Summary: In James’ day, as in ours, people revered the idea of truth in principle but in practice it was blatantly disregarded. In James 5:12 he makes a special point to address this issue of being truthful.
In a Reader’s Digest survey of 2,624 readers in January 2004 we read about the percentage of those who said they had:
1. Switched price tags to get a lower price: 12%
2. Cheated on their tax return: 17%
3. Misstated facts on a resume/job application: 18%
4. Lied to their spouse about their relationship with another person: 28%
5. Lied to their spouse about the cost of a recent purchase: 32%
6. Downloaded music from the Internet without paying for it: 37%
7. Been undercharged or received too much change from cashier and not told him or her: 50%
8. Called in sick to work when not ill: 63%
9. Taken office supplies from their office for personal use: 63%
10. Lied to friends or family members about their appearance to avoid hurting their feelings: 71%
Lying is a chronic problem in our society. One of the results of lying is broken relationships. In our text for today James calls for truth-telling, which is absolutely necessary for healthy relationships. Let’s see what James says about truth-telling: key to authentic relationships in James 5:12:
"12 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." (James 5:12)
A few years ago Isuzu ran a series of advertisements featuring “Joe Isuzu.” For the five years that Joe Isuzu was on the air he became the most famous liar in America.
Some of you may remember Joe Isuzu. He was the reptilian TV ad man who looked straight into the camera and said, “Isuzus only cost $9.00. They get 94 miles to the gallon, and if you buy one soon, you will get a free house.” And then superimposed on the screen came the white block letters saying, “He’s lying.”
Joe Isuzu continued, “Isuzus go 300 miles per hour. They seat the same number of people as the Astrodome, and they are roomy enough to carry the state of Texas.” Once again the words, “He’s lying,” appeared on the screen.
The advertising executive who put the advertising campaign together said, “Young people today are cynical. They have been lied to before. So they are amused by the simple shocking truth of the ‘liar commercials.’”
Oh, incidentally, when that advertising campaign came out Isuzu sales went up 21%. I guess we all knew that sex sold cars, but apparently lies do too.
Sometimes we lie to impress people. We drop names, and we refer to people we barely know as “close friends.” We lie about numbers and statistics just to impress people.
Sometimes, we lie to please people. We agree with those strong personality-type people in their presence, and then kick ourselves in private, saying, “I shouldn’t have agreed with him. I shouldn’t have bought into what he was saying. I just nodded my head and said ‘yes’ to please that person.”
Sometimes we lie to get revenge. Someone hurts us, and so we trump up a story or a rumor to get back at the one who wronged us. Or we pass on damaging information without checking its veracity, hoping to damage to the one who wronged us.
Many of us lie to make a profit. It goes on all the time.
Lots of us lie to escape punishment. “My speedometer must have malfunctioned, Officer.” “I didn’t see the sign.” “Oh sir, I would have finished this assignment, but you wouldn’t believe what happened.” And he probably won’t.
Sometimes, we lie just for convenience. Parents lie by writing sick notes for their children at school. Secretaries lie when they answer phones and say, “He’s out,” when he’s really in. We call in sick to work some days, and then we have a miraculous healing, and go out and do some shopping. Sometimes we say, “Sure! I’ll try to be there!” when all the while we know we won’t be.
If you ask the question, “What is the most important quality you look for in a relationship?” nine times out of ten the answer will be honesty.
Conversely, if you ask people who have been hurt in a relationship, “What caused the deepest disappointment in your relationship?” the answer will usually be dishonesty.
It’s almost impossible to overstate the amount of damage that occurs when evidences of dishonesty are uncovered in a relationship. Most relationships can withstand the periodic bumps and bruises brought about by misunderstandings and miscommunications, but when there is evidence of deception, particularly calculated and continual deception, many times that relationship is over.
And if the wound isn’t actually fatal, the relationship will probably be in the Intensive Care Unit for a very long time. It takes months or usually years for credibility to be re-established in a relationship after deception has manifested itself.