Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I like to walk most mornings to get some exercise. It’s not always easy, but I try to be disciplined in that area of my life.
One morning I was walking past a house not far from where I live and a young woman was standing on her verandah, talking on the phone. I wasn’t intending to listen in, but one phrase I heard clearly was, “I don’t trust you for one minute. I know when you’re telling lies”. I don’t know who she was speaking to, but it was quite obvious. She was disgusted with him or her, and knew they told lies.
It prompted me to spend a moment on the topic of telling lies. Mark Twain said a lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is still lacing up her boots. It’s natural to lie, and there’s something about our nature that enjoys it—that both lies and loves lying. We like reading tabloids, or hearing gossip. Politicians tell lies—it seems everyone does. And we consider it’s not a sin to tell a lie anymore. Tell the truth—as long as it’s convenient.
We Need to Practise Honesty
When we tell lies about others, the damage can be enormous. I like the old story of a churchgoer who spread lies about his pastor. But he realised this was wrong—he repented, and asked him how he could make it right. The pastor told him to get some feather pillows and rip them open, and place one feather on every porch in their community. It seemed strange, but he did what he was told. He went back to the preacher and said he was done. The pastor said, “No, you’re not. Go back and pick them all up now.” “But I can’t. The wind has taken them who knows where!”, the man replied. The pastor said, “So it is with the words you have spoken about me.”
Moral philosopher Sissela Bok has said, “It is easy to tell a lie but hard to tell only one.” I’m sure you know what she meant. I think we’ve all been guilty of telling a lie, or even a few white lies. After all, everyone does it. How many of us have tried to lie our way out of trouble? We bend the truth in many ways. There is the half-truth. You sort of tell the truth, but not the whole truth. You tell your employer, I wasn’t feeling well—which was sort of true. But, in reality, you were not so ill as to miss work. You just wanted to do something else. Or, there is the white lie, a supposedly ‘innocent’ lie that doesn’t hurt anyone—Yes, your new hairdo is beautiful!
It’s always best to be honest. It makes any and every relationship strong and healthy. You feel good about yourself and don’t carry the burden of guilt. If you are honest, it means you do what you say you’re going to do, and when you say something, people know you mean what you say, and that feels good.
It’s Easier to Be Honest—But We Need Wisdom
Someone commented about the value of being honest: “I used to lie a lot. I would lie only because it was easier than explaining the truth. And I have finally grown to realise that it’s easier to be honest. Being honest and open has actually gotten me further than lying. My parents trust me, and I feel good about myself. And when you feel good about yourself then you know that everything is okay.” This person has come to realise that when we tell the truth and live it, we become emotionally and spiritually stronger every day.
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The Bible is brutally honest in exposing the failures of some of the great men and women of faith when it comes to lying. Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Aaron, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel, and David all lied, along with Peter in the New Testament. If these saints struggled with being truthful, then none of us is exempt! So we all need to take Paul’s teaching to heart: “We are part of the same body. Stop lying and start telling each other the truth”. (Ephesians 4:25 – CEV)
Being truthful does not mean that we need to reveal everything we know about a matter. God does not do that with us. If you need to keep a confidence or if you think that making the truth known would be damaging, you may simply reply, I’m not free to talk about that matter. Being truthful does not require sharing your thoughts on everything. If being silent would imply agreement when you disagree, you may need to clarify things. But, sometimes wisdom requires keeping your thoughts to yourself.
Let’s be people who are upfront, honest and reliable. That way, you never have to worry about what you said yesterday, because you’re not in the habit of telling lies. God will help you.