A Man that Beareth False Witness
A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour
is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.
Introduction: This proverb is all about the effects of lying.
Bearing False Witness
1. The first part of this proverb is taken from the 10 commandments. The exact same terms are used for “false witness… neighbor.”
2. Witness defined:
a. Witness; testimony; verbal or otherwise.
b. The giving of evidence in a legal setting (courtroom).
3. The expression “bearing false witness” is broad enough to include any kind of lying.
a. Prov. 6:19 – Bearing false witness is one of the things that the Lord especially hates… one of the seven deadly sins.
b. Lying against others is a serious sin in God’s sight. All sin is, but this seems to be described as even more serious.
c. And we have all been guilty of lying—whether we want to admit it or not.
d. We have all “born false witness” and we have also been on the other side of the lie. We have all had others lie about us.
e. Nobody likes to have others lie against us. We should HATE lying as the Lord does.
f. Perhaps this sin is listed as one of the seven deadly sins because of the awful consequences that it can have in the lives of others.
4. The fact that it is against your neighbor makes it a bit more specific.
a. Not all lies are against another person.
• Very often lies are aimed at exalting SELF.
• We might lie about our achievements to make others think highly of us. That is not against your neighbor.
• We might lie on our income tax return. That is designed to rob the government and put more money in our pockets. That is not against your neighbor.
• We might lie to appease someone’s anger. That is not necessarily AGAINST them. That is designed to make life easier for self.
• We might lie about where we went or what we did. That is designed to avoid conflict for self; but that is not necessarily against someone else.
b. But some lies are clearly against a neighbor.
• A lie is against a neighbor when it is designed to harm him in some way.
• A lie is against a neighbor when it is designed to make him look bad before others. For example, you might lie about Fred by saying that Fred cheated his way through college.
• It is a lie against a neighbor when we take an unflattering fact about someone else and embellish it to make it sound even worse than it really is. That’s a lie against your neighbor.
• It is a lie against a neighbor when you bear false witness about a co-worker and his work.
• It is a lie against a neighbor when you wrongly accuse someone of a crime before a court of law. That lie could have serious consequences.
5. Prov. 24:28-29 – Paul dealt with the issue of a slightly different expression: “witness without a cause.”
a. “Without a cause”: For no purpose; in vain; gratuitously, without cause, undeservedly; baseless; groundless.
b. This passage may well be speaking of a courtroom scene.
c. Bearing witness about another should never be done for no good purpose… undeserved. That is a false witness.
d. Note also that this false witness appears to be done out of revenge… to get back at a person for some perceived ill done.
e. Bearing false witness has been a problem ever since Eden.
f. As believers, God expects that we speak the truth… and do so in love, not out of spite or revenge… and not “without a cause.”
g. And our words should not be “deceptive” either.
• Deception might contain an element of truth—just enough truth to make the liar feel justified.
• It might be a half-truth. But in God’s mind, a half-truth is a whole lie.
Three Effects of Bearing False Witness
A. Lying Is Like A Maul: It Crushes
1. A maul is a “hammer–like tool that delivers jolting blows.” (Zodhiates)
2. Think of taking a maul or large hammer to an automobile. It could easily destroy it.
3. Think of taking a maul to another human being. The blunt force to the head could easily kill a person.
4. Just one blow from a maul crushes and pulverizes. It can do an incredible amount of damage with just a few swings. A smaller hammer might require many swings to do the same amount of damage. But a heavier, weightier maul doesn’t require multiple swings to crush and pulverize.
5. That’s exactly why Solomon used this term to describe the effects of lying: it can crush and pulverize a person inwardly. It can do an incredible amount of damage in a short amount of time. Just one lie can do much damage.
6. One single lie about another person can do as much damage to his reputation as a maul could do to his head.
a. And once you put out a lie about another person, even if you retract your statement later on, the damage has been done.
b. You have already put that thought in people’s minds.
c. When a person is accused of sexual abuse, that thought is embedded in people’s minds. And even if the accusation is discovered to be false in a court of law, the damage has already been done. You have crushed his spirit as well as his reputation.
d. It is impossible to un-ring the bell once it has been sounded.
e. Once you put a lie out there, it has a tendency to stay out there. This is especially so on the internet. We have heard recently of young people committing suicide over information about them that was sent out to cyber space for the whole world to read. It’s bad enough if it’s true. It is far worse if it is a lie.
f. Words can hurt… as much as being hit in the head with a maul.
g. Words do have consequences.
