Regarding false accusations, the psalmist says, “For they do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit” (Psalm 35:20). This is an accurate description of the motives and results of false accusations. People lie about the innocent in order to stir up trouble. This happens on every level of society, from the halls of your local high school to the halls of the Pentagon. People accuse others falsely as a revenge tactic or power play or when they think they have something to gain. There is no need to state that this behavior is unbiblical in the extreme.
The command against making false accusations is one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:16). According to Mosaic Law, someone who accused another person falsely was to receive an ironic punishment: “The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst” (Deuteronomy 19:18–19). The Law also specified that the punishment of a false witness was to be carried out without pity (Deuteronomy 19:21); it is a serious thing in God’s eyes to make a false accusation.
The folly of making a false accusation is illustrated in the book of Esther. A man named Haman, a nobleman in the court of King Ahasuerus, devised a plot to frame a Jew named Mordecai and have him hanged on a gallows fifty cubits high. Haman sought to ensure Mordecai’s death by means of false accusations. Haman devised this plot because he hated Jews, and he especially hated Mordecai because Haman was jealous of a favor Mordecai had received from the king. But Haman’s plot was found out, and the punishment for Haman’s treachery was poetic justice—he was hung on the very gallows he had constructed for Mordecai (Esther 5:9–14; 6:4).
Those who make false accusations are under God’s judgment (Psalm 5:6). As followers of Christ, we can expect that people will sometimes make false accusations against us, but hear Jesus’ encouragement: “Blessed are you when people . . . falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11–12). No matter what others say about us falsely, we rely on God’s Word: “Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart. Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law” (Psalm 119:69–70).
Jesus Himself faced false accusations from the Pharisees and their followers. Isaiah prophesied this when he said of the Messiah, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Even Pilate, the Roman governor who oversaw Jesus’ sentence, knew that Jesus had done nothing wrong, but he pandered to the Jews and allowed the false accusations to stand (Matthew 27:22–26).
According to the Mosaic Law, those who falsely accused the Son of God should have been themselves crucified. Instead, Jesus looked down at the soldiers and the rulers who were scoffing at Him and dividing up His clothing, and He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This was an indication that the Mosaic Law had been fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrifice and that a new law of forgiveness and mercy through faith in the Lamb of God was now in place for all who would believe in Him. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17; 3:16).