COMMUNICATION 01 – False Witness & Lying

Deuteronomy 5:20           “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”

What is God commanding?
  • Our word has highest weight as a witness in court.
    • Therefore especially: no false testimony in court.
    • Why? > false testimony leads the investigation astray and perverts fair judgement
    • How does the Law of Moses discourage ‘false witness’ in court?

Deuteronomy 19:15         “A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime of wrongdoing in connection with any offense that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained.”

  • Only two to three confirming witness accounts will establish something as evidence
  • By cross-examination pre-agreed fabricated tales are effectively weeded out

Deuteronomy 19:15-20    “If a malicious witness comes forward to accuse someone of wrongdoing … 18 and the judges shall make a thorough inquiry. If the witness is a false witness, having testified falsely against another, 19 then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 The rest shall hear and be afraid and a crime such as this shall never again be committed among you.”

  • The method of discouraging false witnesses is by threatening to bring on them the punishment they tried to bring on an innocent person.
  • The more serious the crime the more risky it is to be a false witness about it.
  • Consistent implementation of this method will scare off potential false witnesses.
  • Oath a witness has to take in court: “I swar by God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
  • Why the three parts?
    • the truth > everything you say must be a true statement
    • the whole truth > no omission, no withholding of information, even if not asked
    • nothing but the truth > no commission, no additions, no false implications
  • Again: to ensure truth, reality, reliability and fairness of verdict
Normal life situations
  • Though our word has most weight in court, this law also has important applications for our normal everyday words:
    > no false witness, no lying, no denying, no half truths, no false implication, no over statements, no gossip, no slander (intentionally derogatory words) at any time
Different types of lying

To say what isn’t true                                               sin of commission

What if it is meant well? Trying to please? Trying to encourage? False compliments? ‘White lies’?      Do you like it? Very much … How did I do? Oh, great.

  • What about cultural usages?                                              Will you come? Yes, of course.
  • What about polite language?                                              Sir, sir, … most honorable xxx
  • What about exaggerations?                                                I called you a hundred times! … I’m starving.
  • What about emotional overstatements?                          You are everything to me … You never call.
  • What about entertaining story telling?                              Everybody and their neighbor ran together.

But what if I offend by no saying these fort of words? What if I am misunderstood?

To not say what is true and should be said            sin of ommission

  • Withholding information and knowledge though understanding its need and importance
  • To allow untruth to remain. To not correct an untruth, though I know better
  • Speaking up against injustice or false treatment
  • Affirmations of concern, love and friendship to people who should hear that.
  • Black truths. Truths that create a wrong impression and imply someone falsely.

But should one always say everything? every criticism & bad feeling to peoples’ face?

