The ninth commandment states
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour (Exodus 20:16).
In the “errata” for the Ten Commandments, this is expanded upon:
You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit” (Exodus 23:1-3 ESV).
Bearing false witness has a very broad application, but here we see it particularly connected to judicial and social matters. To bear false witness is to pervert justice. Those who pervert justice are automatically on the wrong side of justice—and God. (He is always on the side of justice. He always combines justice and mercy.)
A false witness may prejudice the decision reached and cause an unfair sentence to be handed down. In Bible times, most decisions were rendered by single judges, but in our day, sentence rendered often via jury. Unfortunately, people in groups do not necessarily render impartial decisions. This very command indicates that a lying witness can bend the facts and sway the outcome.
The commandment reminds us that others—all others—are our neighbors. When we recall the command “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12), we again see that other people are our neighbors. There is a brotherhood. To put one’s hand against another for personal gain is a form of aggression. Since punitive action may be undertaken in a judicial process, to render false witness in support of such action is a violation of the well-known non-aggression axiom: That no one has the right to initiate the use of force against another person or his property.
To bear false witness is to deny this fundamental connection of all humans with all humans. It is not to seek peace with all men, but to seek to exploit judicial processes in a mercenary manner for the benefit of oneself. Some anarchists leave the impression that they see life as an arena in which it is every man for himself and survival of the fittest; the Christian anarchist cannot see himself alone in the world. He sees himself neither as apart from God nor from man. His eyes are wide open to the mischief and injustice so often wrought through collectives, but at the same time he is not blind to the inadequacy of unbridled individualism.
God’s law is seen here, as in many other of the Ten Commandments, to facilitate community. Remember that God’s law is a thumbnail sketch of His character. We are made in His image. The divine character is opposite the satanic character. The very essence of what Satan is, is a liar. He was a liar from the beginning of his apostasy, and made himself an accuser of the brethren. He is the paradigmatic image of one who bears false witness. The contrast is complete; God bears a true witness of others. In Him is only truth, only light; there is no shadow of turning in Him, no hidden dark spots.
To prevail in secular politics, one must be a skillful operator. That circle is a stagnant pool of institutionalized misrepresentation, a school is bearing false witness. Is it any wonder that the outcomes of the state are almost universally corrupting?