This study touches on subjects that have been gone over in detail in previous studies. Before going over this study, please make sure you have a complete understanding of the the study on The Third Commandment – Bearing God’s Name.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16
Most everybody agrees that this verse is speaking against lying about our neighbors. Scripture bears this out.
“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. Exodus 23:1-3
If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. Deuteronomy 19:16-19
Just like the other commandments, there is more to this one than meets the eye. Since going through this study, I have had to really evaluate myself and make some changes in my attitudes. As a matter of fact, this study has shown me things about myself that I am still changing, and may never completely conquer, but I will continue to correct myself as needed. At this point in studying the ten commandments, especially after studying the third commandment, the first thing I noticed when I read this one was the word “bear”. Remember the third commandment?
“You shall not take the name of the YHVH your God in vain, for YHVH will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7
In the third commandment, the word take in Hebrew is “nasa” and means to bear. So of course, that is where my mind went when I saw the words “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” However, the Hebrew word for bear in this commandment is “ʿanah” which means to eye or to heed, i.e. pay attention; by implication, to respond.
While “nasa” and “anah” have different meanings, the ideas are very similar. Let’s look at this commandment again as we replace the word bear with the definition of “anah.”
“You shall not heed or pay attention to false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16
Immediately, we can see that there is a lot more to this commandment than simply the words that come out of our mouths about our neighbors. According to this definition, we aren’t even supposed to pay attention to lies, rumors, or gossip about our neighbors. When we listen to anything, there is a process of thinking it through and deciding whether or not you believe the thing you heard to be true. As we think on things like this, it goes into our heart.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body. Proverbs 26:22
An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue. Proverbs 17:4
Just as with all the other commandments, the commandment against bearing false witness is a commandment to guard your heart. When we believe a falsehood about our neighbor in our heart, it causes us to act on what we believe.
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. Matthew 12:24b-35
What we believe in our heart causes a response that agrees with that belief. Whether we know it or not, the response is what others see in us. It may show in the things we say or the way we speak about somebody else. It can even show up in the way we treat a person.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:19
The way we treat or speak about a person affects the way others see that person. If what we believe about a person is not true, then our treatment of that person, our attitude in relation to that person, and the words we say about that person will not be true. Are you basing your belief on a person off of something you heard somebody else say? Maybe your idea of what a person is like is based on the way somebody else has treated them. We must be very careful about the opinion we have about anybody that you have not spent time with. Anything other than what we have witnessed ourselves is just hearsay – a rumor.
In today’s world of technology and social media, the number of people that we are able to touch and have opinions about has increased drastically. The things we believe and say about anybody affects so many more than ever before. Consider the things you share or have seen shared on social media outlets. Do you know if those things are the absolute truth? What about that news article you just shared? Is it possible that the author of that article, or even (and possibly especially) the person who shared it could be biased? Is it possible that they may not the whole truth? Could they possibly be giving only information that supports their bias? What about the memes you shared about a presidential candidate? Do you know if the stories going around about them are 100% true? Were you there to witness the stories? Is there any way that you can go to that person and speak to them to learn the truth? What about videos that are shared as news? Is there a possibility that the video could have been pieced together or doctored? Unfortunately, with today’s technology, not only are we unable to believe everything we hear, but we are unable to believe everything we see.
In light of all this vast reaching insight into the lives of others, we are more accountable now than anybody has ever been for the witness we “bear” of our neighbors. Be careful of what you say, share, or believe.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37