It happens almost every day. You read a headline such as, “Truth Catches Up With Accused Storyteller,” or “Top Historian Becomes Tangled in Fictions,” or “Corporation Mogul Embarrassed By New Allegations,” “Law School Dean Denies Plagiarism,” and so forth. It doesn’t stop as our integrity seems to unravel. But what gnaws at my viscera is that these are people who are supposed to lead the way, who are thought of as models of honesty and integrity.
Take, for example, Professor Joseph J. Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his accurate renderings of history. Ellis’s classes were always crowded. Students loved his first-hand accounts of his engagements with the enemy in Vietnam. Before his military career, he claimed to have been a football hero, so when the truth finally came out, it was incredible to almost everyone who had known the professor. Ellis had fabricated the football hero stuff, along with his various first-hand exploits in battle. Telling the press that “even in the best of lives, mistakes are made,” Ellis tried to minimize the fallout from the fabrications. But the damage had been done.
What we are seeing are not isolated events–the weekend angler who stretches the fish story a bit, or the high school boy who boasts to his friends about his exploits–but a pattern of deception and dishonesty. Today we have refined the term, calling it “misinformation,” however, my mother described it in more vivid terms–closer, I suspect, to how God views things.
Lying to a court when you are under oath may get you tossed into jail as happened to Lord Jeffrey Archer, the disgraced but wealthy and successful author who was convicted of perjury in a British Court. But lying to your wife may get you tossed out into the street. The consequences may be different but the principle is the same.
“Provide things honest in the sight of all men” was Paul’s advice to Romans (12:17, KJV). Bringing the issue more clearly into focus, please answer yes or no to the following questions.
- Do you ever lie to your husband or wife, or your parents? Never, seldom, or occasionally?
- Have you ever falsified your expense account (in your favor, of course)?
- Have you ever called in ‘sick’ when in fact you simply wanted a day off?
- Do you stretch the truth when you are talking about the size of your fish or your exploits?
- Have you ever omitted facts in a resume you presented to a prospective employer?
- Filed a deceptive or false insurance claim?
- Have you ever asked your child to tell someone on the phone, “I’m not home” when you were home but didn’t want to talk to them?
Do you concede the point? Yes, I understand you are saying to yourself, “Hey, what’s the big deal? Doesn’t everyone do this occasionally?” But the reality is that you are not everyone, and you not only choose to tell the truth or bend it, but also face the consequences of your decisions.
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices. Colossians 3:9
When you practice dishonesty, your children will be dishonest with you and will learn to look you in the eye and lie without thought. With practice, they become even better than you–a frightening reality.
It used to be that people who lied got tense and uptight. Their eyes narrowed, and often their facial muscles tensed. No more. Practice makes perfect. Don’t fall into the quicksand of lying that pulls you ever downward. As Paul commanded, “Speak the truth in love,” and if you can’t speak it in love, then just speak the truth.
May God deliver us from the contemporary curse of misinformation—lies, deceit, and fraud–—lest we become ensnared in the web that has besmirched so many.
Resource reading: Acts 5:1-11