Accusations are necessary for justice, but false accusations are a miscarriage of it. It is increasingly easy to accuse in our modern American culture. The penalties are small, and the payoff often big. But false accusers must beware. In the fullness of time, they will pay for their lies. Meanwhile, those accused must forgive as they have been forgiven.
By Mark D, Harris
“Buy me another servant” the sultry wife told her wealthy, older husband. Within a few days, she noticed an unfamiliar young man carrying a large sack of topsoil in the garden. He tossed the sack to the ground as if it were filled with feathers. Over the weeks, she noticed that his tasks were always done quickly, imaginatively, and well, leaving time to help other servants with their responsibilities. Everyone liked and respected him, despite his youth. Her husband noticed too, and within months put him in charge of the other servants. Soon, the young man was the administrator of the whole household.
Months passed, and the young servant grew stronger, wiser, and more commanding. The young wife found herself gazing at him from her bedroom window. She imagined how it might be to have him there. “No, I couldn’t, what if my husband found out?” She objected. “Surely one of the other servants would discover us.” Nonetheless, the fever in the young woman turned into a furnace. She had to have the young servant.
The young wife found herself at places in the house and garden where she knew he would be. She blushed and looked away whenever his gaze caught hers. The young servant tried to keep his distance, but whispers began among the others. The older husband, wearied with work as a senior government official, heard vague rumors. “Impossible,” he thought. “I bought that young servant and I know him. He would never betray me.”
One steamy day, the young servant was working in the house. The other servants worked elsewhere on the estate. The young wife, emboldened with desire, stepped up to him. “Make love to me.” She requested. The young servant protested, “No, I could never betray my master, and your husband!” Then he fled the house.
Day after day, the young wife, her passion now mingled with anger, repeated her demand. “How dare that young servant reject me.” She fumed. The young servant tried to avoid going into the house, but one day his duties gave him no other choice. He went inside. None of the other servants were around. The young wife caught the young servant by the sleeve of his cloak. “Have sex with me,” she commanded. She would not be rejected again.
But she was. The young servant left his cloak behind and ran out the door. The young wife was furious. Scorned as a woman, disobeyed as the mistress of the house by a lowly slave, and embarrassed at the rejection, she now faced humiliation and possible divorce or even death if anyone found out. Clever as well as beautiful, the young wife turned the tables on the young servant. She called to anyone who might be around, “Help! This man came into the house to rape me, but ran away when I screamed, leaving his cloak inside.” Servants rushed in to see an unbelievable sight.
“Could this be possible?” the servants later said to one another. “The young servant was wise, and he was moral. Surely, he would not do such a thing.” When her husband, the master of the house, came home, the young wife, with a performance rivaling Ingrid Bergman, told him the story. The flabbergasted man believed his young and beautiful wife and threw the young servant into prison. So promising in early life, this young man’s position deteriorated from a favored son in a prosperous family to a servant and now, finally, to a criminal. The young servant, now sentenced to prison, probably for the rest of his life, was treated accordingly. But the man stayed true to himself, did his best, and waited for the future.
A Culture of Accusation
America in the twenty-first century has a culture of accusation. News outlets report allegations of wrongdoing in salacious prose that would have made William Randolph Hearst cringe. Hyperbole and emotional baiting are the standard. No proof is needed, much less even hearing both sides of the story. The accused sometimes are not allowed to defend themselves. Jobs and reputations vanish amidst the impassioned pleas of a “powerless victim.” No court is involved except for the court of public opinion, as manifested by supervisors and managers more interested in their own reputations and promotions than in the truth. Accusations can arise months, years, or even decades after the alleged incident without consequence to the accuser.
Cases too weak for criminal trials, where the standard is “beyond reasonable doubt,” are prosecuted in civil trials, where the standard is “preponderance of evidence.” Accusers may not mind. Winning a criminal trial means that the plaintiff gets satisfaction, and the convicted person sits in prison. Winning a civil trial means that the plaintiff gets lots of money from the non-convicted, and possibly innocent, defendant. And with the internet, such reports of accusations and settlements, even without convictions, are only a few clicks away…forever.
The incidence of false allegations is rising in the US, and as of 2020, 20.4% of Americans claim to have been falsely accused.
