A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape Proverb 19:5.
Do you remember the Ninth Commandment, from Exodus 20:16, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Much of what goes on in politics, the news media, and social media (including by some Christians) would be seen as breaking God’s Ninth Commandment. The law against bearing false witness has to do with protecting people against lies, slander, and character assassination. The lying laws within God’s law were set up to hold people or witnesses accountable for their words, to protect innocent people, and to be an integral part to the operation of laws and justice. It was to be a crime to falsely accuse someone and people were prohibited from making false and unfounded statements (Exodus 23:1, 2, 7; Deuteronomy 7:16; 9:15-21; 22:13-21).
As Christians, we are not under the law, but under grace. The New Testament does not suggest we live under Law rather than grace but at the same time the Scriptures do not cause one to speak as though the Law is evil and useless. The morality placed in the Law existed before the Law God gave Moses because it came from God’s character. His holy righteous character is the same before, during, and after the Law of Moses. Moral principles from God’s character are even repeated in the New Testament and are made reference to such as in Romans 13:8-10. The Law also has a permanent role and is still GOOD if it is used lawfully to reveal man’s sinfulness and behaviors contrary to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:8-10).
Passing on false news, unvetted news, and unverified statements on social media is bearing false witness. Slandering and lying about those you disagree with politically to create an impression beyond supported facts is bearing false witness. Reposting an untrue or totally false photo-shopped picture or meme is bearing false witness.
Some describe these as Lying Laws which forbade:
- Bearing false witness Exodus 2016; Deuteronomy 5:20.
- Do not raise a false report or cooperate with the wicked as an unrighteous witness Exodus 23:1, 2, 7, 8.
- Do not lie one to another Leviticus 19:11.
- Do not go up and down among the people as a talebearer Leviticus 19:16.
- The death penalty for capital crimes required 2 or 3 witnesses to the fact to protect against a lie and perjury of a single witness Leviticus 17:6, 7; 19:15.
- A false witness was to be put to death Deuteronomy 19:15-21(Anything requiring the death penalty we would surmise God considered a serious matter. Today people lie and give false witness with impunity).
The Scriptures also contain warnings against slander. Psalm 101:5-7 says, “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.6 Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.7 He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.” Christians who claim to hate murder, adultery, stealing, and obey God’s moral law regarding them (Exodus 20:13-16) seem to see, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” as something less than a sin.
Lying is a part of the corrupt nature of the old man that we as Christians are supposed to have put off (Colossians 3:9). Many do it with no guilt, remorse, or accountability for their words. Slander and bearing false witness once made in public forums can never be totally recaptured. They are like feathers let loose from a pillow on a high mountain peak with the wind blowing; once let go, though one may realize it is a mistake, can never be retrieved. It’s so easy just to pile on with our comments about whoever is the current target of criticism but sometimes it is even before facts are known.