How Strong Is Your Love of Truth?
THE scene was in Queens, New York city. A woman had asked her butcher to grind a certain piece of meat for her. Before he could grind it, however, the man in charge replaced the meat with an inferior grade, and insisted that the butcher give this to the customer. When presented with the ground meat, the customer asked the butcher: “Is this the meat that I asked you to grind?”
What would you have answered? Would you have told the truth?
The customer had a right to know the facts. Yet, under the circumstances, it was not easy for the butcher to tell her the truth, and thereby expose the dishonesty of the man in charge. Nevertheless, he did. The result was that he was fired.
Would you have done what he did?
DESIRE FOR THE TRUTH
When it appears to serve their interests, it is common for people to lie. But do you like it when you are lied to?
We like to hear the truth. Parents like to hear the truth from their children. Children want their parents to tell them the truth. A government desires citizens to tell it the truth, and citizens want the truth from their government. But what should particularly concern us is that Almighty God wants to hear our mouths speak truth. His Word says: “Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.”—Eph. 4:25.
Christianity is referred to in the Bible as “the way of the truth,” and the apostle John spoke of “fellow workers in the truth.” (2 Pet. 2:2; 3 John 8) Obviously persons “in the truth” could not deal in falsehoods.
The early Christians Ananias and Sapphira provide an example revealing God’s detestation of deliberate deceit. They had sold a piece of property and made the pretense of contributing all the proceeds from the sale for use by fellow Christians; but actually they had held back some of the money for themselves. They thus schemed to give the impression to the congregation that they were more generous than they really were. For this deception—a deliberate, planned conspiracy to lie—God executed them.—Acts 5:1-11.
Clearly, God considers the practice of lying a serious offense. “All the liars,” the Bible says, will go into “the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.” (Rev. 21:8) Surely, then, we should be on guard that we do not let such a lying pattern start developing in our lives.
AVOID THE INCLINATION TO LIE
Yet it is not always easy to tell the truth. At times there can be a strong inclination to lie, especially when a person has done something wrong that he wishes to conceal.
For example, some time ago Christian elders called at the home of a member of the congregation to discuss with him what they considered to be certain irregularities in his conduct. He did not want to discuss the matter, and so he sent a member of his family to the door with instructions to tell the elders he was not at home. Later, when his falsehood became known, he excused it as only a ‘little’ lie. Still, it was a lie, and he involved another member of the family in the falsehood.
All of us, at one time or another and in some way or another, are bound to slip in what we say. “If anyone does not,” the disciple James said, “this one is a perfect man.” (Jas. 3:2) We may have exaggerated in telling something, or in some other way expressed an untruth. For example, we may have expressed approval and even enthusiasm for a project to please someone when we really did not feel that way.
How do you feel about yourself when you say things that you know are not true? Does it strengthen or weaken your self-respect? Is it becoming a pattern in your life to express untruths? Though the matters involved may be of only minor consequence, the effects of the untruth can be unexpectedly serious.
For example, suppose that a woman tells a neighbor, in the hearing of her child, that she ‘really likes her new drapes.’ Then later, in conversation at home, she mentions to her husband that the neighbors have new drapes and that she ‘does not like them at all.’ Will not her child, who hears her say this, assume that it is permissible to falsify? So, while there is certainly nothing wrong with being tactful, there is need to consider whether our words will lead to disrespect for truth.
Surely, the wise course is to exercise care as to our truthfulness, and not ignore the proddings of conscience. A secretary for a merchandise comptroller in a Chicago department store exercised such care. Her employer told her: “If anyone calls, tell them that I am not in.” Some persons’ conscience might allow them to say this. However, after thinking about the matter, the secretary’s conscience troubled her. So she explained to her employer why, as a Christian, she could not tell persons that he was out when he was really in his office. He respected her for her high regard for the truth.
True, many statements may be considered minor untruths, ‘little’ lies. But if we do not exercise care to avoid them, is there not a danger that we may be led into more serious wrongdoing?
Of course, not everyone will appreciate a Christian’s strong love of truth. For instance, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, who worked for a landscaping firm in Holden, Massachusetts, received a call from a local bank. It wanted to verify some figures on a bill of sale for equipment. However, the figures on the company’s file copy were different from those that the bank had.
When his employer returned, the Witness asked about it, and the employer became angry. An incorrect bill of sale, showing a much higher figure, had been issued to the bank. This was done, the employer explained, to obtain more money from the bank and for tax purposes. The employer wanted the Witness to call the bank and apologize for his “gross mistake” and verify the phony figures. The Witness explained why he could not do this, and when he saw that his employer had no regard for the truth, he quit his job.
It often requires real strength to be truthful. How strong is your love of the truth? Do you tell the truth only when it is convenient? If so, in what way are you different from persons who pursue honesty only as a “good policy,” but lie when it appears that it will benefit them?
Our reason for telling the truth should be that it is the right thing to do; it is pleasing to God. If one truly loves Jehovah God and, above everything else, wants to please him, then no matter how strong the pressure of selfish interests may be, he will not become a willful liar. He will prove by his actions that he is a servant of “Jehovah the God of truth.”—Ps. 31:5.