Malicious Witnesses

Our culture finds truth boring.  Dysfunction is sensationalized.  Controversy brings ratings.  Our favorite callers to the radio talk shows are the most critical ones.  No one is very concerned with how their statements may fair in the family of their neighbor.  We fan the flames of exaggeration, criticism, and slander with little thought that the coach or the politician we loathe has children, a mother, and may or may not (any longer) have friends.  We are malicious witnesses.
The covenant community of God relied heavily on truth.  The penalty for perjury in a court of law was severe. [1]  The question of the culture and courts was not what was more believable, or even what was more entertaining, but rather what was true?  After all, these same people who tell stories about one another are also responsible to tell the story of God.  If they “bear false witness” against their neighbor, their fellow countryman, some kid’s dad, can they be trusted to witness before others about God?
Commandment nine means that people who call in everyday to criticize their coach, or who gather at the company cooler to share a seedy story about a “friend”, or who exaggerate facts to make them more entertaining are menaces to society.  They are malicious witnesses.  Those of us who crave their evil are even worse.  Perjury at the cooler or in the courtroom is one and the same.  We are deceived to believe that our statements are not connected.  We will cuss the coach on Saturday night and sing a hymn in church on Sunday morning.  Many would claim that stadiums and churches are different venues of conversation.  With commandment nine God says they are not.  Commandment nine means because of what we said about our coach, we have lost credibility for what we would say or sing about God.
Commandment nine encourages us to have an appetite for truth.  People have a right to define their own reputation.  Commandment three demands that you be careful with the name of God.  Commandment nine demands that you be equally as careful with the name of your coach, your child’s teacher, the man across the street, and the woman you work with.  Do not be a malicious witness. 

[1] John I. Durham, Exodus, World Biblical Commentary, 296.


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