“And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” Deuteronomy 5:20, ESV, commonly referred to as the 8th Commandment (they are not actually enumerated in either Deuteronomy nor Exodus).
Bearing false witness (lying) has become not only acceptable in these times but seemingly expected. When we hear what we want to hear, we accept and repeat the lie. When we hear what reinforces our beliefs, we repeat the lie. We then become the false witness.
Recently, a woman from Redding, Ca. was in the news after being sentenced to 18 months in prison for making the false claim of being kidnapped, tortured and escaping. As a result of her claim, she collected thousands of dollars from social security and a victim restitution fund.
People believed her because she was a lovely lady and the public will often allow appearance to sway our feelings either for an advantage or disadvantage. So many people watch “true crime” shows on television and are willing to believe without question a story such as this woman’s.
An actor in Chicago was sentenced earlier this year to thirty months in prison for a collection of charges relating to falsely reporting hate crimes against himself. It was said by prosecutors that the actor did this as a publicity stunt. He succeeded in getting publicity, but not the type he was hoping for. He knew that his claims would find appeal by a certain portion of the public because it helps to prove their core beliefs.
“A false witness will not go unpunished and he who breathes out lies will not escape.” Proverbs 19:5, ESV
We are called as Christians to put off lies and guard against repeating falsehoods, even if they fit the preferred narrative. Do you resend posts on social media without checking whether they are true or not? It must be true, you think as you repost, because I want it to be true–I need it to be true.
We allow ourselves to become angry while listening to those who reinforce our ideas of what is happening in our world, whether those ideas are factual or not. Our anger opens the way to sin; one of the easiest sins is bearing false witness.
Paul warned the church in Ephesus, the one he served with the longest, against falsehood. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:25-26, ESV
As we go about our daily lives, consume and participate in social media, pray for wisdom to recognize falsehood. Pray for strength to not give into to Satan’s seduction and repat the falsehood, even when that falsehood reinforces our long-held beliefs. Examine your beliefs as to whether you have been bearing false witness to yourself. Then, pray for forgiveness for your sin.
St. John’s Lutheran Church is a member of Lutheran Congregations in Ministry to Christ (LCMC), located at 250 W. Adams Ave in Los Banos. We hold services on Sunday morning at 9 a.m., followed by a fellowship time and Sunday School. We also operate a Preschool for students 3 to 4 years old. See our website at www.st-johnsLB.org.