“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16
I used to have a habit where I’d stare off into space whenever I was trying to workout, or think through, a difficult problem. Most of the time the only negative repercussions I’d suffer as a result of this habit were people thinking I was rudely staring at them or people thinking I looked like a brainless idiot. But there was one time when the results were a bit more serious.
It was my tenth grade year, at Cedar Lake Academy, and I was taking Algebra 2. I’d never been very good at anything related to math. I’d managed by perseverance and a great deal of patience, on my parents part, to learn the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; the latter requiring much more time than it should have. I just could seem to wrap my my around the fact that division is the reverse process of multiplication.
Anyway, as most of you know, algebra is the combining of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in various ways, according to specific rules to solve for different values. You start working out relatively simple values and gradually begin to work out much more complex ones.
Well, I had a very hard time forcing my brains logic circuits to perform these mathematical exercises so you can imagine that I was spending a lot of time blankly staring off into space.
I was in just this state during class while we were taking a test when I was interrupted by our teacher who removed my test from my desk, accused me of cheating off the paper of a class mate, two seat in front of me, on my right.
I tried to protest my innocence but my teacher told that he knew what he’d seen and I’d been cheating.
It was humiliating and I felt defenseless and helpless. I was innocent and I was unable to prove my innocence.
The above, true, account is not the kind of action forbidden by the ninth commandment. It’s true that the ninth commandment does forbid the action of making a falsely accusation but God’s intention was to outlaw the act of making intentional false accusations and by our lies to cause another person to bear the blame for an action they hadn’t done. My algebra teacher’s only guilt was not recognizing that I was not actually looking at my classmates paper when it really looked like I was looking at his paper. The truth is, I could have never focused on his paper. At that time I had an undiagnosed astigmatism and couldn’t read normal print or hand writing if it was much farther away than the length of my arm. But my teacher couldn’t have known that.
I share the story because from that experience I learned what it feels like to be falsely accused. It would have been far more upsetting if I’d known that I was the focus of an intentional attack.
Friends, our God is a good of truth and love and he calls us to be like him. That means that like him we’re to make no false accusations.