October 9, 2018
by Jeff Reed
When we think of the Ninth Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” we usually put it in the context of not lying. Most of us agree that lying is an awful trait and that it usually leads to negative consequences in our life. I can attest from personal experience this is a fact. As could most of you reading this article. It is a universal value that we find in every culture and religion around the world. So what makes God’s commandment to “not bear false witness” unique? Is it just restating the obvious?
This commandment was actually revolutionary when God revealed it to Israel. Up until this time it would be common for the leaders of tribes, city states, and nations to execute or imprison individuals based on the word of only one witness. This type of ancient legal system would give more credibility based on the accuser’s socioeconomic status. The richer and more influential one would be in society, the easier it would be for them to inflict punishment on others. It is easy to see how this could be abused. And it was. Many of the leaders would use this type of biased legal system to expand their power. They could execute or imprison their political enemies based on false testimony. We can still see evidence of this practice in some countries today.
But God’s commandment to “not bear false witness” was unique. It would provide the framework for the true justice that mankind’s legal systems lacked. There were a couple additional laws that expand on this commandment that make its purpose clear.
Deuteronomy 17:6 states, “Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.” This is important because it completely removes punishment from only the testimony of a single witness. In Israel, no longer could a rich person punish a poor person based solely on their word. This is very important if we understand some basics of human nature. One is that humans will often lie to advance their own power and agenda. Secondarily, it has been proven scientifically that eye witnesses often remember things differently and sometimes incorrectly. This inconsistency in memory increases over time from when the event was initially witnessed. Requiring multiple witnesses to establish facts ensures that there will be equal justice applied for everyone.
Another important expansion of the law is found a few chapters later. “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 19:15-19).
Punishing a false witness with the same punishment they intend for the one they accuse is a very advanced principle of justice. It serves as a major deterrent to making false accusations. How likely would it be for someone to make false accusations of murder if they faced the death penalty when their testimony is proven false? Would you do it? I know I wouldn’t. The current laws in the United States do not follow this principle. If they did, we would have less innocent people in prison. At least one in twenty people convicted of murder in the U.S. are later found to be innocent. That is too many. This is a very important part of the commandment that most people are unaware.
The Ninth Commandment is revolutionary. It was given to promote justice and protect everyone. It was designed to remove socioeconomic bias and protect the accused. It is now unfortunately only partially applied in our current legal systems. One day that will change. I personally look forward to that day when Jesus returns and “He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth” (Isaiah 42:4).
October 3, 2018
by Brandy Webb
When I was a child I believed that I would live a long life. I believed that death happened mainly to old people, even though I knew that sometimes children died. My brother lost two great friends when he was a kid, but I thought that the death of children was few and rare. I would look at my parents, who at the time I thought were so old, which is very ironic because I am older than they were at that time, and I would say, surely I will live to be their age. I would also look at my grandparents and my great-grandparents and think; well, I definitely should live to their ages. Given I was very young and, yes, very naïve. I grew up, and I have been to more funerals than I ever thought possible. Some were for friends, some for family members, young and old. Death knows no bias. It can strike the old, young, rich, or poor. It is non-discriminatory, and I don’t believe that we are ever really prepared for it when it occurs, even when it is someone with a terminal illness.
Be Your Best
However, I do not want to write a downer-type blog. Life is short no matter how long you live. We all know that. We also know that we all have an appointed time to die (Hebrews 9:27). Therefore, we need to make sure we are our best every moment, every minute, every second of our lives while we still have the breath of life within us.
I know that there are songs like “Live like you are dying.” Plus, there are multiple statements about not taking life for granted. Yet, how well are we doing that? Are we striving to be the best person that we can be every day of our lives? Are we striving to put aside bitterness, discontent, fears, worries, and any other negative characteristics, and instead, embracing love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, and full contentment with who God has made us to be?
Ron Dart made a great point in one of his many sermons that I’m going to paraphrase. He stated that God’s will for our lives is for us to do His will on earth while we are here. God wants us to be His lights. He wants us to bear good fruit. He wants us to “[m]ake every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy” (Hebrews 12:14), to love our neighbor as ourselves (one reference, Leviticus 19:18), to “love your enemies, do good to them” (Luke 6:35), to keep His commandments (John 14:15), to love Him (John 14:15), to be set apart from the world (John 15:19), etc. We are to be our best that we can be in every moment of our lives because this brings glory to His name. It will also make life more enjoyable and more peaceful. Therefore, “[d]o your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (Colossians 3:23-24). Also, enjoy life, rejoice daily, and thank God for every moment He grants you.