Cleveland Is More Potent than Camelot (Exodus 20:16)

Each one of God’s ten words functions like a set of big brackets to bundle families of sin together. Thus anger was a violation of God’s command to not murder (Matthew 5:21–22). The head of each family was listed as a federal head representing all his lesser offspring. Murder heads up hatred, anger, wrath, malice, and cruelty and so on.

Who is the head of the family of lies? Spiritually, it’s Satan of course (John 8:44), but I’m speaking of the sin itself? What form of lies causes the greatest potential physical harm to our neighbor? Legal lies. That’s what is with the odd language of this command. Often this command is summarily cited as “You shall not lie,” and this is entirely justified, because daddy lie here brings all his kids in tow.

But we shouldn’t opt for the shorthand. Memorize and site the full thing. The legal context of the original commandment is best recalled because it speaks of the power of lies and truth. “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit (Exodus 23:1–3 ESV).” By lies, evil is done and justice is perverted. A false accusation could mean death. Lies ultimately always bring about some form of death. In God, truth and life are linked together. To take the lie, is to reject the One who is life.  Lies run in the opposite direction of life. All human suffering and evil were birthed into this world through a serpent’s lie.

Words are powerful. We serve a God who spoke and there was light. We serve a God of powerful words, and we are made in His image. Our words have immense power. In a passage in Reflections on the Psalms, where C.S. Lewis is making a point that is completely wrong, He says something brilliantly right, “Myth can be truer than historical fact.” As one of Lewis’ disciples put it, “A good adventure story is truer than dull history.” Here’s my point, in the magical tales we see that words have power, but here we’re told, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Bah! Your words, my words, man’s words are much more powerful than that—for good and ill. If Camelot were real and Cleveland the tale, Merlin would blush with envy over the power of our words.

We’ve not only believed a lie, for which we are culpable because we loved the lie, we’ve also spread the lie, a lie about God. For our loving and believing the great lie, for our rejecting the God of all truth in who is life, we are dead in our sins. But in Jesus, truth and life have come for our Redemption. When Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” He is saying that He is truth and life for dead liars. As by believing the lie of Satan we died, so by believing the truth of the Savior we live.

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