By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed May 31, 1982)
We change pace this lesson by considering some basic thoughts about the Christian, truth, and honesty. It may seem a bit strange to talk of things considered an obvious part of Christianity, but we are living in rather strange times. Paradox is abundant. Men talk about living by love, while passing more laws and filling the courts with lawsuit after lawsuit. Objectivity has been a big cry from our society, but we are faced with not knowing what news report we can trust. Men appear to be on a subjective binge with no source of authority like the days of the Judges (Jgs.17:6;21:25) Hence, we are not exactly surprised that everyone is talking about honesty but social research reveals a tremendous array of dishonesty. In fact, the price of dishonesty has become a staggering burden to our society.
A climate of disregard for truth and honesty can influence, and may erode, spiritual development in the Christian. This is true unless we realize honesty is something to labor for at all times. The Christian must strive to be honest in all things and willingly examine himself at all times. We are living in a society where the temptation to be dishonest is becoming very great. Thus, we need to review our relation to truth and honesty to escape questionable practices.
The fruits of dishonesty are an outgrowth of a society pestered with the problem of the existence of truth. Men have been so concerned with the agreement of perception and reality, they have just about lost reality. Jesus was conscious of this problem of perception and reality, but never dismissed the idea that reality can be known (Mt. 7:3-5). This view regarding perception and reality is not going to go away, but shall continue to be with us more and more. This means we should prepare ourselves for more problems with truth and dishonesty. This also means that more Christians will be facing more temptations to be dishonest in their daily lives.
The desire to permit truth to mold our character and our view of the Lord’s kingdom is essential to the development of the new man of the scriptures. Read carefully 2 Co.5:17; Eph. 4:24,25; Col.3:9,10. The new man is a reference to a change in the principles, disposition, and actions of living. The good ground for spiritual growth from beginning to end is an honest heart. Luke 8:15 reads, “But, that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Where there is no honest heart, there will be no spiritual growth. The close connection of attitude and reading the word of God, is always with us. Does one read to enforce an attitude already set or does one read to set an attitude that needs to be enforced? It can be said without hesitation many stumble here and without proper care all can stumble here.
Respect for truth is one of the basic building blocks of a strong and trustworthy society. The degree of trust between people is dependent largely upon how well they have dealt truthfully with each other in the past. The observing of men being dishonest or deceitful can only erode trust or hinder its growth. A man that can be dishonest with others, can be dishonest with us. The result is a relationship that keeps testing to build trust, where trust should have already been established. Why the delay? Because the foundation of trust is honesty and it still has not been laid. A great number of marital problems and church problems frequently stem from this kind of environment. All exchange of mature views cannot be possible where there is no bond of trust or the confidence of honest evaluation. When we fail to treat just one man as a brother, we should not be surprised when others are reluctant to accept us as a brother.
Men living in a society where it is common practice not to keep their word will tend to bring the same attitude into the church. This is wrong and must be guarded against by every member of the Lord’s body. We must make men fully conscious that disrespect of things honest always robs men of trust. This trust is absolutely essential for the present functioning of the church. The problem is man’s difficulty in changing, not Christ’s Promises. Read Philippians 4:8,9. A full awareness of being able to trust one another anchors men to the beauty of truth and honesty. Proverbs 25:13 says it well, “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.”
The negative side of the matter is expressed in the scriptures. “…The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:12,13). Truth was not respected, so sharp rebuke was necessary. Many have little realization what it is like to live in a society where one cannot generally accept another man’s word as true. We are hopeful Christians have more insight into this issue and will not permit themselves to go along with the general tide sweeping across our present society.
It is not uncommon to find men of all positions willing to bear false witness knowingly or through predetermined bias. This is just not permissible for the Christian, no matter the amount of grief or harm caused by others. Proverbs14:5 makes it clear. “A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.” Divisions within the church are left unsettled largely, because of the inability of men to bear true witness in a time of conflict. Sin is hidden through misleading words and unfortunately the respect of persons. We must realize that God shall uncover all. See Proverbs 26:24-28; Ecclesiastes12:14; Luke12:2; Hebrews 4:11-13. Man’s deceit can only lead to a loss of the joys and blessings promised in Christ. The reason is simply that the trust necessary to spiritual joy cannot develop in such an environment.
It is becoming alarmingly apparent our culture is flirting more and more with the obtaining of favors through gifts or bribery. The Bible has long warned of such dangers. Bribery is not a part of the Christian way. Deuteronomy16:19 states; “Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise and pervert the words of the righteous.” There are stern rebukes over such throughout the Bible. Things of this earth, or the waiting for things of this earth, are not so trying that Christians should be enticed into some of the subtle forms of bribery being practiced today. Of course, these are only the forerunners of more open forms of bribery.
Dishonesty is a kind of carnality and any form of carnality hinders the reaching probe of truth. A tendency to lie or deceive ourselves or others brings injury to self, the church, and the future development of the kingdom of Christ. We do not hear or get to hear want we need to hear. 1 Co.3:1 reads, “And, I, brethren, could not speak unto you as spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babies in Christ.”
Where the ability to grow beyond suspicion cannot be found, you will find a lack of respect for truth and honesty. The habit of dishonesty cultivates the lack of trust. Christians should and can escape this problem through Christ. Why? Because of examining our relationship with Christ and what he taught about truth and honesty. An examination of the Christian’s relationship to truth leads to a careful walk and talk in truth. This will lead to the church of Ephesians 5:27.
Why Truth is Right
When we consider why truth is right, we discover why we desire to be honest. First, let us say what we mean by the word truth. Truth is what really is or actual to the situation. Truth is that which is. When speaking of relationships between men it is to deal faithfully with one another. There is no distortion of the motive behind one’s words or acts. They are for the reason given and none other. There is no Pharisee’s leaven.
Truth is right for it shall remain. Man must learn that what he’s gained by deception today will be lost tomorrow. Proverbs 12:19 states, “The lip of truth shall be established forever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” There is good advice in always telling the truth, so you won’t need to remember what you said. The unrealistic person and the child do not realize the actions of today determine the fruits of tomorrow. Life has cause and effect. Those who overlook the tie of cause and effect frequently fall prey to the practice of dishonesty. But God has said, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7,8).
God and Christ would mean little or nothing to us today if we were not convinced they were truthful and true. This is the solid reasoning that brings to Christians an appreciation of truthfulness in self and others. This truth leads to truthfulness. It is the stimulus that moves the new man to live the new life and sense its rightfulness. We have little doubt that this is why the Holy Spirit told us frequently God is true and faithful.
John7:28 reads, “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.” God is to be believed. Why? His actions always have revealed him true to his promises. Titus 1:2 reads, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” Read 2Samuel 7:28; Deuteronomy 32:4; Hebrews 6:18.
God has always given sufficient evidence to convince the honest. To the contrary, let us ask, what if on just one occasion God had been unfaithful in his dealings with man- would men believe God? No. Why do all so answer? Because it would have ruined our trust in God. Yes, truth is right. (to be continued)