MONDAY 1.30.23 Exodus 20:16; 23:1-3
16 Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.
1 Don’t spread false rumors. Don’t plot with evil people to act as a lying witness. 2 Don’t take sides with important people to do wrong. When you act as a witness, don’t stretch the truth to favor important people. 3 But don’t privilege unimportant people in their lawsuits either.
Have you seen the meme which says, next to a picture of Abraham Lincoln, “’Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it.’ –Abraham Lincoln”? * Doesn’t take much historical knowledge to realize Lincoln couldn’t possibly have said any such thing. He did say, “Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.” ** Technology, sadly, often spreads falsehoods more quickly. But God long ago commanded Israel to avoid lies of all kinds.
- Scholar Dennis T. Olson noted that the verses in Exodus 23 “expand upon the commandment in Exodus 20:16 (see Leviticus 19:16; Psalm 27:12; Proverbs 14:5; 19:5). The penalty for lying as a witness is found in Deuteronomy 19:18-19.” *** We typically swear witnesses in a courtroom to tell the truth, with legal penalties if there is proof they have lied under oath. Does the absence of such oaths on social media (or even a school hallway) make lies and rumors any less damaging there?
- Verses 2 and 3 in Exodus 23 showed another important effect of a command for truthful witness. False testimony could (and can) make a wrong action technically “legal,” whether in favor of an influential person or perhaps (less often) to help an underdog. Have you ever felt like rationalizing sharing falsehood because it might advance a result you thought was more advantageous or more just? Have you ever seen a discovered falsehood undermine a good cause?
God of truth, I often hear myself and others talk about “white lies.” Help me to make truth the “default” approach, so that I have to think hard about whether any lie is “white.” Amen.
* You can find a collection of these at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/131659989079744463/.
** From (with some historical background) at https://www.quora.com/Abraham-Lincoln-said-Truth-is-generally-the-best-vindication-against-slander-To-what-extent-do-you-agree-with-Lincolns-statement.
*** Dennis T. Olson, study note on Exodus 23:1-3 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 121 OT.
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Denise serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Church of the Resurrection.