Truth telling - Hope 103.2

Truth telling

By David ReayMonday 14 Dec 2015LifeWords DevotionalsFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Read Exodus 20:16

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. (NIV)

This commandment reflects the fact that God himself is truthful. He won’t deceive us. The original context seems to suggest the wrongness of testifying against another person in a civil dispute, but of course the implications go wider than that.

Truthfulness is not the same as telling all and sundry everything we know. It is not even identical to factual correctness. Back in the 19th century, a person had been killed at a level crossing. At the inquest, the crossing signalman was asked if he had waved his lantern to warn the driver of an approaching train. He confirmed he had indeed waved the lantern. He was exonerated of blame but was heard to mutter as he left the courtroom, “I am so glad they didn’t ask me if I had lit the lantern.”

He reported the facts, but he aimed to conceal an important truth. The philosopher Aristotle said that truthfulness was about speaking the right truth to the right person at the right time in the right way. So discretion, motivation, sensitivity, wisdom, are all involved in truth telling. We may, for example, rightly believe a child to be badly behaved or irresponsible. But such a truth would need to be told in such a way as not to damage the child further.

To be truthful people we do not only have to guard our lips but guard our hearts. Words are only one dimension of truthfulness.

David Reay