We Need Eighth Commandment People Now More than Ever

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, was wrongly accused and wrongly convicted of a crime He did not commit. The Sanhedrin would go to any means necessary to silence this rabbi, even to the extreme of breaking the Eighth Commandment to have Jesus put to death.

Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put Him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. (Matthew 26:59–60)

What Does the Eighth Commandment Cover?

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)

This commandment forbids:

  • Speaking falsely in any matter, lying, being evasive, and in any way devising and designing to deceive our neighbor.
  • Speaking unjustly against our neighbor, to the prejudice of his reputation.
  • Bearing false witness against him, claiming untrue things about our neighbor. And who is our neighbor? Not just the person who lives in close proximity to us or those we agree with or have fellowship with. Our neighbors are both those we find easy to love and those we struggle to love. It is anyone we encounter. That is the person we should not slander and whose reputation we should not ruin.

Why Is This Important to Us Today?

We live in a time when, on social media, we can destroy a person’s reputation in a hundred and forty characters on Twitter, or we can slander someone with a post on social media and get a thousand likes in less than an hour.

We saw what happened to our Lord on Palm Sunday. John recalls the events of that glorious day: “So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’” (John 12:13). But five days later, on Good Friday, when Jesus stood trial accused by false witnesses, those chants turned to “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” 

God wants our keeping of the Eighth Commandment to make our congregations stronger and healthier. Imagine the number of parking lot meetings that hurt our fellowship or the times we allow our agenda to cloud the way we talk about another council member. How many times has gossip led to strained family gatherings or people isolating themselves from family holidays? We have all heard about how a mean tweet or false social media post has led young and old alike to the brink of suicide. It is tempting to ruin a person’s reputation for career advancement.

Breaking the Eighth Commandment can destroy a community, but more importantly, keeping it can strengthen a community. What a wonderful opportunity we have as believers to positively affect our world. The focus of the Eighth Commandment is on the need for us to uphold justice. What a false witness does is just the opposite—they obstruct justice. Christians must be those who bring justice to every situation that we can. In a world where the term justice has been taken over and misunderstood, the Christian witness is even more important. May we be fair and just in all our interactions.

Scripture: ESV®.

Learn how to be a better witness and strengthen your community, coming together with Christ, in Connected to Christ: Overcoming Isolation through Community

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Written by

Keith Haney

Rev. B. Keith Haney is Assistant to the President for Missions, Human Care, and Stewardship of Iowa District West. He has been an ordained pastor for twenty-seven years and has served multi-ethnic urban congregations in Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. He is the author of numerous devotionals, including One Nation under God: Healing Racial Divides in America. He is married to Miriam (Bickel) Haney, and they have six children and one grandchild.

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