B. Lying Is Like A Sword: It Divides
1. A false witness is also like a sword.
2. Like a maul, swords can hurt and do much damage.
3. But a sword hurts in a different way than a maul.
a. A sword is used to cut off and divide.
b. John 18:10 – “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear.”
c. When the two women were arguing over who was the real mother of the baby, Solomon told the men to take out a sword and cut it in half.
d. That’s what swords do. They cut and they divide.
4. Just as swords cut and divide “things”, so also lies can cut and divide people.
a. Lies can cut into the heart of a man or woman.
b. Prov. 16:28 – Lies can also divide people… even chief friends can be divided by a false witness.
• This is the work of a whisperer… one who whispers rumors.
• This verse says nothing about whether the rumor whispered is true or false. It doesn’t matter.
• Rumors about others can destroy friendships.
• It’s bad enough if the rumor is true; a lie is even worse.
c. And once the sword has been swung, and the friends have been severed, it may not be so easy to get them together again.
d. And while the Lord Jesus was able to restore the ear which Peter cut off Malchus, it’s not so easy to restore relationships that have divided through lies.
e. Once a lie is spread, there will be many who will believe it. And that lie can snowball and develop into something bigger than life… and it might be impossible to stop that snowball from rolling along.
f. Suppose that Tom and Fred are friends. Once you tell Tom that Fred doesn’t really like him (he’s just using you), Tom will start to look for evidence… and if that thought is lodged in his mind, he will probably find something to confirm it—even if it isn’t so!
g. You can lie about others and divide in a moment—as long as it takes to swing a sword, or tell a lie.
h. You could spread a rumor about a person and say that he is on drugs, or that he cheats on his wife, or that he is not friendly, or that he is stingy, or self centered, or that he is seeking the boss’ job, or that he’s gay, or that he is a closet Yankee’s fan… it becomes hard for that person to prove that he is NOT any of the above. It’s hard to prove a negative.
i. The damage has been done. He may already have lost friends… or perhaps his friends will be suspicious of him in the future.
j. Like a sword, lies can cut and divide.
C. Lying Is A Sharp Arrow: It Pierces
1. Lies can also pierce like an arrow. They can pierce the skin and become deeply embedded—even penetrating into the heart.
2. Jer. 9:8 – “Their tongue is as an arrow shot out; it speaketh deceit: one speaketh peaceably to his neighbour with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.”
a. Deceitful tongues (words) can be like arrows…
b. They can be deceitful because he speaks peace to his neighbor… but his heart has another plan.
c. When this kind of plot is carried out, it pierces the soul of the one lied about like an arrow stuck in his heart.
3. Prov. 18:8 – “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”
a. The talebearer is the gossiper.
b. It is left unsaid whether the content of the gossip is true or false.
c. This proverb simply states that the result of gossip is deep inner pain… like the deep wound of an arrow.
4. Of course a sword can pierce too, but there was probably a good reason for using the three different illustrations – to describe the different actions of the instruments: crushing, cutting, and piercing.
5. The “piercing” and penetrating action of an arrow speaks of how deeply a lie can wound the person lied about.
a. It can cause inner grief and pain for a long, long, time.
b. And if the arrow is taken out carefully, the wound may not appear outwardly as serious as the crushing wound of a maul or the cutting of a sword, it may be much deeper and cause inner pain longer.
c. Over time, a physical cut from an arrow will heal though it will leave a scar.
d. But the wounds of words may not heal so quickly.
e. Of course, as believers, we should learn to dismiss such false accusations and allow love to cover a multitude of sins.
f. But that is much easier said than done.
6. Another reason for distinguishing the action of an arrow from a sword is distance.
a. A sword is made for cutting someone up close. An arrow pierces someone from a distance.
b. We might throw out a lie just as we might shoot an arrow at a lark… assuming that it won’t hit or hurt anyone.
c. But just as an arrow shot at a lark CAN hit someone, lies can also harm people that we never intended on harming.
d. II Kings 22:24 – “And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness.” King Ahab was killed by a stray arrow.
e. Lies can travel a long way away and harm others we didn’t intend to harm.
7. In light of the warning about the serious and long lasting effects of lies, we need to be sure that we speak the truth—in love. (Eph. 4:15)
a. Here’s a good prayer for us all: “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.” (Psa. 120:2)