Truthtelling is the Norm in the BibleArticle / Produced by TOW Project
As is apparent by simply listing key biblical passages that speak to this subject, honesty and telling the truth are highly valued by God and are considered an integral part of a life of integrity and faithfulness to him. The Mosaic law commands that God’s people do not lie or deceive each other (Leviticus 19:11) or give false testimony about another (Exodus 20:16). The Psalmist describes the person whose walk is blameless and righteous as speaking the truth from the heart (Psalm 15:2). The New Testament echoes this when it connects honesty and truthfulness with the believer’s new life in Christ (Colossians 3:9). One of the first manifestations of the believer putting off the old self and putting on the new self in Christ is a commitment to honesty (Ephesians 4:24-25).
The virtue of honesty is grounded ultimately in the character of God—that is, we are to be truthful because God is truthful. God never lies the Bible informs us (Titus 1:2), and both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are referred to as the truth (John 14:6, 16:13; 1 John 5:6). Similarly, God’s word is called the truth (Psalm 119:142, John 17:17). Theologically, honesty is a virtue because, like all the virtues, it is rooted in God’s nature. Truthtelling is a moral principle to be followed because God is truthful, and we are called to emulate his character.
God also commands people to tell the truth, most notably in the Ten Commandments, given in Exodus as “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16) and restated in Leviticus 19:11 as “You shall not lie to one another.” Proverbs informs us that telling the truth leads to the best long-term outcomes for us: “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment” (Proverbs 12:19). In other words, truthtelling is the biblical norm under all three approaches to ethics, virtues, commands and consequences. (See the article Ethics at Work at www.theologyofwork.org for more on biblical approaches to ethics in the context of work.)
No matter how we look at it, then, the biblical expectation is that we tell the truth. Above all, honesty is a virtue because, like all virtues, it is rooted in God’s nature. Truthtelling is a moral principle to be followed because God is truth, and we want to be in a close relationship with God. The only way to draw close to the truth is to be truthful. In other words, God’s Law is not only prescriptive—God tells us to tell the truth— it is also descriptive—God describes himself as truth. If God’s laws for us are considered descriptive of how we were created to be in relationship with him and with one another, then deception denies our very humanity, reduces us to less than who God created us to be, and damages ourselves and others. In short, the basic attitude of the human faith is “speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8).