"Building Better Relationships" part 7
To Tell the Truth
by Greg Hanson

[Play song or video – Honesty by Billy Joel]

What do you look for in a friendship? What quality or characteristic is most important to you when it comes to choosing your friends? More times than not, the answer you’ll get to that question is “honesty” or some variation of it. Truthfulness, openness, integrity, loyalty, trustworthiness... they'll all about honesty. None of us wants to be friends with someone who's not honest... someone we can’t trust... someone who is always telling lies.

As Billy Joel said in that song...

“Honesty is hardly ever heard, and mostly what I need from you.”
~ Billy Joel, in Honesty

Honesty is rare; lies are commonplace. What, you ask, are some of the lies we tell? I’m glad you asked. Here are the top ten lies that people tell.

The Top Ten Lies People Tell…

10. I just need 5 minutes of your time.
9. This time I’m sticking to my diet.
8. The cheque is in the mail.
7. Your table will be ready in just a minute.
6. Leave your number, and I'll call you right back.
5. I’ll start exercising tomorrow.
4. I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.
3. This will hurt me more than it hurts you.
2. Your money will be cheerfully refunded.
1. The doctor will see you shortly.

Oh, how we hate to be lied to! Most relationships can withstand a few bumps and bruises along the way, but when dishonesty and deception is involved, it can become exceedingly difficult to salvage the relationship. If the dishonesty has not been fatal to the relationship, it will at least put it in the ICU for a long, long time.

We value honesty in our relationships. We value truthfulness and integrity and trustworthiness. And when that trust is broken, it can be very difficult for any relationship to survive. We simply cannot tolerate lies in our relationships.

But if you think we hate lies, you should consider how God feels about them. Imagine if a world-class piano player came to Charlottetown and you went down to the Confederation Centre to hear his recital. Imagine that the lights dimmed, the spotlight came on, and he walked out onto the stage for the recital to begin. He might take a bow, walk over to the 9’ Steinway Grand piano, pull out the bench, walk around to the other side, flip out the tails on his tux and sit down. Now imagine that he gets all set to play and starts into his first piece only to discover that the piano is badly out of tune. Not just a little out of tune… badly out of tune. What would happen? Any musician with a good sense of pitch would not be able to continue that performance. The dissonance would be unbearable for him. And the better ear he had for music, the worse it would be for him. He would bristle at every out-of-tuned note. Even if the audience tried to convince him that it didn’t bother them that much, he just wouldn’t be able to go on.

I believe God has much the same reaction to our dishonesty. Our God is a God of truth. And when He hears the lies we tell, it pains Him. Oh, we may not think they’re such a big deal and they may not keep us awake at night, but for a holy, righteous, and completely honest God, the sound of our lies is unbearable.

John 14:6 (NLT)
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Jesus, who is God, says that He is the truth. He's complete truth. Nothing untruthful can ever proceed from Him, so it’s no wonder that He can’t stand lies. It’s completely contrary to His character.

I think another reason God can’t stand lies is because He realizes that the whole reason the world is in the mess that it’s in can be traced back to the telling and believing of a lie. Adam and Eve believed a lie and sin entered the world.

So God looks on our heartache and on our pain and on the turmoil all around us, and He knows that it’s all because of a lie. So in addition to lying being against the very character of God, He can’t stand it because He knows the devastation that can result.

Take a look at what Jesus said in John 8…

John 8:32 (NLT)
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Our freedom in Christ is based in truth. The converse is also true… if the truth sets us free, then lies bind us and enslave us. You and I cannot live the life of freedom that we were meant for and that God promises us if we continue to live with a lack of honesty.

This concept of honesty within our relationships is so important that it made the Big Ten. The ninth of Ten Commandments says...

Exodus 20:16 (CEV)
Do not tell lies about others.

It is clear that we are commanded to speak truthfully in all situations, and that God absolutely detests dishonesty.

