A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free. (NIV)
There are people in prison today who are there because someone has falsely testified against them. Sometimes we read in the press about terrible miscarriages of justice that have taken place because one person gave false witness against another. While giving false witness is a terrible thing, even the smallest of lies usually has consequences. The trouble with lies is that they entrap us. When we are untruthful it is often the case that one lie leads to another. Although we are always hopeful of improving a situation through lying, lies are eventually discovered and those who lie or bear false witness have to face up to the consequences of lying.
I learnt the lesson early in life. I had been forbidden to walk home from school, but one day I did. When I arrived home my mother asked if I had travelled home on the school bus. I told her that I had. Then she asked who I had sat next to on the bus. That stumped me momentarily, until I managed to pluck a name out of the air. Then my mother asked me if I had disobeyed her and walked home. I insisted that I had been on the bus. Unfortunately for me my mother had watched the bus stop outside our house ten minutes earlier and she knew I hadn’t been on the bus. I went to bed early that night. It gave me plenty of time to think about what I had done.
God is very clear regarding what He thinks about lies and false witness. The trouble with false witness is that it is bad witness. God calls His people to demonstrate His eternal investment in them through the way that they live their lives. Lying is not an acceptable component of a life surrendered to God. Jesus warned a group of Pharisees about the fruit of the mouth, and His teaching applies equally to us.
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NIV)