“Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.” Psalms 35:11 NLT
Throughout the Bible much is written about “bearing false witness”. It means telling lies about someone. Or accusing them of something that they haven’t done. Or gossiping about them, particularly on social media. But not to bear false witness against your neighbour was the ninth commandment that Moses delivered to the Israelites. God gave this commandment to the Israelite nation for a reason – “bearing false witness” strikes at the very fabric of society because it destroys relationships. And here we have David in Psalm 35 complaining that he was being accused of crimes he didn’t commit, caught up in the middle of a storm of rebellion in the society he was trying to lead. But this wasn’t just an Old Testament problem. It was prevalent in New Testament times as well – Jesus Himself was similarly accused (Matthew 26:60) and also Stephen, one of the early church leaders, in Acts 6:13.
And the problem hasn’t gone away today, with a constant stream of false accusations and comments about sports people and others being posted on social media. People’s reputations are easily destroyed by careless words in the workplace, or in conversations with others. The problem is all about the evil thoughts that people have within their hearts and Jesus thought this problem was important enough to teach about – we read what He said in Matthew 15:19. And the Apostle James wrote about the dangers of the spoken word in the third chapter of his epistle.
So what is to be done about this perennial problem? The bottom line is that each one of us must be careful about what we say and how we say it. We must think carefully before hitting the “return” key. We must ask ourselves the question, “is what I am about to say or write true, helpful, necessary and encouraging?” And we must strive to apply the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:18, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”