This Judgment of God emphasizes to us the importance of this commandment.
If bearing true witness is so important, let’s look at it from all sides. I do not think any of us underestimate the importance of telling the truth when we are on the witness stand under oath. The laws of the land provide severe penalties for lying under oath. But even at that, some people do lie for various reasons that may be important to them.
But how can people be brought to the point that they will tell an untruth? We seldom commit great crimes, except crimes of passion, without gradually building up to it. In the case of stealing, it usually starts off with little things. In the case of lying, it usually starts off with little white lies. If a person continually tells little white lies, he is apt to become so used to it that it is easy to tell bigger lies.
But plain telling an untruth is not all there is to this commandment. Gossip is another form of violating this commandment because don’t most people start of by saying, “Did you hear…?” If one person only heard something, he cannot vouch for the truth can he? And if he repeats something he doesn’t know is true, he is taking a big chance on his telling a lie. Tale bearing is kin to gossiping and it runs the same dangers. And the law of the land, as well as this commandment, provide against it. The laws of libel and slander provide a person can collect damages from a person who publishes by work or letter damaging untruths about a person. And the only legal defense is to prove that the allegations are true. Exaggeration is a form of lying. And it is a very dangerous form, because while based on truth, and gaining credence from truth, it distorts the truth by extending it beyond what is truth. This is the basis for a witness swearing to tell “nothing but the truth.” The Judges do not want to hear what may taint their judgment. And while excessive fault finding does not at first seem like a violation against bearing false witness, think about what an excessive amount of fault finding does. Doesn’t it tend to over-emphasize faults to the extent that they are not true?