How did Jesus speak?
  • Did Jesus make compliments to please people?    Don’t know of one
  • Did Jesus say half-truths to encourage people?      He encouraged, but by truth
  • Did Jesus never offend anybody with his speech?  He continually offended people
  • Was Jesus never misunderstood?                             He was continually misunderstood
  • Did Jesus sometimes say nothing?                           Yes
  • Did Jesus defend his right to speak?                         Yes
  • Did he forbid others to speak?                                    Never humans, only demons
  • Jesus is the ultimate example & measure of how our speech needs to be
  • From wisdom literature: Three tests whether to say something at all: Is it true? Is it needed? Is it helpful? If it is neither, don’t say it.
A Bible meditation on the importance of the spoken word
  • Creation: all was created by God’s powerful, life-giving spoken word
    • Gen 1:3        “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”
    • Jhn 1:1,3     “In the beginning was the Word … All things came into being through
      him, and without him not one thing came into being”
  • Creation: all existence and life is sustained by God’s powerful word
    • Heb 1:4        “he sustains all things by his powerful word.”
  • God’s redemption history starts with God speaking to and revealing himself to one man: Abraham (Gen 12:1-3, 15:1-6, 15:12-21, 17:1-8 ff).
  • Jacob steals Father Isaac’s blessing from his brother Esau: spoken blessing can’t be taken back “I have blessed him. Yes, and blessed he shall be!” (Gen 27:33)
  • The 10 commandments (the heart of the Law), are called “The 10 words” in Hebrew.
  • The death-listed Gibeonites obtain a peace treaty from Joshua by trickery. Yet Joshua is bound by his oath and keeps it (Jos 9). God affirms that oath (2 Sam 21:1-3).
  • Judge Jephthah feels obliged to kill his own daughter because of a rash oath he swore (Jdg 11:24-40). Though the law allows to take back a rash oath (Lev 27:1-2), it still stresses with what importance the word was viewed. Is this only in the OT? No:
  • Act 5:1-11 The ‘only sin’ Ananias and Sapphira commit is that they lie about the amount of their sale and donation. They didn’t have to give. They didn’t have to give it all. “Did it not remain your own? Were not the proceeding at your disposal? … You did not lie to us but to God!” (Act 5:4).
  • Jesus teaches the importance and power of our words:
  • Mth 12:36           “I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give and account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned”
  • Accountability for every word! We will be justified or condemned by our very own words! … we surely do not think of our words with this importance
  • Mth 5:37             “Let your word be ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’” Even our every day word has to be reliable.
  • Act 1:8                “You will be my witnesses”. The job of the disciples is simply to witness to, to testify to, to speak to what they saw.
  • James in the NT teaches extensively about the power of the tongue: “if we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large … yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits” (Jam 3:3-5).
  • He also warns about the use of the tongue: “With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing
  • My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.” (Jam 3:9-10).
  • James also contends that true wisdom is not argumentative, ambitious or sharp but rather “pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (Jam 3:13-18). Divisive theological arguments over non-essential issues are not godly wisdom.
  • Rev 12:11 Revelation says about the believers “But they have conquered him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”
More foundationally: God is the Word, Jesus is the Word
  • Jesus is God’s final word, God’s ultimate revelation, God’s full representative
  • Jhn 1:1,14       “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
  • Heb 1:2-3         “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors … but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.”
  • Jhn 14:9           “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
  • Col 1:15-17     “He is the image of the invisible God … for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions or rulers of powers – all things have been created through him and for him.”
  • God is the Word. God is communication. God is revelation. God is the word, and Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the final, authoritative message, the true representative.
  • How can we think of words as not be important when God’s very title is “The Word”??
God's every word is Truth and trustworthy
  • As God is eternal, unchanging and utterly reliable, so is his Word
  • Mth 5:18           “heaven and earth shall pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished”
  • Jam 1:17           “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to
    change / no shadow of turning”
  • Heb 13:8            “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
  • God has spoken, he will fulfill it. God is the covenant-keeping, promise-fulfilling God.
  • He has spoken, how can it not happen?
  • He has declared reality, how can it not be so?
Our view is flawed, we need to change
  • We don’t take our own words that serious! We don’t take anybody’s word that serious! … What if God does?
  • God and Biblical culture are radically different from our very verbal culture
    • > we need to change our thinking and behavior, we need to put Bible above culture
    • > if God’s every word stands, so should ours!
Practical steps
  • How can I make my speech more true? How can I become more word-faithful? How can I learn to be responsible for my every word?
    • > It’s okay to speak less, to not answer. It’s okay to not join every opinion spoken
    • > It’s okay to not promise, but if you do: keep it!
    • > say: I’m not sure… I can’t say now … I will answer once I know … I’m not sure this is all the truth … I don’t agree … I can’t promise … I don’t want to say something if I am not sure I can keep it
  • Words are powerful. I own the words of my mouth.
  • How do I spend them? … in prayer? Encouragement? Appreciation? Praise? Thankfulness? Wisdom? Teaching?
  • Often in child raising as parents we give a child many, many commands, none of which we implement or follow up on. The child rightly learns what we teach: that the parents’ words mean nothing, unless father or mother shouts or is angry.
  • If you threaten something, you’d better be sure whether you will actually do it.
  • We often lie to our children, not realizing we undercut the authority of our own words.
Effect on us if we lie?
  • We lose credibility, reputation, trust, influence and power with others.
  • We shame ourselves, we bring self-doubt, discouragement, loss of confidence, self-trust, self-respect on ourselves. If I know I can’t trust myself why would you trust me?
  • We lose credibility even if we now do speak the truth
  • If we are not trustworthy, we will not think others trustworthy. We will easily mistrust and doubt others, which hurts relationships and prevents depth of friendship.
  • Truthful rebukes may cause offence, but there is a chance for conviction, confession, restoration, change, understanding and giving value to the other.
  • Untruthful compliments, even if well meant, cause an inflation of words, my words gradually mean less and less. Even if I want to I do not ultimately communicate value to that person … Oh, she always says that!
  • Inflation of words: my word ends up meaning nothing and changing nothing.
  • God wants to save the value of my word. He wants to ensure my word or testimony means something. My word should have weight, importance, trust, influence.
  • “Lord, help us to speak like you: every word counts, has meaning, is reliable, uplifts”