This Week's Focus Passage

A False Witness Shall Perish

Focus Passage: Proverbs 21:28

‘A false witness shall perish; But the man that heareth shall speak so as to endure’

It has seemed apparent for many years—at least to this writer—that lying has been considered, to use a Roman Catholic term, to be a venial sin, rather than a mortal sin. Or to use the common language, coined first by Lot with regard to the city of Zoar, ‘is it not a little one.’ Protestants ape their Romish counterparts in this attitude. We have adopted the pacifying idea that there are some lies that are just ‘little white lies.’ We have not actually borne false witness against our brethren. We simply turned the expression a little. We have only added a little color to the gossip. We didn’t say that ourselves! We only stood by silently while a brother in Christ was pilloried; while their reputations were being irreversibly jeopardized. Do we not realize that, in many cases, silence is a false witness? How many were there who, while false witnesses were suborned to speak against Christ, simply were too afraid to say anything themselves; they just would not speak up? They would not defend this Teacher who went about doing good for so great a time directly in their midst. Did they not condemn the Savior of the world with their silence? Silence is not always golden! Many there are that are satisfied to stand behind a cloak of silence and pretend that they have done nothing wrong. How many of these sorts of persons stood by and watched in silence as Stephen was stoned to death? God is privy to these witnesses from silence.

Surely there have been manifold occasions when silence was without doubt a false witness against an innocent person. Our text for today informs us of how it is that our God feels about false witnesses. The Holy Spirit has inspired the writer of Proverbs to declare boldly and simply this reality, ‘A false witness shall perish.’ There will be no hiding behind the fig leaves of silence when these false witnesses are indicted at the bar of God’s justice. See what Solomon—or whoever the writer of this proverb is—has set forward as the contrary behavior of false witnessing. He has said, ‘But the man that heareth shall speak so as to endure.’ The man that heareth is to speak up; he is not to remain silent while justice is overturned; while innocent blood is shed. ‘The man that heareth shall speak.’ Is that not sufficiently clear? The man that heareth, or seeth, or witnesseth anything, is not to continue in silence while false accusations are condemning a person, but ‘he shall speak so as to endure.’ One writer has well referred to the man that heareth as ‘the true witness who speaketh only what he heareth, and is fully acquainted with—he speaketh constantly—to conviction.’ He holds to his testimony and never contradicts himself. False witnesses and gossipers are likely to contradict themselves often; they can’t keep their story straight because it is false. A particular plaque speaks well to this inherent problem for liars. Cleverly, it declares ‘IF YOU TELL THE TRUTH, YOU DON’T HAVE TO REMEMBER ANYTHING.’ Being able always to resort to the touchstone of the truth, one will never contradict oneself. Using Pauline language, ‘with me there should be the yea yea and the nay nay,’ (2 Corinthians 1:17), and this is only following Christ who has taught us, ‘let your speech be Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one.’ (Matthew 5:37).

Our society has become extremely insensitive to the wickedness of lying; so much so that we often don’t even expect truth in many instances. We take it for granted that commercial advertising is not completely truthful. We hear the many promises from politicians as they appeal for our votes, and we don’t really believe that they intend to carry through with those promises. We have become a society of make believe. Again, we think it is ‘just a little one’ among the commandments of God. Have we given much thought to how God views falsehood? In another place in this book of Proverbs, we find what could be a reality check for some:

There are six things which Jehovah hateth; Yea, seven which are an abomination unto him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood; A heart that deviseth wicked purposes, Feet that are swift in running to mischief, A false witness that uttereth lies, And he that soweth discord among brethren. —Proverbs 6:16-19

It would be well for us to take these words to heart. It may be relatively easy to be dismissive of them; to tell ourselves that, after all, it’s only a proverb among many proverbs. Some may even deceive or justify themselves by contending that such a strong statement was intended for the Jews in the Older Testament and uttered by that Old Testament god that is so harsh and severe.

For those who take the words as most seriously spoken by our Father in heaven to His children on earth, consider how God so hates and abominates a lying tongue and a false witness that they both are found in the midst of this list of evils that include the pride of life; haughty eyes; hands that shed innocent blood, even murderers. Did the apostle John write to no purpose when he told us that ‘Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer’? How far removed is a false witness from one that soweth discord among brethren? How far removed is a lying tongue from the hands that shed innocent blood? Do these not belong to the heart that deviseth wicked purposes; to the feet that are swift in running to mischief? And are these not things which God hates? Yea, we are warned in Proverbs 19:5, ‘A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.’ Unless covered by the blood of the Lamb; apart from repentance and confession, these ‘little ones’ will condemn eternally. Among the last pages of Holy Writ, we read the awful sentence. ‘Without,’ outside of the heavenly city, ‘are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.’—Revelation 22:15

David Farmer, elder,

Fellowship Bible Church


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