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Tell the Truth

Tell the Truth

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).

In the Book 12 Rules for Life An Antidote to Chaos the writer Jordan Peterson speaks of examining his own life and coming to the stark realization that “almost everything I said was untrue.  I had motives for saying these things.  I wanted to win arguments and gain status and impress people and get what I wanted.  I was using language to bend and twist the world into delivering what I thought was necessary.  But I was a fake” (p. 205).

The Bible and Lying

  •  “There are six things which the Lord hates….a lying tongue” (Proverbs 6:17).
  • “And immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:10).
  • “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murders and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

It is clear that honesty was a problem in the ancient world.  In fact Paul told Titus, “One of themselves, a prophet of their own said, ‘Cretans are always liars…This testimony is true.  For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:12-13).  And things have not improved.

The Problem of Honesty

Basic honesty is also a problem in our modern culture.

  • 75 percent of college students cheat, and this isn’t merely at community colleges.  Cheating is a big problem at places like Harvard as well.

Some feel that the college or institution does not deserve their honesty. Others justify it by saying, “I can always look that up later on Google”. To some it is all about pure self interest.  “I have all these exams, there isn’t enough time to study, and I need to pass these tests”.

It is Easy to Bend the Truth

  • “I am not lazy; it just takes me a while to get going”.
  • “I am not unmotivated, rather I am a very laid back and relaxed person”.
  • “I don’t have a problem with anger, I just have a forceful personality”.
  • “I am not addicted, I can stop this whenever I want”.
  • “I am not gossiping, I am just sharing my concern”.
  • “I am not flirting, I am just a friendly person by nature”.
  • “I didn’t lie, I just stretched the truth a little”.

Lying and Selfishness

At the heart of why we are tempted to lie is often the same basic issue.  We are concerned about staying out of perceived trouble, making ourselves look good, avoiding uncomfortable situations or conversations and getting ahead.  “You can use words to manipulate the world into delivering what you want….This is spin.  It’s the specialty of unscrupulous marketers, salesmen, advertisers, pickup artists, slogan-possessed utopians and psychopaths.  It’s the speech people engage in when they attempt to influence and manipulate others.  It’s what university students do when they write an essay to please the professor, instead of articulating and clarifying their own ideas.  It’s what everyone does when they want something, and decide to falsify themselves to please and flatter.  It’s scheming and sloganeering and propaganda…The capacity of the rational mind to deceive, manipulate, scheme, trick, falsify, minimize, mislead, betray, deny, omit, rationalize, bias, exaggerate and obscure is so endless” (12 Rules pp. 209,217).

  • Aaron’s lie concerning how the golden calf materialized was all about self-preservation: Exodus 32:24
  • Cain’s lie about the whereabouts of his brother, the same motivation: Genesis 4:9
  • When the chief priests and the elders responded to Jesus after He asked them about the source behind John’s baptism they simply said, “We don’t know” (Matthew 21:25-26).  Again, the motivation was to avoid getting into trouble with the crowds or giving any ground to Jesus.  The fact was, they had formed a definite opinion about John.  Many of the leaders like themselves had decided not to be baptized by John (Luke 7:30).

Why Not Lie?

“Why not twist and distort things to obtain a small again, or to smooth things over, or to keep the peace, or to avoid hurt feelings?  Reality has its terrible aspect:  do we really need to confront its snake-headed face in every moment of our waking consciousness, and at every turn in our lives?  Why not turn away, at least, when looking is simply too painful?” (12 Rules p. 228).

Good Reasons to Tell the Truth

  • Things Do Fall Apart

Lies by their very nature are just temporary fixes for problems that need something far more useful and real.   Lies are inadequate when it comes to handling and facing the trials and tests of life (James 1:2-4; Psalm 73:19; Luke 16:23).

  • Only Truth can Stand the Test of Time

In my life time I have seen ultra sound technology expose the lie that the unborn child is just a mass of tissue in the womb.  I have seen the passage of time expose the lie that more lenient divorce laws would be better for everyone, unhappily married couples, the children and society in general.  “Truth builds edifices that can stand a thousand years.  Truth feeds and clothes the poor, and makes nations wealthy and safe.  Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word, so that he can become partner, rather than an enemy.  Truth makes the past truly past, and makes the best use of the future’s possibilities.  Truth is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource.  It’s the light in the darkness” (12 Rules p. 230).

  • Only Truth Can Create Relationship

It creates relationship with our Creator and with others (2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 John 1:6).  Without truth, real relationships cannot exist.  Without truth, there can be no trust, no foundation upon which to build.  The absence of truth also guarantees that our friendships will be superficial and undependable in times of real need.

  • Only Truth Leads to Authentic Personal Growth

One of the real dangers of avoiding the truth is that we end up believing our own exaggerations or fabrications.  “But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).

  • Only Truth Can Push Back Evil: John 3:19-21

 “Untruth, however well-meant, can produce unintended consequences” (12 Rules, p. 204).  “If you say no to your boss, or your spouse, or your mother, when it needs to be said, then you transform yourself into someone who can say no when it needs to be said.   If you say yes when no needs to be said, however, you transform yourself into someone who can only say yes, even when it is perfectly clearly time to say no” (p. 212).

  • Small Lies Never Remain Small

“If you look close enough, the biggest lies is composed of smaller lies” (12 Rules p. 228).  “Things fall apart:  this is one of the great discoveries of humanity.  And we speed the natural deterioration of great things through blindness, inaction and deceit.  Without attention, culture degenerates and dies, and evil prevails.  What you see of a lie when you act it out (and most lies are acted out, rather than told) is very little of what it actually is.  A lie is connected to everything else.  It produces the same effect on the world that a single drop of sewage produces in even the largest crystal magnum of champagne” (12 Rules p. 228).   

  • Only Truth Can Set Us Free: John 8:32

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).   Most people spend their lives resenting the presence of the sword that Jesus brought into this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).  Yet wise men and women appreciate its existence.  Because the sword that Jesus brought enables us to be freed from the lies perpetuated by the culture, ourselves, and even by generations of previous family members (1 Peter 1:18).  The truth simplifies and liberates.  “If your life is not what it could be, try telling the truth.  If you feel weak and rejected, and desperate, and confused, try telling the truth.  In Paradise, everyone speaks the truth.  That is what makes it Paradise” (12 Rules p. 230). 

Mark Dunagan/mdunagan@frontier.com