Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Psalm 34:13
Lord… You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. Psalm 5:5-6
He [the devil] is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44
Do you ever tell lies? I suspect there aren’t many of us who could say an honest “No” to that question. Most of us probably avoid brazen, bare-faced lies, but lying comes in many shapes and forms, and that’s a very different matter.
Every time a footballer, untouched by the defender, falls down in the penalty area and appeals for a penalty, he is in effect telling the referee a lie: “Ref, he fouled me!” Every time we remain silent when something false is said about somebody else, we are in effect telling a lie just by allowing that falsehood to go unchallenged.
It’s possible to live a lie. I knew a man who was thrilled to get a new job. But within a few weeks it came to light that he had falsified details on his application form, and he was sacked. But he couldn’t bring himself to tell his wife. So every morning he would leave their flat at the same time and, so far as I could tell, spend the day walking the streets until it was time to go home. He brought it on himself, of course, and I don’t know how long he was able to keep up the pretence. But I have to say that that man was among the most wretched, abject and pitiful people I have ever known, and I ended up feeling sorry for him.
In 2016 the Oxford Dictionaries chose “post-truth” as their “word of the year”. We live, it seems, in a “post-truth society”.
What does this mean? In essence, that when we speak it doesn’t particularly matter if what we say is true; what matters is the emotional impact it has on our hearers. We can, in effect, make up our own “truth” as we go along; news we share might very well be “fake” news.
Putting it bluntly, lying is OK.
The idea of “post-truth” is usually applied to politics: President George W Bush was responsible for the Twin Towers atrocity; President Obama wasn’t in fact an American citizen (and of course he was really a Muslim); on this side of the Atlantic, the statement during the Brexit debate that membership of the European Union costs Britain £350 pounds a week.
All rubbish, of course. Lies. But so what if it helps to turn an election or influence a vote?
The truth matters – and not just in political circles. Just read again those Bible verses I put at the top, especially the words of Jesus in John 8: the devil himself, no less, is “a liar and the father of lies”. Every time you and I lie we are doing a satanic job. Something to think about there…?
It isn’t only the Bible that gives us this warning. Plenty of wise people throughout history, Christian and otherwise, have had good things to say. Here’s a sample – I invite you to give them a few thoughtful minutes of your time…
He who permits himself to tell a lie once finds it much easier to do it a second time and a third time till at length it becomes habitual. (Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, statesman and President of the United States).
If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it. (Marcus Aurelius, 121-180, Roman Emperor.)
A lie can travel half-round the world while truth is pulling its boots on. (Mark Twain, author of Huckleberry Finn, 1835-1910, and others). (Especially appropriate for this internet age!)
Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it; ignorance may deride it; malice may distort it; but there it is. (Winston Churchill, 1874 -1965, British Prime Minister.)
Truth’s a dog must to kennel. (The Fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear – he has just told the King something he doesn’t like…)
And here are some proverbs from around the world: The grave of one who dies for the truth is holy ground… Tell the truth and run… Time discovers truth… Truth is God’s daughter… No honest man ever repented of his honesty… Truth will out.
In a world awash with lies and half-truths, we who claim to follow Jesus are called to be men and women of total integrity and cast-iron honesty. Didn’t the one we follow tell us that “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6)?
So… “Post-truth”? Pah! “Fake news”? Bah! Not, I hope, while we’re around!
Father, thank you for our Lord Jesus Christ, the very embodiment of truth. Thank you too for honest men and women all round the world who are prepared to suffer persecution, torture and even death for the sake of truth. Help me to live my life with total commitment to the truth. Amen.