Several years ago now, there was an extensive survey conducted across the U.S. and the results were compiled in the book, The Day America Told the Truth. It’s an American survey, but I think the results would hold true for us here, too. Let me read about some conclusions regarding the lies we tell…

“Just about everyone lies—91 percent of us lie regularly.
The majority of us find it hard to get through a week without lying. One in five can’t make it through a single day—and we’re talking about conscious, premeditated lies. In fact, the way some people talk about trying to do without lies, you’d think that they were smokers trying to get through a day without a cigarette.
We lie to just about everyone, and the better we know someone, the likelier we are to have told them a serious lie.
Lying has become a cultural trait in America. Lying is embedded in our national character… Americans lie about everything—and usually for no good reason.
The majority of Americans today (two in every three) believe that there is nothing wrong with telling a lie. Only 31 percent of us believe that honesty is the best policy.”
~ selected passages from The Day America Told the Truth

So lying is part of our society. It’s at epidemic proportions. But why? Why do we lie? Let me give you six reasons…

Six Reasons People Lie:

1. To Impress People

Sometimes we make things up or imply things that aren’t necessarily true just to impress people. Like when we drop names… you know, when we imply that we know someone important when we are just barely acquainted with them. Or when you make your job out to be more than what it really is or when you kind of move your kids’ marks up when you’re bragging on them. Or when your golf score mysteriously drops a few points.

In the Bible, Ananias was a man who lied to impress people. And he didn’t do it alone… his wife joined him in the lie. Here it is…

Acts 5:1-5 (NLT)
There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.”
As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died.

And if you keep reading, you discover that his wife came in a few minutes later, told the same lie, and suffered the same fate. They both lied to impress others. Another reason we lie is...

2. To Please People

Did anyone ever say anything to you that you disagreed with, but you said you agreed with them because you wanted to make them happy? You lied. Have you ever hid the truth from someone because you didn’t want to hurt them? Then you lied.

Sometimes we do this by our silence. Like when you hear someone spreading lies and slandering someone else. Instead of stepping up and saying “No, that’s wrong,” or, “I disagree,” we reinforce the lie by remaining silent.

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence. A man may have sat in a room for hours and not opened his mouth, and yet come out of that room a disloyal friend.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Psalm 12:2 (NLT)
Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and insincere hearts.

So we lie to people to make them happy, but in Proverbs it tells us...

Proverbs 28:23 (NLT)
In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.

Do you understand that? We spend so much time justifying what we describe as “little white lies”, but in the end people would prefer to know the truth. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you prefer for people to just be honest with you, even if it hurts a little, than for them to feel they have to lie to you?

3. For Revenge

Some people tell lies in order to get even. Someone has done something to you, so you tell a lie about them. You spread a story about them that you know is untrue.

Jesus was sentenced to death based on the lies of the religious leaders who wanted revenge. They lied about Jesus and they recruited others to spread lies, too.

Mark 14:55-59 (NLT)
Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would testify against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But their efforts were in vain. Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. Finally, some men stood up to testify against him with this lie: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.’ “ But even then they didn’t get their stories straight!

So they weren’t very good at it, but they still told lies and had other’s spread those lies in order to get their revenge on Jesus.

4. To Make a Profit

Would you believe that 1 in 3 people are hired with educational or career credentials that were altered in some way? In other words, they lied on their résumé.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey once (1993) ran a help-wanted ad for electricians with expertise at using Sontag connectors. After running the ad, they received 170 applications from people claiming they had expertise with Sontag connectors. But here's the problem: there is no such thing. The Port Authority had run the ad to find out how many applicants falsify résumés. (Leadership, Vol. 15.1)

As someone said, the closest any of us will come to perfection is our résumés. So when you apply for a job, is your résumé just a work of fiction? When you’re trying to sell something, do you ever misrepresent it? For example, if you’re trying to sell your car do you let the prospective buyer know about all the work it needs, or do you let them worry about it after the deal is done? Ever deceive someone so they thought they were getting a better deal than they actually were? Or when you’re bargaining to buy something, have you ever exaggerated your financial pressures or played up your family to get a better price? The passage Jasmine read earlier speaks to people who might lie to make a profit…

Proverbs 11:1 (NLT)
The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.

For example, if you were selling 10 pounds of grain it had better be 10 pounds of grain. You’d better not rig the scales so that you can get away with selling 8 pounds. Don’t let greed and selfishness lead you into dishonesty.

5. To Escape Punishment

“I didn’t know I was speeding officer, my speedometer must be broken.” “I didn’t know this was a no parking zone." "I didn’t see the stop sign.”

