Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began to examine Ephesians 4:25: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” I expect that most of us find this instruction to be rather obvious. Who would defend lying? And who wouldn’t be in favor of telling the truth?
But then reality rises up. A colleague at work asks, “How did you like my presentation?” In fact, you thought it was weak, but if you tell the truth it will make things at work very messy. It seems much better to say, “Oh, it was great,” while crossing your fingers. Or, perhaps your husband says to you, “Are these pants too tight?” and you know that saying “Yes” will make him feel horrible about his expanding waistline. (Not that I have any personal experience of this problem, mind you.) In situations like these and so many others, it seems best to say anything other than the truth. Are we really supposed to get rid of all falsehood and speak the truth? Really?
I’ve been getting questions like this for a long time. In 2002, I preached a series on truthfulness for Irvine Presbyterian Church where I was Senior Pastor. Each week, I wrestled with the challenge of living and speaking truthfully. I often received post-sermon comments that went something like this: “I hated that sermon. I needed it. But I hated it.” That sermon series became the basis for a book I wrote called Dare to Be True: Living in the Freedom of Complete Honesty (WaterBrook, 2003). Since that book was published I’ve received hundreds of comments or emails pleading for the necessity of being something less than truthful. I understand these concerns, because just like everyone else I struggle with what it really means to tell the truth in situations where lying seems so much more convenient.
I’m not going to settle these issues here. I admit that there are certain instances in which telling the truth seems utterly counterintuitive. But, what I find telling is how quickly, when reading Ephesians 4:25, our minds race to defend our lack of truthfulness. Rather than thinking, “Hmmm. I wonder how I can put this into practice today?” we often think, “Hmmm. How can I avoid the obvious implications of this instruction?” We rush to think up extreme examples in order to let ourselves off the hook. If people were right to lie to the Nazis about the Jews hidden in their cellars, then I may think this gives me the right to keep wearing my garment of falsehood at work, at home, in my neighborhood, and among my friends.
While I know there are some tricky problems associated with truth-telling in certain situations, I want to encourage you–indeed, urge you–not to let this fact keep you from confronting what is real in your life. If you’re like most Christians I have known, you are much more comfortable with falsehood and much less committed to truthfulness than you might at first think. Don’t let extreme examples keep you from taking a good hard look at your life–so that, by God’s grace, you might strip off fibbing and put on the glorious garment of truth.
Something to Think About:
Are there situations in your life when you are inclined to be less than truthful?
As you think about your work, your family life, your conversations with friends, your tax returns, and the rest of life, where do you find it most tempting to avoid the truth?
Is there truth that you really need to tell today, even though you’d rather not? Are you willing to ask God to help you put on truth in this context?
Something to Do:
If you pay attention to your life today, you may very well find an instance – or multiple instances – when you need to choose to take off falsehood and put on truth. By God’s grace, do it!
Gracious God, you know how much I like to think of myself as a truthful person. There are many times when, by your grace, I am able to say what’s true even when it’s awkward or difficult. Yet, you also know, Lord, how often I am less than truthful. You know when I fall prey to temptation, when I lie to others and even to myself. Forgive me, Lord.
Help me, I pray, to put off falsehood and to put on truth. Help me to have the courage and grace to speak the truth even when it feels risky. And help me to do this in love, always in love. Amen.