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...they have stolen, they have lied… - Joshua 7:11 (NIV)
The final frontier of character is eroding in America these days—the frontier of honesty. Scott taught about that in his sermon Sunday. We’ll continue the theme in our devos this week. Ultimately, we are nothing without character, and few things negatively impact our character as much as playing fast and loose with the truth.
The ninth commandment explicitly forbids lying, yet we seem to embrace it more than denounce it in America these days. Rather than calling our mistruths “sin,” we tend to say things like: “Oh, I just misspoke,“ or “Everybody does it!” But what “everybody” does is a paltry measure of integrity. Is there anyone among us who doesn’t remember hearing a parent say, “If everyone else walked off a cliff, would you?” The point being that character is the sum of our own choices, and usually it’s best measured by what we are when we’re all alone and no one is looking.
It’s interesting how we use euphemisms to diminish our lies. We say, “It’s just a little white lie,” or “I told a little fib,” or “I might’ve embellished the truth just a tad,” or “I told a little story.” When was the last time you ever heard anyone say, “I admit it. I told a bold-faced lie!” I heard one wag say, “Well, if you know you’re lying and God knows you’re lying, it’s the same as telling the truth because two negatives make a positive, ha!” But friends, there's nothing positive about lying— ever.
Proverbs 6:16–19 begins thusly, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him.” We call these the “seven deadly sins.” Did you know that lying is mentioned twice in the list? Words matter, friends, especially truthful words. That’s what prompted Jesus to say, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” You can read that story here. It’s part of a really great sermon.
Oh, while you’re at it, check out the story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, in Acts 5. God struck both of them dead for one “little” lie about how much money they gave to the church. Peter rebuked them for it and the deacons toted two corpses out the door. It’s no wonder the next verse says, “...and great fear seized the whole church.” Yep, you betcha!
...for who hath despised...the small things… - Zechariah 4:10 (KJV)
Ever hear the expression: “It’s the little things that matter most?” I agree. Take marriage for example. The “little” things are the big things in a vibrant marriage—a listening ear, a hand on the shoulder, a warm hug, unmerited forgiveness, just being there when no one else can or will.
Little things matter in our verbal traffic too, especially honesty. Determinedly telling the truth may seem like a small thing, but in reality it’s a huge, monumental, gargantuan thing! It brings us into alignment with God who “never lies” (Titus 1:2). Conversely, unchecked lying aligns us with Satan, “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). In other words, “When we tell the truth, we’re fellowshipping with God; when we lie, we’re fellowshipping with the devil.” Whoa!
Lying affects fellowship with people, too. For any relationship to have length and depth, it must be built on truth. Once we lose confidence in another person’s honesty, a relationship can never reach its potential, simply because we can no longer believe what they say about anything. Can trust be earned again? Yes, but only through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. In the meantime, we find ourselves choking occasionally on our very broken hearts.
Remember Peter in Herod’s courtyard, warming himself by the fire, as Jesus was being falsely accused and verbally abused. Others repeatedly asked him, “Are you one of his disciples?” Each time, Peter replied with increasing emotion, until finally he cursed and said, “I never knew the man.” Then he went out in the darkness and wept… alone.
There’s no one lonelier than a liar. In public, he or she may enjoy the whole world’s adulation, but what liars don’t enjoy—and can’t enjoy—is respect. Ultimately, they’re destined to end up sitting alone in a room where nobody sees and nobody cares, prisoners of their own deceit. It’s a life that’s really no life at all. We don’t have to live those kinds of lives, friends, so truthfully, let’s not.Share Tweet
No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house… - Psalms 101:7 (ESV)
Liars are found everywhere—in pulpits, board rooms, sales meetings, business, politics, and in our own homes (if you’ve ever raised a 3-year-old, you know that’s true!). Let’s think about some techniques of lying—four today and four tomorrow—and do some introspection along the way.
1) First and most obvious is a direct lie. When blind Isaac asked his youngest son, Jacob, “Who are you?” Jacob answered immediately with a direct lie: “I am Esau, your firstborn.” Some people are quite adept at telling direct lies; it’s deeply ingrained.
