“I ate all my apple,” she says to me, walking out of the kitchen. I am surprised our twenty-minute battle has suddenly come to an end. I am not surprised by what happens next. My mother-in-law points into the sink and shakes her head “no”. Frustration.
“So if I come into the kitchen I won’t see any apple?” I ask my daughter as I stand up from the couch.
Suddenly, backtracking, Faith says, “Hurry, Grandma, wash it down.”
When I do see the apple in the sink, the liar turns to me, “It’s not my apple. It’s Silas’s.”
“No, Faith, Silas ate all of his apple in the high chair. You lied to me.” It was her first big deception.
Consider these opening two paragraphs from an article, We’re All Lying Liars: Why People Tell Lies, and Why White Lies Are Okay.
Admit it: You’ve lied. You told a friend that his shirt looked stylish when you actually thought it was tacky and garish. Or maybe you said to your boss that her presentations were fascinating when in fact they were insipidly mindless. Or perhaps you told your landlord that the rent check was in the mail.
Don’t feel bad. You’re in good, dishonest company. A growing body of research shows that people lie constantly, that deception is pervasive in everyday life. One study found that people tell two to three lies every 10 minutes, and even conservative estimates indicate that we lie at least once a day. Such incessant prevarication might be a necessary social evil, and researchers have recently discovered that some fibbing might actually be good for you. “We use lies to grease the wheels of social discourse,” says University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman. “It’s socially useful to tell lies.”
Most of us probably consider ourselves to be truthful people. We don’t speak falsehood, and it is not our practice to intentionally deceive others. But according to the latest research, we are subtly putting forth false impressions all day long, to ourselves just as much as to others. We may exaggerate about how much we work out. Even an “Okay” to “How are you?” could be stretching the truth. Most certainly, we lie to ourselves about who we really are.
As it turns out, truth versus falsehood is deeper than our childhood conception that lying is telling your mother you didn’t take that last cookie from the cookie jar (while wiping the crumbs from your mouth). When we broaden our understanding of what it means to be truthful, we find ourselves lacking the integrity which saturates the character of God.
God’s character is utterly truthful. He cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18). No falsehood exists in him. So then, doesn’t it follow that our oneness with the Spirit of Truth should affect our character? We should be purified from all deceit. Every word we say should be genuine. Every deed we do should be free of pretense. Every aspect of how we present ourselves should be laden with integrity.
Our culture does not value truth, which is ironic because our culture does value the pursuit of spiritual truth. This search for meaning and ultimate reality is in vogue, but so is the idea that the end of that pursuit is not objective, but can be individualized, whatever is “right” for you. Perhaps that is the reason that so many keep searching with unquenchable thirst. The road of subjective reality leads to nowhere.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture on truth comes from a hurting, deceitful man. After David commits adultery with Bathsheba he writes a beautiful confessional Psalm, “Have mercy on me, O, God; according to your great compassion blot out my transgression…Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” In a sense, our sin proves God’s character is what He says it is. We prove him truthful by our wrongdoings. Our failure to live truly according to His word highlights His rightness in pronouncing judgment and His promised compassion that pronounces forgiveness for the humble.
Later in that Psalm, David prays, “Surely, you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” I have inner parts of which I know nothing. I have a need for wisdom of which I am only vaguely conscious. Only the Spirit of Truth can minister to those hidden places of me that operate in stealthy deception. The beautiful thing about redemption is that when we yield our spirit to His Spirit, He works in spite of our inability to track with him. When we get to heaven, I bet we will be surprised at the depth of redemptive work in each of us in areas of which we were clueless.