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8:35 AM   [16 May 2018 | Wednesday]

What is bearing false witness?


The ninth commandment is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Deut. 5:20 (NAS, bold print added)

The Bible speaks against “bearing false witness” many times in both the Old and New Testaments.  I counted fifteen verses speaking of bearing false witness against your neighbor.  One of those verses is in Proverbs 6, which talks about the things God hates!

“ . . . . A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.” Proverbs 6:19 (NAS, bold print added)

It is discussed a lot in the Bible, and God hates it.  So, it’s a big deal, right?  Let’s look at bearing false witness a little closer. 

Bearing false witness is a form of lying, but it’s worse.  It is lying about someone else.  It is lying about someone in order to do them harm.  The three words in the phrase “bearing false witness” help us to understand what it means. Bearing implies carrying information from one place to another.  False means this info is untrue.  A witness tells these untruths to others.  “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  This commandment tells us not to speak untruthfully about our neighbor to other people, presumably with the intention of hurting him.  The next logical question might be “Who is my neighbor?”

In Luke chapter 10, a lawyer asked Jesus this very question.  Jesus proceeded to tell him the parable of the Good Samaritan.  One of the lessons of this story is that our neighbor is anyone whom we encounter in our lives who need our mercy.  Since everyone needs mercy, all people we encounter can be our neighbors.

Why does the Bible come down so hard on people for lying about their neighbors?  One reason is because we Christians are the children of God, and God is the author of truth.  Lying is in opposition to the nature of God and of Jesus Christ, whom we should strive to imitate.

“ . . . I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6 (NAS, bold print added)

If we bear false witness (lying about others), we are not imitating Jesus.  We are imitating Satan, because he is the father of lies.  If we falsely accuse our neighbors, we are doing what Satan does.  He is the false accuser of all of us.

“. . . . for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” Rev 12: 10 (NAS, bold print added)

Bearing false witness, or lying about our neighbor, can take different forms.

 If you do it as a sworn witness in a court of law you can really hurt someone.  They could be imprisoned, or worse, because of what you say.  Jesus was falsely accused by two witnesses in front of the Sanhedrin, and He was crucified, as a result.

There are other ways of bearing false witness.  First, flat out lying about someone for your own selfish reasons.  This is also called “slander”.  Second, we can lie about someone in an indirect manner, trying to create a false impression of them.  Third, we can be a false witness by our silence.  We do this by failing to speak up and defend someone whom we know has been unjustly accused.

The most common form of bearing false witness is gossip.  Passing around negative information about others, many times without even checking to find out if it is really true, is bearing false witness.  Friendships, careers, reputations, and marriages can be harmed by idle, malicious gossip.  A great part of the Bible can be summed up by the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself”.  Spreading negative gossip about our neighbors is definitely incompatible with many truths which we are taught in the Word of God.

So, what can be done if we feel we have a problem with bearing false witness?  We must do something because it is a serious matter.  It could indicate that we are backsliding in our faith.  If nothing is done, we can certainly expect chastening from God, at some point.  God will discipline His children who engage in flagrant sin.

“because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Heb 12:6 (NIV)

If lying and bearing false witness are problems you are dealing with, the solution is to get right with God.  If you are already a Christian, you do this by facing up to your sin, confessing it, and then ask God’s forgiveness.  You then move forward, earnestly striving to no longer be a person guilty of being a false witness.

If you are not saved, the first step for you is to receive Jesus into your heart.  With this beginning, you will begin a lifelong personal walk with Christ that will transform your entire life.   Romans 10:9-11 tells you exactly how to do it.

“If you declare with your mouth, ’Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (NIV)


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