I want to tell you today that I can’t stand being lied to! This is seriously one of those things that drives me crazy. Any time I find out a person has deliberately lied to me or deceived me for their own benefit I want to blow my top.
My kids know this about me – we have made it very clear that lying is NEVER okay in our home. You can ask William about that – he once had the opportunity to memorize some Bible verses as he spent hours copying down every verse the in the Bible about lying and the importance of telling the truth. I love creative parenting!
And I know, kids are kids and sometimes hide the truth to protect themselves – but as I tell my kids each time I catch them in a lie – “If you are lying to me now about this, how can I trust anything else you tell me?”
And that’s why I struggle so much more when I find adults who twist the truth, tell stories to make themselves look better, or straight up tell deliberate lies hoping nobody notices. Fortunately, I don’t run into too many people like that in my day-to-day life… They’re all in Washington.
Telling the truth vs. telling lies is something every parent tries to teach their children from the time they are young, and so it should come as no surprise that the author of Proverbs felt the same need we feel as parents, wanting to teach his children the importance of honesty and telling the truth.
But I wonder, why is it so important to tell the truth? Why do I get so worked up when people lie to me? Why does our society place such a high value on honesty, especially those of us who are Christians? Today I hope to answer the big question of “why is it important to be honest?” and to help point out ways we can all grow in that regard as we get back to Summer School and our Lessons in Life on the Proverbs.
Why Be People of Truth?
As I began preparing for this message, I quickly recognized that the words “honesty” and “truth” go hand in hand. Honesty is the character trait we use to describe a person who always tells the truth. So at the root of our lesson today is that we are to be people of truth – the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
First, the answer to why telling the truth is important is actually NOT found in Proverbs. But I promise I will get to Proverbs, as it does an incredible job showing the benefits of being an honest person.
The reason, however, that we are to be people of truth is because we serve the God of Truth. Numerous places throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testament tell us that God never lies. Check out Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:28, Titus 1:2.
Hebrews 6:18 actually says it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to Lie.
Add to that that in John 14:6, Jesus says that he is the way, the TRUTH, and the life.
And in John 16:13 Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.
And there we have it, Father, Son, Holy Spirit – God Almighty, IS TRUTH. And if God is a God of truth, and we are made in his image, sharing his likeness, as the Bible tells us, then it makes sense that all of humanity, Christian or not, has a shared feeling that telling the truth is right and good. It’s hard-wired into us by the One who created us.
What it Means to Truly be Truthful
So that’s the theological reason for why we should be honest people who tell the truth, but what does it really mean to tell the truth?
You see, when I ask my boys simple questions like, “why are all the knives missing from the kitchen?” one child might answer me with the truth, but NOT REALLY. He might say, “I don’t know.” That doesn’t mean he doesn’t know that where the knives are. He absolutely knows that his brother took them all outside to throw at a target in the yard. But in his mind, he doesn’t know WHY his brother took them outside. So while he thinks his answer isn’t a lie, it absolutely is meant to deceive me.
And we do the same thing. When people ask us a question and we know they aren’t going to like the answer, we massage what we say so it isn’t a blatant lie, but at the same time is a bit deceptive. And when we do that, we aren’t being honest. We aren’t being truthful.
Here’s where Proverbs sheds some light on this. Proverbs 14:5 says: An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.
You see, being honest isn’t just about NOT LYING – it means NOT DECEIVING.
That’s why we the oath we take in courts is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” It means, “don’t leave anything out – tell the whole story. And don’t add any extra details that are meant to mislead.” Basically – the oath says “Don’t try to deceive us.”
Now I understand, some of you might be thinking, “But Ryan, sometimes I get put on the spot and the truth is going to hurt.” I know. But God isn’t a God of truth only when it’s convenient or easy. He’s a God of truth – ALWAYS. And we need to be honest even when asked “Do I look fat in the dress?”
OK – so there’s a difference between being straight-forward and mean, and being honest, yet with a touch of grace. Perhaps rather than answering with a straight-forward answer you might say, “Why don’t you consider another dress instead?” That’s not deceptive, that’s honest without being mean.
Proverbs gives us a great verse about how being honest when it’s hard is actually useful – even though the person receiving the news may not like it. From Proverbs 17:26 – If imposing a fine on the innocent is not good, surely to flog honest officials is not right.
