Can you trust a liar? Can you believe someone who has been proven to be a liar? How much respect can you have for a person who lies to you or about you? How much respect does a person have for you when they lie to you?
Can you confide in a person who is known to gossip? What about someone who never has a good word to say about anyone?
Most of us recognize the fact that the things listed above are sins. But do we recognize why they are wrong? Do we really realize the destructive nature of these offenses.
Lies hurt and the people who deliberately misrepresent the truth commit an offense against the peace and tranquility of families and communities. The wreckage left behind by liars can be widespread and long-lasting. People who betray a confidence by gossip or careless handling of facts create confusion and instability among people.
Do we recognize just how deeply these sins affect us individually and as a society? Do we recognize that the overt expression of these (and other) sins are often evidence of something going on in the hearts of the individuals who do them?
At the heart of these offenses with the tongue is a fundamental failure of respect for others. Writer Shannon L. Alder observes, “When people don’t respect one another seldom is there honesty.” The sad corollary to this is that the liar is, by his own nature, mistrustful of others. “The problem with being a liar is you can never believe anyone else.” ― Chloe Thurlow, The Secret Life of Girls. This environment of suspicion and mistrust feeds into a cycle that builds on itself into dysfunctional families and societies.
“There is beauty in truth, even if it’s painful. Those who lie, twist life so that it looks tasty to the lazy, brilliant to the ignorant, and powerful to the weak. But lies only strengthen our defects. They don’t teach anything, help anything, fix anything or cure anything. Nor do they develop one’s character, one’s mind, one’s heart or one’s soul.” ― José N. Harris
This is what the apostle Paul was getting at when he wrote in Ephesians 4:25:
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Again in verse 29 he says,
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
In these verses God’s intention for man to be builders of society is emphasized and tied to how and what we communicate to one another. This intention goes all the way back to the beginning – back to creation – when everything created was “good” or operating according to His design. Man was supposed to continue and extend this “goodness” as he increased in number, building society according to God’s plan.
God had said in the Ten Commandments, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16). These words (vs. 16 and all the other commands) were not just arbitrarily selected and imposed upon the Israelites. God was building a family, a community, a nation – a nation with Himself as the head. He desired a nation possessing and exhibiting a nature after His own character.
That means that people in the society God intended for would act like God has always acted toward His creation. At the most fundamental level, that means that since God has always acted in a way that showed His love for all His creation – man included – that human beings are to act with love toward all God’s creation – his fellow man included.
How do we build a godly society? It is not in having despotic rulers and dictators imposing strict conformity upon all citizens. It is not by imposing more laws and more stringent laws that create fear of punishment in the hearts of people. It is not through the imposition of multiplied laws that create an ordered society that a better society is created. It is through people understanding the divine intention of man being in the likeness of their Creator and having a desire to be like Him. It is by people loving God and, like Him, loving one another.
Obviously the achievement of that goal must begin with people having faith in God. In order to do that they must be taught. And Jesus is the way we come to know what God is truly like. When we are taught about Jesus we learn what God is like and what he really wants of us in this world.
John 6:45 “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—”
Jesus came speaking truth to the world. Truth is often sharp and hurtful, like being cut by a sword.
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The truth Jesus spoke was (and is) often inconvenient and embarrassing. To his shame, Peter lied because of his fear for his own life if he told the truth that he knew Jesus. In the days of Roman persecution people were given the choice of life or painful death depending on whether they confessed the truth that Jesus is the Son of God.
That truth which Jesus taught (that He is the Son of God) is the foundation on which He is building His people, His nation (Matt. 26:16-18). If He is the foundation as He claims (and He is), is it any wonder that He expects His people to be truth tellers today?
Oh, I know that that is usually taken to mean that we must “preach the truth” of the gospel. But doesn’t the credibility of that message rest to a large extent on the character of the one speaking it? Mustn’t they be known to be truthful people if they wish their message of truth to be accepted?
So, if we want the message of the gospel to be accepted as the truth, we must be known as truth tellers. If we want to build stronger families, we must show respect for the members of our families by being truthful. If we want to have a strong church, we must begin with the simple little thing of telling one another the truth. If we wish to have a greater nation, instead of politics as usual (in which people get elected by telling lies), we must cultivate a society in which people regard one another as worthy of respect and tell the truth to one another. And shouldn’t we hold our leaders to such a standard as well? mr
Co-authored with Bill Van Dyke, Ph.D, Give Me Liberty: Restoring the Spirit of Jubilee examines the mission of Christ as viewed from the fulfillment of Jubilee and how legalism robs the church community of the joy Jubilee brings.
A Better Way is an exploration and critique of the traditional method of determining Bible authority and suggestions for a better approach to understanding the Bible.