3:251 – Bearing False Witness
#faithbites #faithjourney false
I was debating politics with someone, and they brought up how can we as Christian men, bear false witness. It is a concept I was only marginally familiar with, so I figured we could all learn together. We throw around so many terms and ideas, it’s important to understand what they mean.
Exodus 20:16 says “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” and is the ninth commandment for many denominations, eight for others. This commandment is also a natural consequence of loving your neighbor as yourself. (Romans 13:9)
What does this mean? Is it the same as lying? Is it the same as perjury? Lying is discouraged but it is not the same as perjury. There are some cases, where lying may be needed but perjury is always a false witness. There is also a third category that is just being unkind.
Here are some examples.
- This person is a jerk
- It’s unkind but may be true if they are acting like a jerk.
- It may be a lie if the person is not a jerk.
- It’s probably not bearing false witness as there is no accusation of wrongdoing.
- This person murdered that person
- If they did it, it may be unkind to say it, but it’s the truth.
- If they didn’t kill the person and you testify they did, that’s false witness.
- Politician X broke their campaign promise.
- It’s both a lie and false witness if it’s not true.
- It can be unkind to those who support politician x but if it is true, it’s not false witness.
- I lied to get a job
- It’s can be unkind and is lying. It’s not false witness as it’s not against someone else.
- It can also be a necessity to get food for you and yours. Again, it’s not condoned, but there are cases were lies may be needed.
If you can’t tell by now, it’s a tricky road. There are several examples in the Bible of why God told us not to bear false witness.
- Proverbs 19:5 – A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
- Exodus 23:1-1 You must not pass along false rumors. You must not cooperate with evil people by lying on the witness stand. “You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice. And do not slant your testimony in favor of a person just because that person is poor.
- Deuteronomy 19:15-21 – “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil[a] from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
An eye for an eye. A life for a life. This is the punishment for bearing false witness. As we see in our Deuteronomy text, if you bear false witness in a court and it is proven, you should have done to you what you wanted done to the accused. There isn’t a grey area here.
We are told that bearing false witness is a sin. That those who do it will not go unpunished. We must not follow the crowd and stand up for what is right.
In this day and age, it’s hard to know what’s true. Sure, we can have opinions about things. We also much educate ourselves on why we believe what we believe. We must go forward and be more Christ-like by looking to the truth and not what the masses say.
This isn’t easy. I teeter on the edge of having strong opinions and bearing false witness. I have never, in a court of law, been asked to bear witness against a brother or sister. My prayer is I would always speak the truth.
Have I lied? Absolutely. Have I said mean and hurtful things? Absolutely. I pray for forgiveness on these everyday.
I hope that this little trip into what “bearing false witness” means. Let us always speak truth.
Have you ever given false testimony? Have you ever spoken ill of someone? Know that these aren’t the same things. Lying isn’t good. Speaking with unkind words isn’t good. What steps will you take to be more like God? It could be as simple as fact checking your postings before sharing. Baby steps.
Father God, you find bearing false witness to be abhorrent. Help us never to tell lies about our brothers and sisters. Remind us there is a difference between opinion, fact, lying, and bearing false witness. Help us to know the difference and be able to share openly, honestly, and kindly.
Lord, when we fail, which we know we will, forgive us. Erase the pain, the shame, and help us make right to those we bore false witness too. We love you Lord. Amen.