Our world has been riddled with scandals since Adam, and today is no different. From the beginning, the father of lies (John 8:44) has set himself against the Lord, yet God is not silent on this issue, and it goes further than most of us realize.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” (Exodus 20:16) is unique in that it hones in on something particular. Though the Bible is replete with condemnations and warnings against a lying tongue (Exodus 23:1; Psalms 120:2; Proverbs 6:17, 12:19, 21:6, 26:28; Matthew 15:19), bearing false witness is deeply significant. Why is this?

As God was setting the stage for the giving of the whole Law, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) acted as a preamble of sorts from which the rest of the Law would flow out of. Like the other commandments in the Decalogue, bearing false witness was not just personal but societal as well, so witness testimony would play a critical role in adjudication of the Mosaic Law. How seriously did God take perjury?

If the witness lied, then he or she would be punished, and, if the testifying witness committed perjury, such a person could be sentenced to death as implied in Deuteronomy 19:16-19. That seems harsh to those of us who live under a rather weak judicial system, but condemning a man via false testimony is atrocious. Imagine being sentenced to death because of a false witness, which is why we see the demand for a second witness (Deuteronomy 19:15).

Think about the criticality of two witnesses. If both conflicted, then someone was lying or there was a serious misperception of the event. Furthermore, collusion is much less likely when there are two witnesses. The only way to do that well is to have virtually identical accounts, which almost always results in suspicion. As one can see, the requirement for two witnesses was used as a check against false testimony, but both could be lying. For this reason, perjury was punished severely (Deuteronomy 19:16-19), and this retributive justice against anyone who bore false witness was used a deterrent (Deuteronomy 19:20). Seeing someone executed for perjury was sure to make a potential false witness think twice, something we tend to laugh at today.

We are quite lax in cases of perjury, for most people consider bearing false witness in court justice another common crime that gets some menial punishment if any.  For this reason, our society will continue to crumble. Why? To turn a blind eye to false witnessing unravels the justice system and the rest of society with it. When we don’t take perjury seriously, evil wells up.  People are more likely to lie when they are on the stand today because they realize they don’t have much to lose. This creates a situation whereby, on the one hand, the wicked are set free or have severely reduced sentences because of false testimony, and, on the other, the righteous are falsely accused and carry out unjust punishment because of a lying tongue. The people will continue live in fear as the wicked rise up and dominate society (Proverbs 28:12; 29:2; Habakkuk 1:4).

On the contrary, when righteousness prevails because the people speak truth, a great glory is beheld, and this was magnified in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. How so? Interestingly, when it is broken down, the gospel accounts are so powerful because the accounts are not identical. They are similar and accurate, and their variations can be attributed to their differing vantage points, which is exactly what we would expect with truthful testimony. These eyewitness testimonies become much more credible, for each witness is truthfully rendering an account of what was seen and heard without collusion.

To further illustrate the glory of the Resurrection, God went above and beyond with many witnesses. Biblically, only two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15) were enough to validate an account, yet God orchestrated events so that there would be hundreds of eyewitnesses to the Resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:6). For this reason, the burden of proof is clearly on those who oppose the gospel, which is a humiliating position to defend and advocate.

Therefore, let us rejoice in this great commandment against false witnessing. Not only does it establish justice, but it also builds up and encourages the righteous. In that, let us not undervalue a truthful testimony, and may we never excuse perjury.