Human Dignity Requires Truthtelling

Article / Produced by TOW Project
Human dignity requires truthtelling

Truthtelling treats people with dignity. To tell someone the truth is a measure of respect that is missing when someone is lied to.

The Scriptures illustrate this with the Genesis account of Jacob and his service to Laban (Genesis 29-30). Jacob works seven years for the right to marry Rachel and after the years of service are complete, Laban deceives Jacob and substitutes his less desirable daughter Leah as Jacob’s bride. Jacob is justifiably outraged at being deceived and treated with such disrespect (Gen. 29:25). Jacob returns the disrespect to Laban in Genesis 30 when he deceives Laban with respect to the flocks that Jacob is tending for Laban, separating out the stronger flocks for himself and leaving the weaker ones for Laban (Gen. 30:42).

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Similarly in 2 Kings 12, when it came to the money for the repair of the temple, there were certain workmen who were so trustworthy that the overseers of the repairs did not need an accounting of the money they spent for the repairs. Because they were honest, they were treated with dignity and trust by the king and by the priests in charge of temple repair (also 2 Kings 22:7). This is also borne out by the proverb that warns a person, “Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). The enemy who multiplies kisses is the one who showers a person with false flattery, deceiving the person into the illusion of friendship and trust, when in reality, he is the enemy. Here, deception treats the person being deceived as a pawn to be manipulated for the deceiver’s own selfish purposes, not as someone with dignity who is deserving of respect. Disrespect also comes through in, “A lying tongue hates its victims; and a flattering mouth works ruin” (Prov. 26:28; also Prov. 26:18-19, 24, 26).

The right of a person to make his or her own autonomous decisions is based on having accurate information, so much so that people often and understandably feel violated and disrespected when they are deceived. A person’s autonomy is weakened when they are deceived. This is evident in the example of Jacob and Laban. Jacob’s autonomy to marry the woman of his choice was completely undermined by Laban’s deception, since Jacob would never have married Leah if left entirely to his own choice (Genesis 29:17-20). It is further evident in Jacob’s reciprocal deception of Laban, since Laban would not have managed the flocks to his obvious financial disadvantage had he not been deceived so effectively by Jacob (Gen. 30:42-43).