Some may object that false accusations must be tolerated because wrongs have been done, and victims, unheeded in the past, should be listened to. I can think of no one who disagrees with this principle. Genuine victims, potentially scared and embarrassed, must be allowed and even encouraged to come forward. A quiet but thorough investigation must be done, and a just penalty must follow.
But saucy and condemnatory news articles have no place. Further, people differ on the standard of evidence. The Biblical standard was that accusations had to be confirmed by two or three witnesses if a conviction was to be upheld (Deuteronomy 17:6, 2 Corinthians 13:1). This standard persisted into English Common Law and provided the basis for the American legal system. The Islamic legal system also requires multiple witnesses to confirm a conviction. Hindu jurisprudence insists on multiple witnesses to convict. All three religious traditions prescribe severe punishment for bearing false witness. They also condemn judicial bodies who pervert justice in the name of expediency.
Others may object that injustices done now are just recompense for injustices done by others earlier. For example, they would argue that false accusations of people group A today cannot tip the scale against the false accusations of people group B in the past. The difficulty with such reasoning is knowing what would restore justice. Should false accusers in the past give money to those they wrongly testified against? What about those in the present? On a larger scale, who should give what to whom, and how far back should we go?
Examples of False Accusations
S, T, and G were powerful local leaders in an ancient land. A neighboring nation had been recently destroyed. S, T, and G expanded their territories to include the new lands and oppressed the people of the recently fallen nation. However, S, T, and G were governors who owed obedience to a powerful emperor. The emperor sent N to unite, protect, and govern the people whose nation had been destroyed. Contrary to their emperor’s wishes, but quietly enough to avoid trouble, S, T, and G opposed N with all their might, short of war. They accused N, threatened N, and even tried to assassinate N. Finally, N succeeded in crafting his discouraged and destitute people into a reborn nation.
K and D led large tribes in a people group led by M. K and D opposed M passively for years, until finally they judged him weak. K and D’s men launched a coup, hoping to overthrow and kill M. They accused M, rallied their people against him, and nearly took his life. In a dramatic denouement, K and D, and their families, were killed as the ground opened up beneath them. M stood supreme. M’s supporters slaughtered the rebels, and the people returned to M as their leader.
Why Do People Falsely Accuse?
- Personal pleasure – the young wife
- Political and professional gain – K, D, S, T, and G
- Jealousy and revenge – all the above
A fourth reason for false accusations is a manufactured sense of injustice. Few people who falsely accuse believe, or admit, that they are making false accusations. They justify their untruths by convincing themselves that what they believe is what actually happened. They reason that the alleged perpetrator deserves punishment, and that they are protecting others that he might encounter. The young wife undoubtedly convinced herself that the young servant was trying to seduce or even rape her. In her mind, she then, in virtue and power, resisted him. She may have taken pride in protecting others whom “he might have mistreated.”
K, D, S, T, and G felt that they were wholly in the right and M and N, respectively, were incompetent, evil, or both. In their minds, they created a casus bello and then “went to war” with accusations against M and his supporters. They felt that M had not kept his promises, and that if they were in charge, they would keep their promises.
Who do People Accuse?
People accuse others all the time. Sometimes it is justified, such as when a man accuses another man who stole his computer. Sometimes it is not, as when the supposedly stolen computer is found to have been misplaced by the owner. Sometimes it is overblown, such as when a misunderstanding is interpreted as a microaggression. Regardless of the circumstances, those who feel wronged will generally decide if the cost of making accusations is greater than the benefit.
- People will rarely accuse those who can hurt them. The San Hedrin accused Jesus repeatedly because He did not fight back. Many of the Old Testament prophets, likewise, did not fight back, and so were often falsely accused. The prophet Nathan accusing King David of adultery and murder is a notable exception.
- People will rarely accuse, especially falsely, if it seems like too much work. Humans are lazy, and barriers to accusations reduce the number of accusations, both just and unjust. Without barriers to unjust accusation, the downside of making such accusations is small and the potential upside is large…for the accuser.
- People will rarely accuse dominant people or groups for fear of being harmed by the group. People may disbelieve them, dislike them, or even retaliate against them, even if the accuser cannot or will not be harmed by the individual.
