Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. (Exodus 20:16 KJV)
So much has changed since my childhood. Used to be that before taking a witness stand, a person swore upon the Bible that the testimony they were about to give was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In the United States, using a Bible is no longer required, but not telling the truth remains subject to charges of perjury.
The basis of this common law item has roots in the Ten Commandments where we’re told not to bear false witness. In Matthew 19:18, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20 Jesus includes it in a list of commandments as He answers the rich young ruler's question "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?":
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
Paul ties it to Jesus’ response to Pharisees in Matthew 22:36-40:
For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Romans 13:9 KJV)
I was reminded of these verses after reading a news article yesterday that included this as a separate paragraph:
In addition to other biblical references, Christians should pay close attention to Jesus’ words:
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Matthew 5:33-37 KJV)
In being faithful witnesses, we should avoid speculation as to a person’s actions or their motives. We should speak only of our own personal knowledge of events, keeping in mind how best to relate them:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8 KJV)
Why do we find that so difficult?