Here we get a picture of an honest official in the government making the king upset with news that is the truth. But the advice is to show restraint and not flog him for the bad news, and instead to recognize the value in having somebody willing to speak the truth, whether it’s easy to hear or not.
And we can learn from both sides of this proverb. It’s both important for us to be people of truth (and grace) when the truth is hard for the other person to hear AND we need to show grace to others who are honest to us and tell us things which are difficult to hear. Truth is more valuable than flattery.
Benefits of Honesty
Where Proverbs really shines in talking about Honesty and Truth is in showing the Benefits of Honesty.
1) Honor from Authority
Proverbs 16:13 – Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right.
Who wouldn’t want the king to be pleased by the report your brought to him – not because it brings good news necessarily, but because it is honest and right? Here we see that honesty actually brings honor from those in authority. Your boss will appreciate and hold you in high regard if you don’t try to cover up the truth that things are going badly, but instead share with him the reality of a difficult situation. People who paint everything in rose colored glasses to appease others are being deceptive – and in the long run, it’s not helpful. Being honest about difficult situations is.
2) Deeper Relationships
Proverbs 24:26 – An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.
At first, as I looked at this verse, I scratched my head a bit wondering what on earth the point was. But as I thought more about it, I realized that a kiss a relational act. It connects two people. And it shows the closeness of the bond between two.
In the same way, an honest answer builds deeper relationships with others as they learn to trust that what you say is always true. In this way, honesty in relationship points to one of our core values here at Ashworth Road – AUTHENTICITY. You see, being authentic means being your true self, taking off your masks with people at church and being honest with them.
When somebody asks how your week has gone out in the foyer, if it’s been an awful week, don’t say with a smile, “Good!” That’s a lie and it doesn’t build any relationship. Perhaps a better answer might be, “It was a really hard week, actually. I could use prayer.” That’s an honest answer, that’s authentic, and like a kiss, that deepens the relationship you have with the person you shared that with.
3) Protection from Accusations
Proverbs 12:17 – An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies.
If you have ever been falsely accused of something by a parent , a friend, a boss, or worse yet, by a court of law, you know how terrible and frustrated you feel. And often, it’s impossible to prove that what they are saying absolutely could NOT have happened. When that’s the case, all you have is your WORD. And if you are known to be an honest person, a person of truth, then you are much more likely to be believed. Because like the Proverb says, an honest person tells the truth.
Every time my I catch my boys lying to me, I remind them that they just broke my trust, and now, the next time they tell me a different story about something I find broken in the house than one of their brothers who has been honest with me, I’m always going to believe their brother’s story over theirs. We actually call it the Trust Card and we let our boys know who currently holds it. Just another benefit of being Honest.
4) Effective Witness
The bottom line through all of these Benefits of Honesty is that if people know
you are honest, they will believe you and trust you.
And that’s a big deal to be trusted by your boss, your family and friends, and those who hold your future in their hands if you’re ever falsely accused of something.
But being an honest and trusted person also has eternal stakes. You see, we must understand that our witness about Jesus is only as believable as we are. And people will only believe us if we are honest about everything we say. We can’t tell little lies here, leave out the whole truth there, and then expect people to trust us when we tell them about the most important truth in this world.
We must be people of truth because we follow the God of truth. And as we live lives of honesty and truth we will have opportunities to share our faith with others and see them come to faith in Jesus not because they find the message of God’s forgiveness with no strings attached believable – it actually seem quite unbelievable to many people – no they will put their trust in Jesus because they trust us and they see the difference Jesus has made in our lives.
I know there is a lot more I could have said today, like the dangers of how telling one lie often leads to a string of lies or where telling little white lies fit into this. But today, I simply walked us through all the pertinent verses on Proverbs about honesty. And yes, each of us can think of a few examples where we question if telling the full truth is best. Like when I ask Brent after the service if this message was good, I may not want total honesty – and he will have to decide how to answer me with grace and kindness without trying to deceive me in any way. And that’s the same rubric we need to use in those dicey situations.
We must be people of truth, not people of flattery. And we need to be honest without being mean. We need to be authentic in sharing our real selves with our church family. And we need the world to know that they can believe our words and our witness. Because how we live, how we speak truth is a reflection of the God of Truth we serve.