Virtuous people rarely make false accusations because they are virtuous. Wicked people more commonly make false accusations because they are wicked.
What is the End of False Accusers?
No one knows what happened to the young wife. Given her conduct, she could not have kept her charade of purity for long. If she remained consistent, she had an affair with a more willing partner, or two, or three…. Her husband would have eventually found out, and she could have been divorced or killed.
When rebellion and all the other disasters that S, G, and T complained to the emperor about didn’t happen, they lost credibility. N’s success in reforming his own nation guaranteed that S, G, and T lost land, people, money, and power.
As we have seen, K, D, and their followers were quicky destroyed.
What is the End of the Falsely Accused?
Justice will be done. No one is perfectly righteous, but God will not punish a man for something that he did not do. Someday, either on earth or in heaven, the falsely accused man will be fully exonerated. The San Hedrin could kill Jesus, and they did, but they could not keep Him from rising again. After years unjustly in prison, the young servant went on to achieve a high position in the nation. M, the young servant, and everyone else who has ever been falsely accused, will someday be exalted. The hard part is that judgment on false accusers rarely happens immediately, as we would wish, and as happened with K and D. More commonly, it happens slowly, as in the case of S, G, and T.
Usually though, the accused never sees God’s judgment on the accuser. Such may have been the case with the young servant. He simply had to wait in faith that God would exact justice. “Vengeance is Mine, and I will repay says the Lord (Romans 12:19).” Those wounded from false accusations can take solace in that promise. They need to avoid being bitter like the older brother in the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The accused must beware of imitating the unforgiving slave (Matthew 18:21-35).
Or even better, the falsely accused person can pray for his accuser, asking the Lord to remove the anger and bitterness that inevitably follow false accusations. Someday, he can say with Jesus, “Father, forgive my false accusers, they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).”
Accusations have reached a torrent in our world. People drop them as flippantly as though tossing a penny into a fountain. Many are justified, but many are not. False accusers will pay a steep price for what they have done. Every moment of every day, their lies will grow like a cancer that eventually destroys them. By a thousand cuts, they will sink into the grave. Though many in our society laud accusers, regardless of their honesty, the Judge of the Universe does not.
Those falsely accused must not give way to anger, bitterness, or despair. They must forgive in the knowledge that they have been forgiven. Justice will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
- Communication Conflicts
- Sticks and Stones
- The Gray Life
- The Rule of Law – Lincoln at Lyceum
- True to Each Other
References – see footnotes and in-text citations
 The incidence of false allegations is rising in the US. Center for Prosecutor Integrity, https://www.prosecutorintegrity.org/pr/survey-over-20-million-have-been-falsely-accused-of-abuse/.
 Means of Evidence in Islamic Law (From Effect of Islamic Legislation in Saudi Arabia – Proceedings, P 149-192, 1976 – See NCJ-87248), US Department of Justice, https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/means-evidence-islamic-law-effect-islamic-legislation-saudi-arabia.
 Olivelle P (trans), The Law Code of Manu, Chapter 8, The Justice System (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 123-154.
 This is a larger issue that will only be mentioned here. Many in the United States believe that black Americans deserve money from the government, but which black Americans? How do you define “black?” How much money? This argument is not confined to America and not confined to today. Should Japan pay money to China, Korea, and other nations that they conquered in World War II? Should the US government bill African nations on the Barbary Coast for enslaving American seamen? Should south African nations demand compensation from Zululand for the conquests of King Shaka in the early nineteenth century? Should Spain and the Balkans sue the Islamic world for their takeover of these nations by Islamic forces? Should natives in Latin America demand money from the descendants of the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas? Should the Han Chinese recompense Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia, and dozens of other areas for their earlier imperialism? The list is endless. Should the Songhai Empire in Sub Saharan African demand payment from heirs of the Saadi Sultanate for the slave trade?
 The story of the young servant is in the Biblical book of Genesis chapter 39. The N story is found in the Biblical book of Nehemiah. The M story is found in Numbers 16:1-25.
 Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, may be an exception. She was wicked enough to abandon even a pretense of righteousness.