Saturday, November 05, 2005

I Cannot Tell a Lie

If I were to tell you that I’ve never told a lie, I would be lying. That is probably the case for you, too, though I only say that because it is likely so for the vast majority of people. I’ve heard a lot of confessions over the past 14 years, and lying is a very common sin that people confess (at least they do confess!). Why are humans so prone to deny, disguise, or distort the truth?

You’d think we would have learned our lesson from Adam and Eve, who accepted a lie and then reaped its disastrous harvest. You’d think there would have been a severe admonition handed down to every generation about the terrible things wrought by lies. But no, it has gone on unabated from the fall from Paradise until the present day. “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with smooth lips they speak, and a double heart” (Psalm 11/12:3). Perhaps many are not aware that liars are among those forever banished from the Kingdom of Heaven and tossed into the “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8,27).

It seems that it is easy to get desensitized to the evil of lying. Everyone does it: the government and the media lie to us; manufacturers lie to wholesalers, wholesalers lie to retailers, and retailers lie to consumers; students and teachers lie to each other, as do parents and children; neighbors and co-workers lie to each other, and the list goes on. It’s convenient, it gets us out of embarrassing jams, it covers up things we’d prefer not be known, it makes us look good in front of those whom we’d like to impress, it may even help advance our careers, though often at the expense of others’. Some even lie deliberately to hurt others. But there comes a day in which lies will no longer stand, and the pure, clear, unvarnished truth will be manifest to all: “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Luke 12:2-3).

C.S. Lewis gives us a good description of the real sinfulness of lying by showing what it is like to lie in a world that has not yet fallen into sin. In his novel Perelandra, the protagonist is on a new world that is still in its paradisal purity, but in talking with the first inhabitant of the place, he told a “little white lie.” Lewis describes what happened: “It was a small lie; but there it would not do. It tore him as he uttered it, like a vomit. It became of infinite importance. The silver meadow and the golden sky seemed to fling it back at him. As if stunned by some measureless anger in the very air, he stammered an emendation…” Does that happen to us if we tell even a small lie? It ought to, if we are in the Holy Spirit.

People have all kinds of excuses for the lies they tell, but their self-justification is merely another form of falsehood, called self-deception. They lie to others and then excuse themselves by lying to themselves! We have to decide to break the cycle, the pattern, the habit, of taking the easy way out by not telling the truth. Jesus said, “I am the Truth,” so we sin directly against Him by lying. The devil He called “the father of lies” (John 8:44), and we don’t want to be children of the beast. The only time that we ought not to tell the truth is when it would become a sin of detraction to do so. To say something bad about another, even if it is true, to people who have no right to know such things, is the sin of detraction. But even then we are not to lie, but rather to keep silent. Unfortunately, when it comes to digging up the dirt about others, many people are suddenly all too willing to tell the truth!

It will cost us something to be always truthful; it may bruise the ego, cause a bit of embarrassment, and may even be the occasion of a setback in one’s career or relations with others. But think of your angel standing by you listening and recording what you say; think of Him who was crucified after the false testimony of lying witnesses. It is not a small matter, and there’s nothing "white" (pure, clean, innocent) about a white lie. Who is the one who will at length enter the eternal sanctuary of God? It is the one “who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart, who does not slander with his tongue…” (Psalm 14/15:2).