Putting Off Falsehood and Speaking the Truth . . . Really? Are You Serious?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

Ephesians 4:25

In yesterday's reflection, I began to consider Ephesians 4:25: "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." I expect that most of us find this instruction to be rather obvious and unobjectionable. Who would defend lying? And who wouldn't be in favor of telling the truth?

But then reality raises its ugly head. A colleague at work asks, "How did you like my presentation?" In fact, you thought it was terrible, but if you tell the truth it will make things at work very messy. Seems much better to say, "Oh, it was great," while crossing the fingers of your heart. Or, your husband says to you, "Are these pants too tight?" and you know that saying "Yes" will make him feel horrible about himself and his expanding waistline. (Not that I have any personal experience of this problem, mind you.) In situations like these and so many others, it seems best to say anything other than the truth. Yet, aren't we supposed to put off falsehood and put on the truth? That sounds great in principle, but in real life? Seriously?

I've been getting questions like this for a long time. In 2002, I preached a series on truthfulness for Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I was Senior Pastor. Each week, I wrestled with the challenge of truthfulness in my own life. So did my congregation. I often received post-sermon comments that went something like this: "I hate that sermon. I need it. But I hate it." That sermon series became the basis for a book I wrote called Dare to Be True: Living in the Freedom of Complete Honesty (WaterBrook, 2003). Since that book was published, I've received hundreds of comments or emails pleading for the necessity of being something less than truthful. I understand these concerns, because, just like everyone else, I struggle with what it really means to tell the truth in situations where lying seems so much more prudent.

I'm not going to settle these issues here. I admit that there are certain instances in which telling the truth seems to be unwise. But, what I find telling is, when confronting Ephesians 4:25, how quickly our minds race to defend our lack of truthfulness. Rather than thinking, "Hmmm. I wonder how I can put this into practice today?" we often think, "Whoa! How can I avoid the obvious implications of this instruction?" We rush to think up extreme examples in order to let ourselves off the hook. If people were right to lie to the Nazis about the Jews hidden in their cellars, then this gives me the right to keep wearing my garment of falsehood at work, at home, and among my friends.

While I know there are some very tricky problems associated with truth-telling in certain situations, I want to encourage you—no, indeed, to urge you—not to let this fact keep you from confronting what is real in your life. If you're like most Christians I have known, you are much more comfortable with falsehood and much less committed to truthfulness than you might at first think. Don't let the extreme examples keep you from taking a good hard look at your life, so that, by God's grace, you might strip off fibbing and put on the glorious garment of truth.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are there situations in your life when you are inclined to be less than truthful? As you think about your work, your family life, your conversations with friends, your tax returns, and the rest of life, where do you find it most tempting to avoid the truth? Is there truth that you really need to tell today, even though you'd rather not? Are you willing to ask God to help you put on the new self of truth in this context?

PRAYER: Gracious God, you know how much I like to think of myself as a truthful person. There are many times when, by your grace, I am able to say what's truth even when it's awkward or difficult. Yet, you also know, Lord, how often I am less than truthful. You know when I fall prey to temptation, when I lie to others, and even to myself. Sometimes my intentions are honorable, but my words are not. Forgive me, Lord.

Help me, I pray, to put off falsehood and to put on truth. Help me to see myself clearly. Help me to have the courage and grace to speak the truth. And help me to do this in love, always in love. Amen.


Mark Roberts is the Executive Director of Digital Media and the Theological and Cultural Steward for Foundations for Laity Renewal. He is the author of eight books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer. He lives in Boerne, Texas, with his wife, Linda. Their children spend most of the year away at college on the East Coast.

Creating Beauty at Work

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