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To tell the truth | Worship


Last updated 10/28/2020 at 4:47pm

It’s election time, and therefore open season for politicians to accuse one another of lying. Has there ever been a truly honest politician who has always told the truth? I bet even Honest Abe Lincoln lied on occasion. A Lincoln expert was asked if Lincoln ever lied and he said he was sure he did: “When his wife asked him, ‘Does this dress make me look fat?’ I’m certain he did not say, ‘It’s not the dress, dear. It’s your fatness that makes you look fat.’"

Turns out we are all pretty good liars. According to social psychologist Jerald Jellison, the average American outstrips Pinocchio by telling a whopping 200 lies a day, including white lies and false excuses (“Sorry I'm late. I was tied up at the office.”) We are masters of deception, even in everyday conversation. We are adept at subtly twisting the truth. We deceive by not saying what we mean.

Lying is entrenched in America. According to one authority on the subject, Sissela Bok, lying is now an accepted part of many professions – medicine, journalism, and business. In fact, strict honesty and truth-telling in business often puts one at a distinct disadvantage with one's competitors. Can you imagine a business that always tells the truth about its products?

Lying is a bigger problem than we think. It’s so prevalent you begin to think that perhaps Pascal, the French scientist and philosopher, was right when he observed that one shouldn't expect to meet more than three or four honest people in one’s lifetime.

The problem with lying is that it destroys human community; it breaks down trust, which is the glue that keeps people together. Just think what our society would be like if we couldn't trust our next-door neighbor or confide in our closest friend. Without trust society would collapse. Fear and chaos would reign. Society would become a jungle. No wonder one of the Ten Commandments reads: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

Lying also destroys individuals. The damage done to the reputation of others by spreading lies about them is a particularly devious kind of sin. By spreading falsehood and innuendo, by exaggerating the truth, by misrepresenting the facts, a person's most prized possession is taken away – that person loses his or her good name. And the potential for hurt is limitless. And once you have spread malicious gossip about another, there is no way to put a stop to it; you can't call your words back. As Mark Twain put it: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

There is a proverb in the Bible that reads: "Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are his delight."

What does it mean to deal truthfully? It means to say what we mean, so that our yes means yes and our no means no. It means that we are to deal fairly with others and are to forgo all deceptive practice. To “deal truthfully” with others is also to expose falsehood, so that when we hear hurtful gossip, and slanderous remarks, we put a stop to it. We ourselves refuse to pass them along. When our friends pass along half-truths that distort the image of another, we must supply the other half if we can. The Apostle Paul gives wise counsel: "Let no evil talk come out of your mouths but only such as is good for edification, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear it." (Ephesians 4:29] So that whenever we speak, let it be true, and let it be helpful, designed for the upbuilding of another. For "those who deal truthfully are God's delight."


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