“You shall not testify falsely against your neighbour.” Deuteronomy 5:20
I learned the 10 Commandments when I was very young. The image of Moses angrily demolishing the tablets when he discovered Israel had grievously sinned against the Lord – worshipping the golden calf while Moses lingered on the mountain – left a deep, restraining impression on me.
The commandments written by the very finger of God were daunting: Thou shalt not murder, steal, nor commit adultery. At the time, I didn’t understand how the command not to bear false witness against my neighbour could be put into the same category with these ‘weighty’ sins. Time and many life experiences have taught me just how shortsighted I was!
Several years ago, I was shocked by a revelation of just how chilling breaking the 9th Commandment can be. False rumours were being spread about one of my closest ministry partners. His work, impacting tens of thousands of people, nearly ground to a halt as a result. The risk, expense, and effort to advocate his protection and then recovery was an intense battle.
He even contemplated giving up but, by God’s grace, was restored. The Lord proved Himself a Redeemer through it. Looking back, I see how attempts to destroy him only made him stronger.
I was recently struck by the accuracy of the prophetic words from Proverbs 30:14: ‘There is a generation rising that uses their words like swords to cut and slash those who are different. They devour the poor, the needy, and the afflicted from off the face of the earth’ (The Passion Translation).
By the Spirit, Solomon may have been given a peek into our present – there has likely never been a time in world history when this proverb was truer than it is today. Social media, often abetted by other media forms, has been weaponised to ‘cut and slash’ people’s reputation to pieces’.
Often, their worlds are turned upside down overnight when they’re shamed and cancelled by the mobs who fight in Twitter’s trenches, who type FaceBook posts like grenades to destroy the careers and reputations of ‘those who are different’, resulting in countless lives being torched upon the hungry ash-heaps of our fractured generation.
We must be vigilant. The force of this evil is an out-of-the-bottle genie in our day. Bullies have graduated from our neighbourhoods and schools. To be ignorant or passive as they carnivorously lurk for prey in virtual spaces is to be vulnerable.
Unleashing these devices of mass destruction should do more than warn us to defend ourselves from becoming targets of aggressive word-bombs. Some unwittingly joined the mob. How, you ask? By crossing precariously over onto the side of those who are ‘devouring the weak’.
Beloved, it’s not only the progenitor of these cruel takedowns whose hands are bloodied. Any one who carelessly forwards lies, rumours, slander – fake news – via emails, posts, or tweets is also liable before God. This commandment is not directed only to those initiating false testimonies against others; it implicates those who pass them along as well.
Jesus spoke ominously that we will be held accountable for every ‘idle word’ (Matthew 12:36). The days when this sin was confined to folks gossiping around mahjong tables or church socials are long spent. Fake news that flood and pollute our airwaves have dire consequences right now, during the perverse days in which we live as well as the Day when all their murderous effects will be ‘laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13).
If Moses came down from the Mount of God in 2020, the commandment that would most vehemently incite his fury may not be the prohibition against graven images, but the dissemination of baseless and scandalous tales being spread to destroy our ‘neighbours’.
Let’s echo the prayer of the psalmist in Psalm 19:14: “May the words of my mouth and the (texts of my fingers) be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and My Redeemer” (NKGV – New Kevin Graves Version).