Daily Wisdom 115: Proverbs 6:19

Proverbs 6:19 (NKJV) — 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

False witnesses and sowing discord. The ninth commandment specifically prohibits the bearing of false witness against one’s neighbor (Exodus 20:16). A false witness can be instrumental in convicting an innocent party, which can ultimately result in the death penalty. To protect the innocent, under the law one witness was never sufficient to condemn someone to death. Two, and preferably three, were required. (See Deuteronomy 17:6.) To further protect the innocent, even after guilt was declared, the accusers had to place their hands on the accused and declare  in the presence of all the people that he was indeed the guilty party. Then the accusers had to be the first to cast the stones to put the accused to death. (See Deuteronomy 13:9.) All of these protections gave a false witness maximum opportunity to reverse his testimony. Only the most callous and hardened person could maintain a false witness through all the required developments in the trial.

To this day it is a dangerous sin to bear false witness against an innocent party. Even the secular court system demands that the witness pledge to tell the absolute truth. The person who prevaricates is himself guilty of perjury with its attendant penalties.

It is better to err on the side of mercy than on the side of judgment. Even those who have seen or heard something that seems to affix blame should be cautious, for things are not always what they seem. It is very possible to misinterpret what we see or hear.

The seventh thing God hates and the one which, by implication, He hates most of all is sowing discord among brethren. The New Testament also addresses this sin. (See Galatians 5:20; II Thessalonians 3:11; I Timothy 5:13; I Peter 4:15.) It is God’s desire that people walk in harmony and unity; the person who sows discord works directly against God’s plan. The most common way discord is sown is when one person tells something harmful to the reputation of another person—whether true or false—to someone who has no need or authority to hear it.