Courts are supposed to be protected by law and justice. But law and justice are based on the truth. If someone now bears a false witness, he commits an offense against the truth and is to blame for a miscarriage of justice. For this reason, perjury is a criminal offense, because on the one hand [of perjury] offenses remain unpunished and the other the innocent must suffer injustice. But perjury or breaking the ninth commandment is not only in courts. There are many ways one can break the ninth commandment and bear false witness. (Exodus 20:16)
Defamation means that somebody invents a lie and distributes it with malicious intent. The victim of a murderer loses his life mostly with little pain, but the victim of character assassination, a slanderer, who invents a lie and uses it as a weapon against him, harms the reputation of a man and he will never be able to regain this. He will suffer the rest of his life under it.
Behind every idle chatter or gossip, a false witness stuck, because their words are repeated without checking their stories carefully to see whether they are true. Almost everything that is repeated and disseminated in the media is in breach of the ninth commandment. Reporters listen carefully to wicked lips to get a good story.1
If you listen to as a report attacking the honor of a man without carefully convincing yourself that this is true, then you break the commandment of God. A slanderer can justify his deeds as he says he does not have the intention of deceiving and that he was convinced that he was speaking the truth. But one should not tell others what they do not need to know, not even spread the truth, when it harms the honor of his fellow man.
The Son of God lost his life because of this very sin against which the ninth commandment is directed − false testimony. He was despised and was scorned by his fellow man:
“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. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’”
“And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
“Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
“Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?”
“They answered, “He deserves death.” (Matthew 26:59-66)
- “An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.” Proverbs 17:4 ↩