Read Deuteronomy 5:20
20 “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor. (NLT)
We know we need to tell the truth, especially in a law court situation which was envisaged in this ninth commandment. To bear false witness was to risk injustice. That much is clear. But the more general issue of truthfulness is not so clear.
Telling the truth doesn’t mean blurting out all we know to all and sundry. Not everyone has a right to the truth I know. There may be times when telling all the truth I have in my possession may cause injury or injustice. The Bible records a few instances of apparently justified lies.
And there is the issue of intention. I may convey a fact but convey it in a way that deceives. A railway watchman was accused of not warning an oncoming train about a track washout. In a court of enquiry he was asked whether he waved his lantern to alert the train driver. He said he had done so and was absolved of blame for the ensuing accident. Later, the watchman was heard to mutter, “I am so glad they didn’t ask me whether the lantern I waved was actually lit.” A truth or a lie?
Truthfulness involves a lot more than merely passing on factual information. The Greek philosopher Aristotle summed it up. He said, “Speak the right truth in the right way to the right person at the right time with the right intention.” To do that we need a lot of wisdom from the God who is the source of both wisdom and truth.