“SPEAK TRUTHFULLY WITH ONE ANOTHER”

EPHESIANS 4:25; COLOSSIANS 3:9

 

Play Audio

           

                                 

            A fisherman arrived at the Pearly Gates of heaven.  Peter asked him what he wanted.  The fisherman said, “I want to           

come in.”

            “You can’t come in here,” said Peter.  “You’ve told too many lies.”

            “Have a heart, Peter,” said the man.  “After all, you were a fisherman once yourself.”

            Or what about the preacher who saw a group of young boys sitting in a circle with a dog in the middle of the circle.  The    

preacher asked them, “What are you doing with the dog?”

            One little fella said, “We ain’t doin’ nuthin’ with the dog.  We’re just telling lies, and the one that tells the biggest one gets to keep the dog.”

            The preacher told them that when he was a little boy, he never would have even thought of telling a lie.

            The little boy said, “Give him the dog, fellas.”

            Then, the church sociologist Leonard Sweet in his Soul Cafe newsletter, included his list of the “Top Ten Lies:”  I’ve edited the list, somewhat.

 

            Lie Number Ten: We’ll only stay five minutes.

            Lie Number Nine: This will be a short meeting.

            Lie Number Eight: Sorry I’m late.  I got caught in traffic.

            Lie Number Seven: The check is in the mail.

            Lie Number Six: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.

            Lie Number Five: This hurts me more than it hurts you.

            Lie Number Four:  If elected I’ll change how business is done in Washington.

            Lie Number Three: The doctor will see you shortly.

            Lie Number Two: Your table will be ready in a minute.

            Lie Number One:  I’ll start dieting tomorrow.

 

            In the ninth commandment God bans lying ... and by the way, after we finish this “One Anothering” sermon series, we will embark on a sermon series on the “Ten Commandments.”  Apparently not everyone, however got the memo about the Ninth Commandment.  I say that because a House Committee estimated that one out of three working Americans have altered educational or career credentials on their resumes.  The State of Wisconsin discovered that forty-seven percent of students would cheat on an exam, and sixty-six percent said they would lie to achieve a business objective.  Finally, a CNN poll suggests that seven out of ten people are dissatisfied with current standards of honesty in America, and some people don’t even call them lies anymore.  They call them “strategic misrepresentations,” or “reality augmentations.”

            Maybe you saw the 1997 movie Liar, Liar starring Jim Carrey.   In the movie Jim Carrey changes from a person who constantly tells lies to someone who cannot tell a lie, and therein resides the rub.  How many of us can say that we are “one hundred percent honest about everything?”  I venture to say the overwhelming majority of us fudge the truth from time to time, some of us more than others, and I am not going to stand up here today and say that I’ve never told a lie.  If I said that I would as John said his first epistle, be deceiving myself and the truth wouldn’t be in me.  All of us have lied—whether telling our mother we didn’t have any homework when we wanted to spend time with our friends, or mixing hot sauce into ketchup and offering it to a cousin for his fries, or saying we’re heading to the office when we have fishing rods or golf clubs or shopping bags hidden in the trunk.

            And sometimes we rationalize it thinking we are just telling “little white lies” to spare someone’s feelings, and there has probably been times we all wished we’d told a lie instead of telling the truth.  I think of the guy who picked up his date for a formal dinner.  HIs date  wore a dress he didn’t particularly like.  According to him, it looked like it was cut from the same material used for the curtains and bedspread in his parent’s room when he was a child.  When she asked him how he liked it, he responded in his best Rhett Butler imitation saying, “Where’d you get the curtains?”  She didn’t get the movie reference.  She was from New Jersey and had never seen “Gone With the Wind.”   His comment led to a long evening.  In fact, when it came to dating that woman he was “one and done.”  They never dated again.  Should he have been less than honest?  Certainly he should have been less flippant.

            Ever wonder why God prohibited lying in the Ten Commandments?  Ever wonder why a prohibition against lying made God’s top ten?  On a similar note, ever wonder why the Apostle Paul made such a big deal about lying and truth telling in his letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians?  Ever wonder why he said, “Do not lie to one another,” and why he said, “Let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors?”  I can only venture a guess, but four possibilities come to mind.

            One possible reason has to do with what lying does to relationships.  Simply put, lying damages relationships, sometimes irreparably.  We hate it when someone lies to us.  We can withstand a misunderstanding.  We can overlook a miscommunication, but an outright deception, a bold-faced lie, shakes the foundation of a friendship.  We wonder if we can ever trust the person again.

            As a parent, I could overlook a number of things.  I could overlook a dirty room, at least some of the time.  I could overlook spilled milk at the table, at least most of the time.  I could overlook moody behavior as well, but I could not overlook a lie.  If I caught our children in a lie, the consequences were much more severe than if they had simply admitted whatever they had tried to cover-up.  Lying is serious business.  Of course, I am not alone in this.  According to the author of Proverbs one of the six things God abhors is, “a false witness who breathes out lies” (Proverbs 6:19).

