It's easier in the short-term to lie than to admit a devastating truth. Lies are things that are hard to detect. There are people who are pretty good at detecting lies, but ultimately it's hard to know if a person is lying.
The Israelites took lying so seriously, that Israelite law said if a person was convicted of lying, they would receive the punishment the other person would have received if it the lie had been true.
In other words, Let's say that I told people that you stole two oxen from me. Now let's say that the punishment for stealing two oxen is to pay back five oxen and two chickens. If it turns out that my accusation about you was untrue, I would have to give you five oxen and two chickens.
The Israelites took lying seriously. They took it seriously because lying hurts people, relationships, and a community. We should take lying seriously as well.
Lying damages these things. May we be truthful in all of our relationships.