“Your Word Is Truth”
“You Must Not Testify Falsely”
THE bearing of false witness against another as forbidden by the Ninth Commandment of the Decalogue. Thus we read: “You must not testify falsely as a witness against your fellow man.” (Ex. 20:16) Bearing false witness against another was considered to be a very serious offense in the eyes of the great Judge, Jehovah God. This can be seen by the penalty he required to be imposed upon the false witness. And what was that? He was to receive the punishment he sought to have inflicted upon another:
“In case a witness scheming violence should rise up against a man to bring a charge of revolt against him, the two men who have the dispute must also stand before Jehovah, before the priests and the judges who will be acting in those days. And the judges must search thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and has brought a false charge against his brother, you must also do to him just as he had schemed to do to his brother, and you must clear away what is bad from your midst. So those who remain will hear and be afraid, and they will never again do anything bad like this in your midst. And your eye should not feel sorry: soul will be for soul”—that is, life for life—“eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”—Deut. 19:16-21.
Further underscoring the seriousness of bearing false witness was the requirement of the Law that the ones whose testimony convicted another of a capital crime, deserving of death, had to be the first ones to take part in executing the criminal, which was by stoning. Thus we read: “The hand of the witnesses first of all should come upon him to put him to death, and the hand of all the people afterward; and you must clear out what is bad from your midst.” How careful this very requirement would tend to make one in bearing witness!—Deut. 17:7.
The stern fact that one who bore witness to the guilt of a wrongdoer had to take the lead in executing the guilty person may have inclined some not to want to bear witness against a guilty one. But the law of God did not permit one to hold back from giving testimony concerning wrongdoing when one was a witness to the act. Explicitly the law stated: “Now in case a soul sins in that he has heard public cursing and he is a witness or he has seen it or has come to know of it, if he does not report it, then he must answer for his error.” Anyone who knew of serious wrongdoing and failed to report it became a partner to the wrongdoer. By pretending that he had seen or heard no wrongdoing, he was living a lie and was just as much in the wrong as one who under oath would testify falsely against his brother.—Lev. 5:1; Ps. 50:18.
Among those who maliciously violated the Ninth Commandment were the enemies of Jesus Christ. They procured men who falsely testified against Jesus. However, as is so often true in such cases, at first, “many, indeed, were giving false witness against him, but their testimonies were not in agreement.” In the end, on the false charge of blasphemy they judged Jesus deserving of death. Although all those involved in this violation of the Ninth Commandment at Jesus’ trial were not immediately punished, they eventually paid for their crime, in the destruction of Jerusalem and of their nation, even as Jesus had warned.—Mark 14:56-60; Matt. 23:35, 36.
Centuries earlier wicked King Ahab of Israel and his wife Jezebel proved guilty of a like crime. So that he might acquire the vineyard of one of his neighbors, Naboth, Ahab permitted Jezebel to procure false witnesses who swore that Naboth had blasphemed Jehovah God. As a result Naboth was put to death and so Ahab was able to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. For this murderous deed God warned Ahab that both he and Jezebel would come to violent ends, which they did.—1 Ki. 21:1-26; 22:34-38; 2 Ki. 9:30-37.
Not only bearing false witness in a legal sense but all lying is condemned in God’s Word. “You must not deceive, and you must not deal falsely any one with his associate.” “He that launches forth lies will perish.” Among the things that Jehovah says he hates is “a false tongue.” “You [Jehovah] will destroy those speaking a lie.”—Lev. 19:11; Prov. 19:9; 6:17; Ps. 5:6.
Jesus Christ included “false testimonies” with such wicked acts as murder, adultery and theft. The apostle Paul counseled: “Do not be lying to one another.” “Wherefore, now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.” Then again, underscoring the seriousness of lying are the words found at Revelation 21:8, where “all the liars” are included with those who will suffer eternal destruction in the second death.—Matt. 15:19; Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:25.
The seriousness of lying and bearing false witness can be appreciated when we note that all of mankind’s troubles began when Satan told the first lie to Eve, namely, that she would not die if she ate of the forbidden fruit. By this lie he also bore false witness against Jehovah God. Truly, as Jesus said, Satan is “the father of the lie.”—Gen. 3:4; John 8:44.
Showing just how God views lying in matters relating to the Christian congregation is the account of Ananias and Sapphira. They professed to give all the proceeds of the sale of their property to the early Christian congregation at Jerusalem, even as others had done, although they kept part of the proceeds for themselves. They were under no obligation to sell their property, much less to give all the proceeds to their fellow Christians. But, trying to be well thought of by others, they told a barefaced lie to the apostles. To impress upon all in the congregation how displeasing to Jehovah God such lying is, both Ananias and Sapphira were stricken dead by God. “Great fear came over . . . all those hearing about these things.” If we would be pleasing to Jehovah God, we must shun lies; we must always speak the truth.—Acts 5:1-11.
In the Bible we find truth attributed to Jehovah God, to Jesus Christ, to God’s Word and to God’s holy spirit or active force. Thus Jehovah is termed “the God of truth.” (Ps. 31:5) Of him the apostle Paul wrote: “It is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:18) Of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we read that he was “full of undeserved kindness and truth.” And Jesus spoke of himself as “the way and the truth and the life.” (John 1:14; 14:6) Of God’s Word, Jesus said, “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) And Jesus spoke of God’s holy spirit or active force as “the spirit of the truth.” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) No wonder, then, that the apostle Peter could speak of true Christianity as “the way of the truth.”—2 Pet. 2:2.
All true servants of Jehovah God and sincere followers of Jesus Christ should therefore give great care never to testify falsely. Yes, let them ever heed the Counsel to be “speaking the truth.”—Eph. 4:15.