Does everyone on earth tell lies? If you don’t think so just look at some research performed by the University of Vienna, Austria. The researchers have estimated that the average man and woman tells an average of 200 lies per day just to cope with reality.
The opposite of lies is honesty. Does God want us to be absolutely honest even in the very small and insignificant areas of our lives? First of all I would like to share with you a tiny quote that I read. It goes like this – “Nothing but goodness and purity, honesty and holiness, can enter heaven.”
But surely there are exceptions! Maybe the Bible can shed some light on the subject.
1 Peter 2:12 instructs us in this way: “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” So God wants our speech and our outward actions to be true and honest.
This may be easy to accomplish, however, the Bible also goes deeper than just the outside actions. Here is a verse I found in Psalm 51:6, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” And also Psalm 15:1,2, “LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.”
But, you say, I don’t tell lies – but do you? What about those little “white lies” that are told every day in order to be socially acceptable?
I used to work in a busy law office in Perth with an advocate who was a true gentleman. He would always say the nicest things to everybody, remarking on how well they were doing at a job, complementing people on their appearance or thanking them for work they did in a way that made them feel very valuable. As a consequence he was a very nice person to be around. However, in a short time I figured out that he wouldn’t only act in this manner to people he appreciated but also to people he did not think much of or didn’t like. His words were always very nice but he did not necessarily mean them. It was just to make you feel good. The early Christians avoided this type of deceit as identified in 1 Thessalonians 2:3–5, “For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness.”
Lies of Convenience
I am sure every employer has experienced the typical “sick day” excuse. Many employers now require you to produce a medical certificate to prove that you actually were sick. Why? They cannot trust that employees won’t lie if it is convenient for them. Proverbs 19:1 says, “Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.”
Proverbs 20:17 tells us in a very graphic way that the “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.” This has often been my own experience when asked to do a favour for somebody. Inside I would resent being asked, as I was busy and did not have the time. I would be boiling inside but on the outside would come a very sweet smile and the most gracious answer. “Of course I don’t mind doing this for you, don’t worry about it!”
The fact was I did mind and I did not want to do the favour. I only did it because I felt obliged to. There was no love involved. My exterior did not mirror my interior.
When this kind of deceit is used for those asking a favour or maybe for guests overstaying their welcome the result can often feel like your mouth being filled with gravel. You can either have an unpleasant job on your hands or have to entertain guests who are blissfully unaware that they are being a burden on you, not to mention the hurt feelings it could cause if those people actually found out that you were being dishonest and deceitful.
How to Build Habits of Honesty
So how can we truly build habits of honesty in a world where 200 lies per person per day is the international average? If the Lord wants us to be completely truthful in all situations then incredible wisdom and love from God is needed in order to remain socially acceptable.
We never know when our honesty will be tested. Your friend may ask you a difficult question one day like, “Does this dress make me look fat?” Or a young teenager might come and ask your opinion on his newly dyed pink hair. How does one be tactful and yet truthful without hurting feelings?
Jesus gives us a hint in Matthew 10:16, “…be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Most people would appreciate it more if the truth was spoken even though it may hurt them a little in which case we would do well to heed Ephesians 4:15, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Sometimes it would be tactful to suggest another style of dress to the young girl whose clothing does not suit her or point her to the principles of true beauty which can only come from within. With all situations it would also do well to consider the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How would we like to be addressed? What answer would we like to hear?
God does require honesty in every aspect of our lives. Practising it is in a true sense living the words of Ephesians 4:25 “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”
“God wants men in His service, under His banner, to be strictly honest, unimpeachable in character, that their tongues shall not utter a semblance of untruth. The tongue must be true, the eyes must be true, the actions wholly and entirely such as God can commend.” Child Guidance, p. 152