“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The most grievous reputation theft is to steal God’s. At one time I was astounded to realize how grave a sin my grumbling was as I reflected on the fact that complaining was a capital offense for many Israelites (see Num. 11:1). Complaining about my circumstances steals glory from God. In fact, when I complain, I’m telling people my God isn’t smart enough to know my best interests, isn’t strong enough to handle this situation, or doesn’t care about me. In making these insinuations, I’ve damaged His reputation. Only thanksgiving and praise will restore the luster.
Take a few minutes and list your current gripes, particularly things you’ve complained about to others. Confess those words as the sin they are. If there’s a need to restore God’s reputation with the one you spoke to, make plans to do that. Pause now and by faith thank God for the good He intends by allowing those circumstances that plague you so. They may not be good; in fact, they may be evil. But God intends good for you by sending them, permitting them, or redirecting the evil purpose an enemy may have had. Thank Him! Praise will restore your tranquility and God’s honor. Acknowledge that God’s glory transcends your circumstances.
Yet what about our own reputation as well as God’s? As we consider another aspect of the ninth commandment: “Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). Giving false testimony means lying. Strictly speaking, the ninth commandment prohibits only perjury, deliberately making a false statement in a court of law. Perjury is especially serious because it threatens the integrity of the courts by which justice is secured. Yet, as with each of the Ten Commandments, there are deeper implications. “Do not lie to one another” (Col. 3:9; also see Lev. 19:11) is a pervasive command in Scripture, and the law itself identifies many varieties of lying, in addition to perjury: dealing falsely; gossip; breaking a contract; and above all, swearing falsely in God’s name (see Lev. 19:11-12,16).
The psalmist’s love for God’s Word bred in him a godly aversion to anything false. He wrote: I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love Your instruction.” (Psalm 119:163)
The Bible reminds us that falsehood includes not only what we say about others, but also what we say about God and what we say about ourselves. We cross the commandments about stealing (reputations), lying (is this really true?), and God’s glory when we embellish details in our thoughts and speech. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
How bad a sin is deception? For the Christian, every word and act either affirms the truth of God or denies God. In other words, to the extent we conform to reality in what we do and say, to that extent we conform to the ultimate reality, God. To the extent we do not conform, to that extent we tell lies about God, we profane his reputation. When we do this knowingly or deliberately, we sin the more grievously. So the basic evil of deception is that it denies the character of God who is truth (Heb. 6:18). Jesus said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). He also said the word of God is the embodiment of truth (John 17:17). God is utterly reliable. This is the foundation of a coherent universe.