"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:20
First and foremost, this commandment requires witnesses in any court of law to be truthful in all they say; and it forbids any false witness or testimony against another (cf. Ex. 23:1-3).
The Bible plainly warns: "A false witness will not be unpunished, and he who speaks lies will not escape" (Prov. 19:5).
Under Old Testament civil laws, false witnesses were to be punished with the same punishment the one they falsely accused would have received if their witness were true (cf. Deut. 19:15-21). Those who were not punished by man would come under the judgment of God Himself, who knows all!
Most people think little of speaking evil of others, saying things to destroy people's names and reputations, and spreading rumors and gossip about others, but this commandment also condemns such.
Again, the Scriptures say: "Do not speak evil of one another, brothers" (James 4:11); and, "A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals the matter" (Prov. 11:13).
When a brother commits a trespass, we are to first go to him privately in an effort to bring him to repentance (cf. Matt. 18:15ff.); we are not to go and tell everyone else what evil he has done.
The prophet Zechariah writes: "These are the things you will do: Speak truth each to his neighbor, and make judgments in your gates that are for truth, and justice, and peace. Let none of you consider evil plans in your heart against your neighbor, and do not love false oaths, for I hate all these things, says the LORD" (Zech. 8:16-17).
Rather than bearing false witness against our neighbor, speaking evil of him, or impugning his name and reputation, we are to love him and defend him against false accusations and gossip.
The Bible says: "Open your mouth for the speechless in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy" (Prov. 31:8-9). Peter writes: "Above all things, have unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet. 4:8).
When we examine our own lives -- our thoughts, words and actions against this commandment of the LORD -- we see again that we have fallen short and are in need of repentance and forgiveness.
Messiah Jesus, God's own dear Son in human flesh, has kept this commandment for us; and He suffered our just punishment when He shed His blood for us on the cross.
Acknowledge your sins and failings and turn to Him for forgiveness and life everlasting! Cf. 2 Cor. 7:9-10; Psalm 51:1ff. And then, as a fruit of faith, do not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, forgive me for speaking evil of others, spreading rumors and gossip, and failing to love my neighbor and defend him against the evil words of others. I ask this for the sake of Your innocent sufferings and death in my stead and because of Your glorious resurrection and ascension. Amen.
[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House. Devotion is by Randy Moll. He may be contacted at [email protected] More of Moll's devotional writings reflecting the teaching of the Bible may be freely read at https://goodshepherdonline.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.]