How to Bear False Witness – A User’s Manual

Which of the commandments is easiest to break? An argument can certainly be made for Sabbath observation. However, I think the most frequently broken commandment may be the ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

The other morning I heard a commercial for a business called “Reputation Defender.” The idea is that people say a lot of bad stuff about businesses online these days, and you need to be prepared to counter what people say online. I will admit, I’m kind of glad they exist.

Why?

Because we live in a lying culture. Lying about others is so typical that a person who is honest more than half of the time is considered an honest person.

Sadly, one of the places people get accused by falsehood the most is in church. I’ve seen church leaders accused of some of the most absurd things by people who will stop at nothing to hurt them. I’ve heard things about churches that have nearly, if not completely, zero basis in reality–and often the accuser(s) knows it. What worse? When this happens, churches don’t hold people accountable for lying against a Brother or Sister in Christ. Thus, they continue to do damage year after year, enabled and empowered by their churches.

Some of you may be wondering what I mean. I have a hunch you know. But, in case you don’t, or you are looking to perfect your own tactics of dishonesty, I’ve prepared a brief manual on how to bear false witness against your neighbor without being held accountable:

  1. Attend a church where people don’t hold one another accountable for dishonesty.
  2. Identify a person you want to damage or a change you want to obstruct. If you can do both at the same time, this is preferable.
  3. Find a tiny kernel of truth and surround with a dungclod of untruth. If a kernel of truth is unavailable, just use the dungclod.
  4. If challenged, always claim your motives are pure. 
  5. If someone questions your motives, focus the discussion on their questioning of your motives. Just make sure it doesn’t come back to your dishonesty.
  6. If someone points out that bearing false witness is against the commandments, make Marcion proud by reminding them the Commandments are only for legalists like them. You live under grace. If possible, misdirect others by focusing all future conversation on legalism rather than your dishonesty.
  7. If by chance your dungclod is exposed, just remind people there is almost always a kernel of truth in every dungclod. This will create more suspicion–the open-ended kind that keeps them from holding you accountable and keeps just a tiny hint of doubt in their mind about the person you’ve accused.

That should do it.

As for how to handle it if you are the accused–leave the dung-clods on the ground. Just speak truthfully.

No kernels.

Just truthclods.

Hold people accountable by confronting in a godly way. If you don’t, people will get hurt and your church will grow a bit sicker.

Lastly, remember that God sees all and will hold them accountable “for every careless word they utter.” That’s the truth.

Question: Is this a problem among Christians? Why? How do we deal with it?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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