You Shall Not Bear False Witness

The 6th century philosopher Anacharsis said, The tongue is at the same time the best part of man, and his worst: with good government, none is more useful; and without it, none is more mischievous. 

Plato wrote There is nothing so delightful as the hearing or speaking of truth. 

Author Charles Colton wrote Truth like light travels only in straight lines. 

Proverbs 10:19 says In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. 

There has been so much written on the topic of the tongue, and whether christian or non-christian, ancient or modern, many excellent things have been said about it. Why is that? Clearly, God the creator, is a God of truth and has programmed all of us to love what is true. So when someone tries to tell us something that is not true or flat out lies to us, it burns in our ears and in our minds. It goes against the way God programmed us. Let’s see what God thinks about how we are to use our tongue with our neighbor because the Bible has a lot to say about how we bear false witness. 

If you remember there are two parts of the ten commandments. The first four commands have to do with loving God and the second six commands have to do with loving our neighbor. Out of the ten commandments, two of the ten, deal with the tongue. One in the first table, you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, and one in the second table, do not bear false witness. If God thought that it was necessary to talk about our tongue with two of his ten commandments, we better pay attention.

Another reason we need to pay attention is it will not be just our actions but also our words that will be brought before the Lord on judgment day. We will have to answer for every careless word we speak. 

We have a sound off about telling the truth to help remind us of how important it is to be a truth teller. Let’s see if we remember it. Be a truth teller … even when it hurts. 

Telling the truth in all things and at all times is very hard. You and I can easily slip and fall in this area. Let’s look at four ways you and I can sin with our tongue.

First, through Gossip and telling tales or stories about people. Gossip is talking about people about things that you do not know to be true, it is spreading rumors. 

When someone brings you and I gossip, it is like bringing music that we can’t wait for someone else to listen to. It is so hard not to tell someone information we hear, even when we don’t know if its quite true but we will tell our friend anyway. Can you keep a secret? It is so hard not to talk about something that isn’t any of my business but I’ll talk about it anyway. Telling tales and gossip is especially tempting for girls. 

I Timothy 5:13 is a warning to young women. It says and besides they learn to be idle (avoiding work, being lazy), wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.

It is like someone going door to door and saying, did you hear about so and so…The apostle Paul says you say things you ought not to say.

In the old testament book of Leviticus 19:16 it says You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people. It is a command. You shall not. 

Tale hearing is a twin sister to tale telling. It takes two. One to tell the tale but it also takes one to stop and hear the tale. Just as sweet as it is to share the rumor and gossip, it is just as exciting to hear it. Before school in the cafe, I see kids going about from table to table, whispering in people’s ears. After school on the breezeway, running back and forth from group to group. This is exactly what Paul was writing to Timothy about, about busybodies. Gossip and telling tales is a way we bear false witness against our neighbor. It is wrong. 

A second way is through being a backbiter and Slanderer.

Proverbs 22 says A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.

Slander takes away something from the character of another, just a little piece here and punches a little hole there and inserts misinformation, hints, suggestions in those gaps and holes. So much so that people begin to question the character and the good name of that person. It is so mean to do this to another person.

Being a backbiter is to say nasty things about someone behind their back or when they are not listening. I see it happen a lot when someone stumbles and messes up. They show weakness. They make a mistake. Matthew 24 says Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. Backbiters are like vultures who gather and feast when one is at their weakest and most vulnerable. 

Psalm 15 says Lord, who may [a]abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness,

And speaks the truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend.

God counts those who are righteous as those who speak the truth and do not backbite or speak evil of his neighbor. They do everything they can to promote the good name of their neighbor. One who does not slander but instead is like the good samaritan, they come alongside their neighbor at their weakest moment to help them, not to kick them when they are down.

Third, Lying and deceit-John 8 is very clear lying is the tongue of the devil. You and I speak english. Some of you also speak spanish or another language. Some of you are learning latin. Jesus says the language of the devil is lying. 

Proverbs 6 says

These six things the Lord hates,

Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:

A proud look,

A lying tongue,

Hands that shed innocent blood,

A heart that devises wicked plans,

Feet that are swift in running to evil,

A false witness who speaks lies,

And one who sows discord among brethren.

Notice that three of seven things that God hates have to do with the tongue. A lying tongue, a false witness, and one who sows discord (someone who argues). God hates these things. Yet how often do you lie to your parents or teachers or friends? Especially when you get questioned about something you are doing. Even little lies are wrong. I saw a student in the lunchroom knock a water bottle over. The noise startled the teacher and she turned around and said to that student, did you knock it over. They said no. By that time another student came by and picked up the bottle. It seems like thats no big deal, no one got hurt, but it is. I said, hey, you need to tell your teacher what you did. Not because they did something wrong. It was an accident but because they need to be a truthteller. God hates lies so whether we think they are big or small, to the God of truth, they are all wrong. We must turn away from lying lips. Those who are faithful with little…will be faithful with much. The opposite is true those who are not faithful in little will not be faithful in much. We must be faithful in telling the truth. Be a truth teller … even when it hurts.

Another form of lying that I see a lot, especially with boys (and you boys thought you would get off the hook). Someone keeps talking and teasing and says something that hurts someone’s feelings, and then they say “I was only kidding”.

Proverbs 26 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death,

Is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “I was only joking!”

When a friend lies to another friend it is like a careless camper leaving a lit campfire, or like a crazy person randomly shooting a deadly weapon. It is dangerous and thoughtless and irresponsible and could really hurt a lot of people.

The last one I will mention is the written word. What you write, text, message, or post is subject to the same law as what you say with your tongue. What one may not speak, one should not write. As students get older, I see them bearing false witness more and more with the use of their phone and devices. I see the message threads. I see the posts. The pictures. The memes. Students come to me in tears. Parents are angry and frustrated telling me how could this person say this. I thought they were friends. If you would not say it to their face, with your parents around, you have no business typing it. If it is slander, gossip, rumors, backbiting, or lies, God hates it and you should have no part of it. 

We think that just because I don’t see the person and can hide behind my screen somehow God’s law doesn’t apply. You couldn’t be more wrong. What you do in secret will be brought to light one day. 

James 3 says the tongue is a fire, a world of [c]iniquity.

The commandment tells us what not to do but it also tells us what to do. Here is the best summary of what to do. As much as it is up to me I will defend and promote my neighbor’s good name. Let me repeat that. As much as it is up to me I will defend and promote my neighbor’s good name. Every conversation. Every post. Every message or text. As much as it is up to me I will defend and promote my neighbor’s good name. If we as a school community would do that, can you imagine how much love there would be here, how much unity there would be, and how safe and secure it would be for one another to be built up in the faith.  

Lastly, the commandment tells us to Be a truth teller … even when it hurts. We have talked about courage is every virtue at its sticking point. At its pressure point. When you want to lie to get out of trouble, courage is to tell the truth and face the consequences. To be responsible for your actions. Refusing to make excuses. When telling the truth may hurt a friendship, courage is doing what is right. When telling the truth, even when it looks like no one will know, courage pushes you to do the good. 

Why should you tell the truth? Because God loves the honest. The truthful. And He takes care of them. It is how you grow up and mature. You and I should want to tell the truth because we love God and want to hear him say, well done good and faithful servant.