            That leads us to the second possible reason for the prohibition on lying.  We are to tell the truth because lying gives God the “heebie jeebies.”  Two things give me the “heebie jeebies.”  One is anyone scraping their nails on a chalkboard.  When anyone does that, it sends a chill up my spine.  I hate to even think about it.  The other is when Trudy, or any woman, files her nails.  Yuck!  It makes me cringe.  Gross!  I guess I have a thing about nails, filing them or scraping them across a chalkboard.  Both of those actions give me the “heebie jeebies.”  Well, something similar happens to God when we lie.  Listen to these words from the Book of Proverbs:

 

            There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that hurry to run to evil, a lying witness who testifies falsely, and one who sows discord in a family (Proverbs 6:16-19).

 

            Of the seven things that sends God over the edge, two have to do with lying: God detests a lying tongue, and God detests a false witness who pours out lies.

            Why?  I suspect God hates lying so much because it goes agains the core of his nature.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  God is absolute truth so when someone lies it goes against everything God represents.  Furthermore, lying gives God the “heebie jeebies” because God knows that it was a lie that got humankind in trouble in the first place.  Remember Satan saying to Eve, “If you eat of this fruit, you shall not die.  God said you would die, but you won’t die.  God doesn’t want you to enjoy the world God has created.  God ahead and eat the fruit.  Enjoy all of life.”  Remember that lie?  The suffering, the pain, the mistreatment experienced around the world can be traced back to that lie.  A lie opened the floodgates of evil in the world.

            A third possible reason for the prohibition on lying is not speaking the truth to one another can lead to false sense of confidence.  My nephew Adam is getting married next May.  It will be his second marriage, and Adam is a great kid, well not so much a kid anymore.  He’s in his early thirties now, and I did him a great disservice five years ago. Five years ago Adam asked me if I would officiate at his wedding, and I agreed, but after I met his fiance, I had second thoughts and I kept it to myself.  In fact, I heard a voice inside say to me, “Do not perform his wedding.  It will not last,” but I did not speak the truth to Adam.  I should have told him what I believed to be true at the time, that I felt so uncomfortable about this marriage, that I could not in good conscience officiate at the ceremony, but I kept quiet because I didn’t want to disappoint him or throw a wrench in his wedding plans so I kept quiet, and he went on to marry her with all his hopes and dreams for the marriage in tact, and within a year they were separated and ultimately divorced.  He may have ignored my counsel and married her anyway, but I will never know because I did not speak truthfully to him.

            Finally, a fourth possible reason for the prohibition on lying is lying, being less than truthful with one another, can stunt spiritual growth.  Elsewhere in his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul wrote these words, But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Ephesians 4:15).  Tell me if you agree with this statement:  It is just as wrong to hold back the truth from someone as it is to tell them a boldface lie.  What do you think?  Do you need to hear it again?  It is just as wrong to hold back the truth from someone as it is to tell them a boldface lie.  Well, I think that is true, especially if we are concerned about another’s spiritual growth, and when it comes to helping someone on their spiritual journey, especially if we notice them drifting, doing things that are harmful to themselves or others or to the gospel of Christ, we need to speak truthfully to them in love.  That’s our call as followers of Christ.

            And when it comes to speaking the truth in love, we have four options.  For example, imagine I show up at our ice cream social this summer in plaid bermuda shorts that I have just purchased, and they are purple, pink and lime green.  And imagine I ask you, “What do you think of my new shorts?”

            Well, option one is you can say something neither true nor loving.   You could say, “Those are the most hideous shorts I have ever seen, and that’s typical wear for you because you are the worst dresser in the history of humankind.”  That response would be neither true or loving.

            Option two, you could tell the truth in an unloving way.  You could say, “That’s not your best look (true), and you are a fashion moron (not very loving).

            Option three, you could be loving but not truthful.  You could say, “You look great in those shorts.”  Loving, very loving, but not very truthful.

            Or you could go for option four, speaking the truth in love.  “It’s not your best look (true), but I love you anyway!”

            Now, I’m going to give you an opportunity to practice speaking the truth in love right after the worship service.  After the worship service, I’m randomly going to ask some of you, “What did you think of today’s sermon?” and I’m giving you a head start to prepare your response, a response that is both true and loving, and then next Sunday, I’ll mention some of the responses during worship.  I think it will be fun. 

            Next week in our One Anothering Series we will look at “Do Not Grumble Against One Another,” and we’ll look at some world class grumblers, specifically the Israelites after they left Egypt, and we’ll se how God dealt with them.