“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19
A false witness who breathes out lies.
It certainly doesn’t sound good, does it? Not the description you’d want next to your name or photo. Not the superlative you’re hoping to win in high school. Nor an accusation you want to be on the receiving end of.
But what exactly does it mean? Let’s unpack it a little bit more (with the help of one of my favorite Bible study tools, blueletterbible.org).
False – an untruth; by implication, a sham, without a cause, deceit, false feignedly, liar, lie, lying, wrongfully.
Witness – concretely, a witness; abstractly, testimony
Breathes out – to utter, to kindle (a fire), to scoff; blow (upon), break, puff, bring into a snare
Lies – falsehood; literally (untruth) or figuratively (idol); deceitful, false, leasing, liar, lie, lying.
So, one could say that an example of what we’re talking about here is deceitful, lying testimony spoken with the intent to kindle a given situation. Before you think, “Whew. I’m glad I don’t struggle with that,” let’s dig a little deeper. Because we can’t dismiss this indictment that quickly. It’s an abomination. We need to understand what’s at stake here. We talked about a “lying tongue” earlier this week, and a quick look through Proverbs makes it clear that God does not take it lightly. (Proverbs 12:22, Proverbs 12:19, Proverbs 20:17, Proverbs 21:6)
So how do we fall into this sin? Into the abomination of being a false witness who breathes out lies? I think it starts small, often just with our thoughts. We make an observation that leads to a judgment. The judgment we’ve made combines with our fears or insecurities and after dwelling on that particular combination of thoughts, we jump head first into bearing a false witness.
Observation: My boss barely said hello as he hurried into his office this morning.
Judgment: He must be too busy to speak to me.
Fear/insecurity: What if I’m not really doing my job well? What if he’s upset with the decision I made yesterday? He doesn’t really appreciate the hard work I put into this job – what if he thinks I’m replaceable?
False witness: As your co-worker comes in an hour later after a doctor’s appointment, “Our boss was so rude to me this morning!”
See that? An observation that turned into a judgment combined with your insecurity and you spend some time dwelling on it. Without fail, the things we dwell on will come out of our mouths. Before you know it, a hurried hello became an active affront. Your thoughts spilled out into your words. It may be subtle, but subtle or not, that progression fits “a false witness breathing out lies.” Your untrue statement to your co-worker kindled falsehood.
So, how do we fight against this abomination in our lives?
Consider Ephesians 4:17-32. Specifically, verses 22 – 24, where believers are instructed to:
“. . . . put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
And verse 29:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
This type of communication and interaction takes intentionality, friends! It means stopping the observation/judgment/insecurity/false witness train at its very root. Renewing our minds. Intentionality in what we think about, what we choose to dwell on, and for what comes out of our mouths. It means we have to think before we speak. To filter our thoughts through the righteousness and holiness of God. To actively put off the old self and actively put on the new self.
The best news? We have the Holy Spirit to help us. It may not be easy or feel natural, but it is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit for every believer. Let’s stop that crazy train. Let’s believe the best about others and circumstances. Let’s speak TRUTH with no hint of falsehood. For our own good and for the glory of God.