Speak Truth With Your Neighbor
“Now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.”—EPH. 4:25.
1, 2. How do many people view truth?
TRUTH has been a controversial subject for ages. In the sixth century B.C.E., Greek poet Alcaeus said: “There is truth in wine.” That implied that truth is revealed only after a person has overindulged in wine and perhaps is more eager to talk. First-century Roman Governor Pontius Pilate also reflected a warped view of truth when he cynically asked Jesus: “What is truth?”—John 18:38.
2 Conflicting attitudes about truth abound in our day. Many people say that the word “truth” has various shades of meaning or that truth differs from one person to another. Others are truthful only when it is convenient or expedient. The book The Importance of Lying states: “Honesty may be a noble ideal, but it has little value in the life and death struggle for survival and security. Man has little choice in the matter—he must lie to live.”
3. Why was Jesus an outstanding example in speaking truth?
3 How different it is for Christ’s disciples! Jesus’ view of truth was not philosophical. He always spoke the truth. Even his enemies acknowledged: “Teacher, we know you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth.” (Matt. 22:16) Likewise today, genuine Christians imitate Jesus’ example. They do not hesitate to speak the truth. They wholeheartedly agree with the apostle Paul, who admonished fellow believers: “Now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.” (Eph. 4:25) Let us consider three aspects of Paul’s words. First, who is our neighbor? Second, what does it mean to speak truth? And third, how can we apply this in our everyday life?
Who Is Our Neighbor?
4. Unlike first-century Jewish leaders, how did Jesus reflect Jehovah’s view of who our neighbor is?
4 In the first century C.E., some Jewish leaders taught that only fellow Jews or their personal friends were worthy of being called “neighbor.” Jesus, however, perfectly reflected his Father’s personality and thinking. (John 14:9) Significantly, he showed his disciples that God does not favor one race or nationality over another. (John 4:5-26) Moreover, holy spirit revealed to the apostle Peter that “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:28, 34, 35) We, therefore, should regard all people as our neighbor, extending love even to those who act like enemies.—Matt. 5:43-45.
5. What does it mean to speak truth with our neighbor?
5 Yet, what did Paul mean when he said that we should speak truth with our neighbor? Speaking truth involves sharing information that is factual, free from any deceit. True Christians do not twist or misrepresent the facts so as to mislead others. They “abhor what is wicked” and “cling to what is good.” (Rom. 12:9) In imitation of “the God of truth,” we should strive to be honest and forthright in all our dealings. (Ps. 15:1, 2; 31:5) By choosing our words carefully, even embarrassing or uncomfortable situations can be tactfully resolved without resorting to guile.—Read Colossians 3:9, 10.
6, 7. (a) Does being truthful mean that we must disclose even personal details to every inquirer? Explain. (b) Who merits our trust in our speaking truth?
6 Does being truthful with others mean that we must disclose every detail to whoever asks us a question? Not necessarily. While on earth, Jesus demonstrated that some people are undeserving of a direct answer or of certain information. When hypocritical religious leaders asked him by what power or authority he performed signs and miracles, Jesus said: “I will ask you one question. You answer me, and I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.” When the scribes and older men were unwilling to give an answer, Jesus said: “Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:27-33) He did not feel obligated to answer the question in view of their corrupt practices and faithless example. (Matt. 12:10-13; 23:27, 28) Similarly today, Jehovah’s people need to be on guard against apostates and other wicked men who use trickery or cunning for selfish purposes.—Matt. 10:16; Eph. 4:14.
7 Paul likewise indicated that some people may not be entitled to receive a full or complete answer. He said that “gossipers and meddlers in other people’s affairs” are “talking of things they ought not.” (1 Tim. 5:13) Yes, those who pry into the affairs of others or those who cannot be trusted to keep a confidence may find that others are reluctant to share personal information with them. How much better it is to heed Paul’s inspired counsel: “Make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business.” (1 Thess. 4:11) At times, however, congregation elders may need to ask questions about personal matters in order to carry out their assigned duties. In such a case, our cooperation in speaking truth is much appreciated and is a great help.—1 Pet. 5:2.
Speak Truth in Family Matters
8. How does speaking truth help family members to draw close to one another?
8 Normally it is with our family that we have the closest bond. To strengthen this bond, it is vital that we speak truth with one another. Many problems and misunderstandings can be reduced or eliminated by being open, honest, and kind in our communication. For example, when we make a mistake, do we hesitate to acknowledge it to our mate, to our children, or to other close family members? Offering a sincere apology from the heart helps to promote peace and unity within the family.—Read 1 Peter 3:8-10.
9. Why does speaking truth not justify our being blunt or rude?
9 Speaking truth does not mean that we should be blunt, tactless. Being rude does not increase the value of the truth or its impact. Paul said: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness. But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31, 32) When we speak in a kind and dignified manner, it elevates our message and shows honor to those to whom we speak.—Matt. 23:12.
