Summary: Should a Christian always tell the truth? And what happens when we don’t
OPEN: I once read the true story of a husband and wife that returned from a day of shopping to find that the light on the answering service was flashing. The husband went over and activated the machine. The only message was from a friend of his wife Janet. The friend had called to say she had applied for a job and needed a character reference - basically someone who could verify she was honest and trustworthy and she said she had given the interviewer Janet’s name.
Then the friend said that there had been a form for Janet to sign. "But I couldn’t find you," the friend concluded, "so I forged your signature."
APPLY: Throughout the Bible there’s a powerful emphasis on God’s people being honest.
Psalms 15:1-2 declares: “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart.”
Psalms 51:6 “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts.”
In John 4:24 Jesus said “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
James 5:12 warns us “Above all, my brothers, do not swear— not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your ‘Yes’ be yes, and your ‘No,’ no, or you will be condemned.”
And of course our text today tells us: “…each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25
ILLUS: Back in 1996 a psychologist at the University of Virginia (Bella D. Paulo) did a study of 147 people between 18-71 who were asked to keep a diary of all falsehoods told they had told over a week.
He found that most people lie once or twice a day.
He estimated that each of us lies in 20% of social exchanges lasting 10 or more minutes.
In one week alone, 30% of us deceive others in one-on-one interaction (Psychology Today 5-6/97)
In addition, this psychologist found that:
10% of lies were exaggerations,
60% outright deceptions,
But MOST were subtle lies, often of omission.
AND even though an average of 1 out of 7 of lies is uncovered, more than 70% of liars surveyed said they would tell their lies again.
Why had this psychologist studied lying? Because truth and honesty are highly valued commodities in any society, whether Christian or not.
How many of you hate it when people lie to you? (most hands went up).
How many of you would dislike being called a liar? (all hands went up)
I. (Pause) Now a quiz:
How many of you think we (as Christians) should ALWAYS tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
How many of you think we shouldn’t ALWAYS tell the truth…?
How many of you aren’t holding up your hands because you’re sensing a trap here?
ILLUS: Have you seen that Geico commercial on TV where the woman comes into the kitchen and asks her husband: “Do you think this dress makes me look fat?”
Do you remember what that husband says? “Yes, of course it does!”
All across America, you can hear the collective groan of men as they lift themselves out of easy chairs and shout: "NO! Don’t say that!"
That man may have told his wife the truth… but that particular truth wasn’t the smartest thing he ever said.
ILLUS: I much prefer the answer a man gave to his wife when she asked: “Do I look fat?”
To which he replied: “Do I look stupid?”
LOOK with me to Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Now, what I’m going to say next may make you uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. But I’m convinced this is a Biblical concept:
The only time we shouldn’t be telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth… is when that truth damages and destroys the people around us.
You might ask: Jeff, how can you say that? Well, I can say that, because I believe it’s Biblical.
One of the most unusual stories in Scripture is told in the Exodus 1. There, we’re told that the Egyptians began to fear the Israelites that lived in their country. And the Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew mid-wives who always helped women deliver their babies:
"When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live."
The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.