To Tell the Truth

Wendy Clark © 2020

A few days ago I stepped on my bathroom scale, and it betrayed me.  The number I saw was inexplicably low.  I stepped off and then stepped on again.  It showed me an even lower number.  I repeated the process, over and over again, and each time it showed me a lower number than before.  I thought to myself, “Oh, no, even my scale is lying to me!”

Lately it seems that lying has become very common, and people will lie about the most unimportant things.  Has this always been, or are people more willing to lie now than they once were?

Years ago my dad had a 16 mm reel of Candid Camera episodes, and in one of the episodes was the Candid Camera team pretending to film a detergent commercial.  The detergent was called “Wham” or “Zam” or something like that.  They set-up a table with two sets of “white” towels.  Both piles looked less than impressive.  Then they stopped people on the street and told them they were filming a commercial and asked if they would pick out the brightest, cleanest looking towels. 

A person would choose a pile, and the host would say something like, “I’m so sorry, but those are not the towels cleaned by our detergent.  Would you like to try again?”  Many people said, “Yes,” and then the crew filmed them selecting the “right” pile of towels.

One woman stood out as honest.  She took a look at both sets of towels and said, “None of these towels is clean.  They all look terrible!”  When the host said, “but this pile over here was cleaned by Wham” (or whatever name they used for the detergent), “If you want to, we can start over and try again.” The woman said, “I don’t care if it was Wham or Zam or whatever, they’re all filthy!”

It was funny to watch, but is it funny that people are willing to lie so that they can be seen in a commercial on TV?  This was filmed back in the 60s.  I don’t think much has changed unless maybe lying has become more common.

Current late-night TV show hosts enjoy going out on the street and questioning people about events that have never occurred.  Many people will talk with great confidence and in great detail about something when they are clearly lying.  On Social media sites people will post pictures that they have clearly manipulated and lie about how “genuine” they are.

Realizing that people will lie when it doesn’t even matter has made me doubly skeptical about how people might lie when they are desperate or frightened or feel out of control.  That’s why I am unlikely to be moved when someone posts the sworn testimony of a person I do not know who has this friend who had such and such happen to them.  It is not good evidence that you have a friend whose dad is an expert in his field who said whatever he said . . . I have no way to determine the honesty of your friend or of your friend’s dad.  It’s all “hearsay,” to use a legal term, even when it’s in a typed post.  Often it is simply Internet gossip that is passed around and around and around. 

One thing I have noticed in these kinds of references to “experts” is that often the “experts” are using the exact same turn of phrase, the soundbites that are used in the news.  This raises a red flag for me.  At the very least, the language they use often reveals a possible political bias that may be influencing the way they present the “facts,” but some people seem completely unaware of these soundbites, even as they use them themselves and reveal where they have been picking up their “news.” 

When my bathroom scale started lying to me, I knew it right away because there are other clear pieces of evidence to consider, like how I look in the mirror, how I feel, and how my clothes fit.  I picked up my scale and turned it over and dusted off the censors on the bottom.  I put it back on the floor and tried again.  This time it gave me a more reasonable number.  It went back to being honest.

But how do we reset a culture populated with people who lie so easily and with such confidence and very little noticeable remorse?  If only “liar, liar, pants on fire” was really a thing, but then perhaps we would have all been badly burned by now. 

One of the Scriptures that has most influenced me to reject lying and tell the truth is when Jesus says this, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44).  The enemy of my soul is the father of lies?  I don’t want to give him any foothold in my life!

A few years ago I spent a whole year studying honesty and what it means to be truly honest according to Scripture.  God is completely honest.  There is “no shadow of turning” in Him, not even a shade of manipulating or enhancing or downplaying or withholding or many other things that people are apt to do when they aren’t being completely honest. To be truly honest requires that we submit to the refining fire of the Holy Spirit, every minute of every day.  I am convinced that we can continue to grow in our understanding of honesty and our ability to be honest for as long as we live. In this life there will be no end to pulling at the threads of what we may not yet see as lying–to ourselves, to others, to God.  It is a continuous, ever- deepening process if we are willing to submit to it. 

Here are some of the other things that the Bible teaches about lying and honesty.

Proverbs 11:3
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

Proverbs 12:22
“The LORD detests lying lips, but He delights in people who are trustworthy.”

Proverbs 13:5
“The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.”

Proverbs 19:1
“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.”

Colossians 3:9 (the Apostle Paul to Believers)
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”

Philippians 4:8-9 (the Apostle Paul to Believers)
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

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