You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.Exodus 20:16
Telling an intentional falsehood for personal gain is the simplest way to subvert any institution. Jealousy and selfish ambition lie at the root of deception. Recognizing this, and knowing the tendency of men to preserve themselves at all costs, God built in to the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, a specific command about not bearing a false witness against another.
Knowing that this was an unfortunate reality that would have to be dealt with, once a falsehood was found out by the judges, God had also provided a definitive way of handling the offender.
“If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, then both the accuser and accused must appear before the LORD by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing.Deuteronomy 19:16-20
So the punishment for the crime of falsifying a report was to apply to the deceiver the same action he intended for the other, and to do so publicly. In this way, a deterrent to falsification would be established within the community.
As God’s kingdom was moving from the natural to the spiritual, the arbiter was moving from the external judges seat to within the heart of every believer.
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.Ezekiel 36:26-27
This is why James could speak so harshly to the remnant about the corrupting influences that could disrupt the community of God.
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.James 3:13-16
James relates that selfish boasting and lying could be used to hide the truth, and were not within the wisdom of God.
The apostle Paul used the analogous contrast of the “old man” and the “new man” of the heart. As believers’ hearts were renewed, it was as if there was a new person who could only do what was right, and who would stand in judgment of the practices of the old man.
…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “[Let] each one [of you] speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.Ephesians 4:22-25
The encouragement to truthful dealings within the community was to be based on this newness of righteousness and holiness of heart. Because of this community in which all were “members of one another,” that is, parts of an integral body, they were to always provide a truthful and honest example in everything, with everyone, in all of their words and actions.
In like fashion today, believers in Messiah, who was the embodiment of truth, should have this virtue imbedded deep within our hearts. Instead of deception and falsehood should come forth righteousness and truth.
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