2) A second kind of lie is gossip—saying something (true or not) that tarnishes someone’s character. Scripture uses extremely harsh words for gossipers. In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul rattles off a list of people who won’t “inherit” the Kingdom of Heaven. He mentions “the sexually immoral, idolaters, thieves, and drunkards.” Did you know he also includes liars? Gossip propagates lying. If you know someone who trafficks in gossip, you should pray earnestly for them; they‘re in dire need of God’s mercy.
3) Another type of lie could be called “the lie of desperation.” Often our first inclination when we get into trouble is to lie our way out of it. The reason is desperation, and we rationalize it by saying to ourselves, “Sometimes, lying is just necessary.” No, my friend, it isn’t.
4) A fourth kind of lie is a half-truth, which is really just a whole lie. “I wanted to come but just couldn’t.” “My speedometer might not be accurate.” “Sure, I’d love to see you; maybe when my schedule improves.” “She just turned four.” (Actually it was 13 months ago). I heard about a guy who resigned “because of something his boss said.” When pressed on the matter, he finally admitted his boss said, “You’re fired!” I suspect that 90% of what we call “resignations” are more than likely “terminations."
Nothing is covered that will not be revealed… - Luke 12:2 (ESV)
Yesterday, we looked at four truths about how we lie. Today, we’ll do the same. For lack of a better term, we’ll call them lying “techniques.”
1) Pretending. Think of it as another word for hypocrisy (i.e. lying with our lives). It’s being disingenuous or fake. It often bows the knee at the altar of Facebook and Instagram. It revels in “image,” in being admired. In today’s world, some people don’t even know who they are anymore; they’ve gotten so lost in the lure of self-promotion. The Greek word for hypocrite is hupoocritos, which means to live a lie. Jesus addresses fakeness in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father...” These are sobering words.
2) Another form of lying is flattery. There’s nothing wrong with an honest compliment here or there, but when we give it to gain others’ appreciation, it’s duplicitous. The oil of true appreciation helps the world’s machinery run more smoothly, but insincere praise is like putting sand in the machinery—it’s a subtle form of lying. A gossip is someone who will say things behind your back that he’d never say to your face, but a flatterer is someone who will say things to your face that he’d never say behind your back! Don’t be that guy or girl; be better. By the way, don’t gulp down praise from others. Flattery, like chewing gum, may be briefly enjoyed, but don’t swallow it.
3) Another type of lying is silence. Sometimes, to be real (and just), we must be heard. To not speak truth may unintentionally promote a falsehood. Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” When something or someone is being slandered or maligned, it’s time to speak.
4) Fourthly, hyperbole—exaggerating to impress—is also a form of lying. Again, it’s rampant on social media. We seem to be addicted to embellishing our stories. Preachers are notorious for this. After about five years in ministry, the Lord convicted me one day about “preacher stories.” I made a commitment then and there to say only what is true and let God handle the impact. I don’t have to be funny, or cagey, or entertaining, but I do have to be honest. Exaggeration isn’t honesty. I won’t be judged for my popularity, but I will be judged for my character.
That man was honest, a person of absolute integrity… - Job Job 1:1 (CEB)
A lot of people don’t understand the difference between character and reputation; one is about what’s actually true about you; the other is about what people perceive to be true. When reputation becomes more important than character, we’re in trouble.
Coach Cleveland Stroud was the coach of the Rockdale County Bulldogs, a local high school in Georgia that won the state basketball tourney several years ago with a dramatic come-from-behind victory. But a few months later, the school was stripped of its title after the coach reported that a scholastically ineligible player had played for 45 seconds in the first game.
“We didn’t know at the time that he was ineligible,” Coach Stroud said. “We just learned about it a few weeks ago. Some people said we should be quiet about it; that it was just 45 seconds and the player was a third-stringer… but you’ve got to do what’s honest and right, and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games, but they don’t ever forget what you’re made of.”
Now there’s a man who understands the difference between character and reputation. We’ve talked about honesty and truthfulness all week. Allow me to wrap up with two suggestions to chew on.
1) If you have a problem with lying, admit it and confess it; don’t rationalize about it. We wouldn’t tolerate a few germs in our drinking water, nor should we tolerate a few lies in our everyday lives.
2) Once you’ve admitted the problem, develop a plan for changing. Try this: When the Holy Spirit puts a check in your spirit about lying, confess it and correct it immediately. At first, it’ll feel like it’s killing you, but in time, it will cure you—and the cure is worth the pain!