Do not spread false reports. Exodus 23:1
After Charles Simeon (1759–1836) was named the minister of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, England, he faced years of opposition. As most in the congregation had wanted the associate minister to be appointed rather than Simeon, they spread rumors about him and rejected his ministry—even at times locking him out of the church. But Simeon, who desired to be filled by God’s Spirit, sought to cope with the gossip by creating some principles to live by. One was never to believe rumors unless they were absolutely true and another was “always to believe, that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter.”
In this practice, Simeon followed God’s instructions to His people to cease the gossip and malicious talk He knew would erode their love for each other. One of God’s Ten Commandments reflects His desire for them to live truthfully: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). Another instruction in Exodus reinforces this commandment: “Do not spread false reports” (23:1).
Think of how different the world would be if each of us never spread rumors and false reports and if we stopped them the moment we heard them. May we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us speak the truth in love as we use our words to bring glory to God.
What has helped you when you’ve faced opposition? How do you react when you hear gossip?
Jesus, help me to speak Your truth in love. Give me words that bring peace, grace, and encouragement.
God gave the Ten Commandments as guidelines for daily living so that His people could live faithful and holy lives. Commandments 1–4 (Exodus 20:1–11) teach us to love God, which Jesus said is “the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:38). Commandments 5–10 (Exodus 20:12–17) teach us “to love [our] neighbor as [ourselves]” (Matthew 22:39). After giving the Ten Commandments, Moses laid down various stipulations that if followed would enable the Israelites to love their neighbors (Exodus 21:1–23:9). Because “the Lord is righteous, [and] he loves justice” (Psalm 11:7), Moses commanded them to “follow justice and justice alone” (Deuteronomy 16:20). Love for neighbors means justice for all. Exodus 23:1–9 is an application of the ninth commandment: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (20:16). This commandment ensured impartial justice for everyone. False accusation, malicious testimony, slander, and withholding justice because of external pressure, favoritism, or bribery all contribute to the perversion of true justice and denial of neighborly love.