Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:9-10
Today there are almost as many kinds of lies as there are individuals who justify bending the truth to suit their purpose. On one end of the spectrum are what some consider to be “white lies,” a term which only glosses over the hard reality of dishonesty. On the other end of the spectrum are the blatant lies which people tell to gain advantages which they do not deserve and otherwise would not have–the politician or government official who covers his tracks, the businessman who wants to mislead and confuse his competitor, the philanderer who at the same time wants domestic tranquility and the excitement of illicit sex.
In between are the everyday “garden variety” of lies which consist of half-truths, inferences, and exaggerations which we use to impress people.
How big was the fish? “This big,” you say, holding your two hands a considerable distance apart, when the truth is that the fish was closer to the distance between your thumb and little finger. How many people did you say were present? “Oh, about 500,” when the fact is there were barely 500 individual shoes in the audience, to say nothing of anywhere close to 500 people.
Recently a young man sat in my office with his wife, whose eyes were red and filled with tears. For the previous fifteen minutes, she had shared how trust had broken down. She no longer knew when he was telling her the truth or was looking her in the eye and lying. “Have you ever lied to your wife?” I asked. “Only to protect her,” he replied. “But I can’t believe you anymore,” she said, “no matter what you say.”
Is it any wonder that we are cynical, distrusting, feeling that we are often deceived? What’s happened? Students of this phenomenon say that since World War 2, we have faced the greatest breakdown of the family unit since the fall of Rome. The traditional institutions which teach morality–religion and the family, the church and the home–have been weakened. “To the extent family life is disintegrating,” says Catholic theologian and Notre Dame University president, Rev. Theodore Hesburg, “kids are not being taught values about lying, cheating and stealing.”
Others blame the media, citing the glorification of violence and moral failure. Try and remember when you saw a movie picturing the wholesome, normal relationship of a husband and wife who are honest with each other and come home to the same mate night after night.
Regardless of what causes and contributes to the problem, dishonesty is a fundamental breach in the fabric of life, a wrong number in the math table of society, and a fraud in the way we relate to each other.
God says honesty is a fundamental value which makes society work. If you doubt the premium that God puts on it, take a look at the closing chapters of the last book in the New Testament. In John’s visions on Patmos, he records the words of God Himself, saying, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
The next time you are tempted to bend the truth to suit your purpose, better ask yourself the question, “How many times do I tell a lie before God considers me a liar?”
If honesty has gone out of style, it is high time that it had a renaissance, a rebirth. Telling the truth is not only the best policy; it should be the only policy.
Resource reading: Colossians 3:1-10.