Speak Truth in Congregation Matters
10. What can Christian elders learn from Jesus’ excellent example in speaking truth?
10 Jesus spoke to his disciples in a simple, forthright manner. His counsel was always loving, yet he did not water down the truth to appease his listeners. (John 15:9-12) For instance, when his apostles repeatedly argued among themselves as to who was greater, Jesus firmly but patiently helped them to understand the need for humility. (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48; 22:24-27; John 13:14) Similarly, while firm for righteousness, Christian elders today do not lord it over God’s flock. (Mark 10:42-44) They imitate Christ by being “kind to one another” and “tenderly compassionate” in their dealings with others.
11. Love for our brothers should move us to do what in the way we use our tongue?
11 By being candid with our brothers but not overly frank, we can express what is on our mind without being offensive. Indeed, never would we want our tongue to be “sharpened like a razor,” using it to inflict painful wounds with abusive or degrading speech. (Ps. 52:2; Prov. 12:18) Love for our brothers will move us to “safeguard [our] tongue against what is bad, and [our] lips against speaking deception.” (Ps. 34:13) In this way, we honor God and promote unity in the congregation.
12. When does lying warrant judicial action? Explain.
12 Elders work diligently to protect the congregation from those who tell malicious lies. (Read James 3:14-16.) A malicious lie is told with a view to harming someone; its purpose is to make the person suffer in some way or experience distress. It involves more than making petty, misleading statements or exaggerating the facts. Of course, all lying is wrong, but not every case of untruthfulness requires judicial action. Hence, elders need to use balance, reasonableness, and good judgment when determining if a person who has made statements that are untrue has established a pattern of deliberate, malicious lying that would require judicial action. Or would firm, loving admonition from the Scriptures suffice?
Speak Truth in Business Dealings
13, 14. (a) How do some people fail to be truthful with their employer? (b) What good result can come from being honest and truthful at work?
13 We are living in an age of rampant dishonesty, so it may be difficult to resist the temptation to be less than honest with an employer. When applying for a job, many resort to outright lies. They may, for instance, exaggerate their experience or education on a résumé in order to obtain a better or higher-paying job. On the other hand, many employees claim to be working when they are actually attending to personal matters, though that is contrary to company rules. They may be reading material unrelated to their job, making personal phone calls, sending personal electronic messages, or browsing the Internet.
14 True Christians do not view being honest and truthful as something optional. (Read Proverbs 6:16-19.) Paul said: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Heb. 13:18) Thus, Christians give their employer a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. (Eph. 6:5-8) Being a conscientious worker can also bring praise to our heavenly Father. (1 Pet. 2:12) For example, Roberto’s employer in Spain commended him for being an honest and responsible worker. As a result of Roberto’s fine conduct, the company hired additional Witnesses. These too proved to be excellent workers. Over the years, Roberto found employment for 23 baptized brothers and 8 Bible students!
15. How should a Christian businessman demonstrate that he speaks truth?
15 If self-employed, are we truthful in all our business dealings, or do we sometimes fail to speak truth with our neighbor? A Christian businessman should not misrepresent a product or service in order to make a quick sale; neither should he offer bribes or accept payoffs. We want to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated.—Prov. 11:1; Luke 6:31.
Speak Truth With Governmental Authorities
16. What do Christians render to (a) governmental authorities? (b) Jehovah?
16 Jesus said: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 22:21) What sort of “things” do we owe Caesar, that is, the governmental authorities? When Jesus uttered those words, the discussion centered on taxes. So to maintain a clean conscience before God and men, Christians obey the laws of the land, including those pertaining to the paying of taxes. (Rom. 13:5, 6) But we recognize that Jehovah is the Supreme Sovereign, the only true God, whom we love with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:30; Rev. 4:11) We therefore render to Jehovah God submission without reservation.—Read Psalm 86:11, 12.
17. How do Jehovah’s people view receiving public assistance?
17 Many countries offer social programs or services to help those in need of material support. There is nothing wrong with a Christian’s receiving such assistance—provided that he qualifies. Speaking truth with our neighbor would rule out giving false or misleading information to governmental authorities in order to receive public assistance.
Blessings From Being Truthful
18-20. What blessings result from being truthful with our neighbor?
18 The blessings from being truthful are many. We maintain a clean conscience, which gives us peace of mind and a calm heart. (Prov. 14:30; Phil. 4:6, 7) Having a clean conscience is of great value in the eyes of God. Also, when we are truthful in all things, we do not need to worry about being found out, or exposed, by humans.—1 Tim. 5:24.
19 Consider another blessing. Paul said: “In every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers, . . . by truthful speech.” (2 Cor. 6:4, 7) This certainly proved to be the case with a Witness living in Britain. Attempting to sell a car to a prospective buyer, he described all its good points as well as its faults, including those that could not be seen. After taking the car for a test drive, the buyer asked the brother if he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why did he draw that conclusion? The man had taken note of the brother’s honesty as well as his neat appearance. The ensuing discussion led to a fine witness being given.
20 Do we likewise bring praise to our Creator by our good moral character? Paul said: “We have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking with cunning.” (2 Cor. 4:2) Hence, let us do our utmost to speak truth with our neighbor. In so doing, we will bring glory to our heavenly Father and to his people.
How Would You Answer?
• Who is our neighbor?
• What does it mean to speak truth with our neighbor?
• How can being truthful bring glory to God?
• What blessings result from being truthful?
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Do you readily acknowledge minor mistakes?
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Do you speak truth when applying for a job?