It’s the old, “The dog ate my homework” kind of excuse. Kids do this all the time… they lie to get out of trouble. You remember what it was like, don’t you? I mean, you knew that you weren’t supposed to take a cookie from the cookie jar, but you took one anyway. And just as you were pulling your hand out of the jar, remember how your mother walked into the room? What did you do? You hid it behind your back! Your mother saw what you did, but she gave you a chance to fess up. She asked you, “Did you take a cookie from the cookie jar?” And what did you say? “No, I didn’t.” You were hiding it right there behind your back, but you still tried to deny it! We like to think we’ve grown out of lying to avoid the consequences, but I’m not so sure.

Maybe you’ve heard about the four college guys who were on their way to an exam but it was a gorgeous day so they decided to skip the exam and head to the beach. The next day, they told their teacher that they tried to make it to the exam but had a flat tire on the way. The teacher seemed to accept that and said they could rewrite the test. He put one in each corner of the room with a copy of the test with one extra question scrawled on each test: "What tire was it?”

People sometimes lie to avoid the ramifications of their actions. And sometimes people lie...

6. For Convenience

Like when you have your spouse tell callers you’re not home when what you mean is you don’t want to be disturbed. Or when you call in sick to work, but you’re still well enough to go shopping or play a round of golf. What about when you say you’ll serve on a committee, go to a meeting, or attend a party when you have no intention of doing so but it’s easier to say “yes” and just not show up than it is to try to think up an excuse?

Proverbs 12:22 (NLT)
The LORD hates those who don’t keep their word, but he delights in those who do.

It was Walter Scott who wrote:

“O, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!”
~ Walter Scott

More to the point might be the addition to this quote made by J.R. Pope:

“But when we’ve practiced quite a while, How vastly we improve our style.”
~ J.R. Pope

So we lie for a variety of reasons. And God screams, “Stop it! You don’t realize what you’re doing!" He warns, "You don’t realize the harm it can do. And you don’t realize how it breaks My heart each time you tell a lie.”

Four Steps to Becoming a Truth-teller:

So... telling lie, bad. Being honest, good. The question is, how do you stop telling lies? How do you become a truth-teller, instead? Here's four steps...

A. Respond to the correction of the Holy Spirit.

I was thinking… and it’s always dangerous when I do that… but I was thinking, wouldn’t it be great if we could rig something up to give us a little electric shock every time we told a lie? Kind of like a polygraph machine that gave us a little jolt? Actually if you’re a Christ-follower, you already have something like that. We call Him the Holy Spirit, and if you’ve got Him in your life, then you’ve already felt that little jolt. He makes you aware of the lives you tell. And when He does, you have one of two choices: you can correct yourself or you can keep on lying. If you keep on lying, then you’ve chosen to disobey God. If you're sensitive to the correction of the Holy Spirit, though, you'll tell the truth.

John 16:13 (NLT)
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”

B. Be uncompromising in your commitment to honesty.

Don’t allow yourself to justify even the “little” lies, if there is such a thing. When you catch yourself saying something that isn’t exactly true, then stop and correct yourself. Apologize for it. Say something like, “I’m sorry, that’s a lie. The truth is…” And yes, if someone asks you, “Do these pants make me look fat?” and you can’t find a tactful way of answering that doesn’t involve lying, the go ahead and tell them the truth. Maybe they’ll stop putting you in that situation in the future. Besides, in my opinion, if they ask you a question like that, then they deserve to hear the truth.

Psalm 32:2 (NLT)
Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

You can even underline those last two words: “complete honesty.”

C. Invite others to hold you accountable.

Talk with two or three of your trusted friends and explain to them that you want to be a truth-teller. And ask them to confront you when they catch you stretching the truth a bit or telling a bold-faced lie. And when they do hold you accountable, remember you asked them to do it. Don’t get ticked off at them when they follow through with it.

Colossians 3:16-17 (NLT)
Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives... And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

So we are to teach and counsel each other... which would include giving advice and holding each other accountable.

D. Remember how God views dishonesty.

The book of Proverbs reminds of how seriously God views dishonesty...

Proverbs 6:16-19 (CEV)
There are six or seven kinds of people the Lord doesn’t like: Those who are too proud or tell lies or murder, those who make evil plans or are quick to do wrong, those who tell lies in court or stir up trouble in a family.

When you’re tempted to lie, I think if you will just stop long enough to recognize the dissonance it causes in the ears of God and understand the complete disdain He has for lies, and if you can contemplate the consequences of your lying, then you will start to break the habit of dishonesty and find yourself committed to being a God-honouring truth-teller.


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson