God Calls upon His Children to Be Honest!
O Lord God, my dear Savior, I have come into Your presence this day to hear Your holy Word. Reveal to me the truths You have revealed in that Word, so that I might grow in faith, increase in love, be moved faithfully to serve You all my days. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
God forbids lying in the 8th Commandment. When men lie, terrible things often happen as we see in the story of Naboth’s Vineyard.
In the story of the Centurion’s Servant we find the Jewish elders in Capernaum keeping the 8th Commandment by speaking well of the Centurion as he sought help from Jesus for his sick servant.
Text: Ephesians 4:25
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.
In Christ Jesus, whose word presents those truths leading to life, dear fellow redeemed:
“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God!” That oath no doubt sounds familiar. It is the oath which is sworn by witnesses in a court of law prior to giving their testimony. If sworn witnesses, however, lie—if they are dishonest and commit perjury—then justice will be perverted. “John, will you this day take Susan to be your wife. Will you live with her in accordance with God’s Word in the holy estate of marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor her, and sacrifice yourself for her in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, and forsaking all others, will you promise to remain faithful to her as long as you both shall live? If so, say, ‘I will.’” Those words are likewise familiar, for they are a standard wedding vow. If people make that vow with no real intention of keeping it—if, in other words, they are dishonest on their wedding day or thereafter, then the foundation of marriage is undermined. Telling the truth—being honest, however, is not something we ought to do and be at just certain times and on certain days, but it is rather something we ought to do and are to be at all times, for in the 8th Commandment GOD CALLS UPON HIS CHILDREN TO BE HONEST! Let us consider this portion of God’s will for our lives as we review the evangelical admonition of St. Paul found in our text. Paul urges us, first of all, to put away lying! He urges us, secondly, tospeak the truth! Finally, he urges us, to remember—as believers we are all members of Christ’s body!
Paul begins our text, “Therefore, putting away lying….” The word “therefore” suggests that Paul is drawing a conclusion. What are the prior words and thoughts from which Paul draws his conclusion concerning the importance of honesty? In the previous section of Ephesians 4, Paul urges us Christians “no longer (to) walk” as the rest of the unbelieving world walks—“in the futility of their minds” with their “understanding darkened” by unbelief and “the blindness of their hearts” to the point that they simply give themselves over to sin (cf. Ephesians 4:17-19). Rather, he urges them to “put on the new man"—a man “created according to God in true righteousness and holiness” and in accordance with the “truth (that) is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:20-24).
My dear friends, by nature our understanding is darkened, our hearts are blind, and our minds focus merely on those things which bring us temporal pleasure. Where does that leave us with regard to our relationship with God? The apostle John writes in his 1st Epistle: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away” (2:15-17a). When, however, the Spirit of God has entered our hearts, convicted us of our sins, brought us to our knees in repentance before God, and instructed us in the truths of Jesus—how can we do anything other than “put away lying”?
Now, it is fairly easy to point the finger at someone else and say, “You should not lie,” and it is pretty easy to get angry when someone has lie to us or about us. But it is not so easy to direct that finger at ourselves when we do so, because when we are less than honest, we can generally rationalize our dishonesty quite easily. That is why we often speak of “white lies,” or why call some lies “fibs” which does not sound so bad. We, at times, convince ourselves that if we tell the truth, we will hurt someone’s feelings, so therefore we are justified in telling a lie; or we convince ourselves that if we tell the truth, we will do more harm than good and, therefore, are justified in lying. The bottom line, however, after all of the rationalizations are cut away, is that we are at times afraid to tell the truth. The truth, at times, makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps the truth will reveal our own sins and weaknesses, causing us to be ashamed. Perhaps the truth will reveal the sins or weaknesses of others, and we are afraid that if we tell the truth we will lose something—like the friendship of someone who is doing something wrong and needs to know the truth! Fear often causes us to forfeit the truth, but we need to know that the results of fear and the absence of truth will never bring us blessing! GOD CALLS UPON HIS CHILDREN TO BE HONEST! That means we are to put away lying!
That means that we are always to speak the truth! Paul quotes the prophet Zechariah when he says: “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (cf. Zechariah 8:16-17). Now we do not have to get into a long discussion of who is our neighbor, as if Paul is suggesting that we need to speak truth to our neighbor, but we can feel free to lie to others. No, Jesus in His parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we our neighbor is essentially everyone—everyone whom we meet and everyone whom we can help.
It does not help anyone to hear a lie! Lies proceed from the heart of Satan, whom Jesus identifies as the “father of lies” (cf. John 8:44). No matter how well intentioned we may think we are, lies can only and ultimately cause harm. Truth and honesty, on the other hand, come straight from the heart of God. Moses recorded these words of the prophet Balaam in Numbers 23:19a, “God is not a man, that He should lie.” Jesus prayed for each of us on Maundy Thursday evening saying, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). God deals with us honestly. Sometimes that hurts, because God’s truth reveals our own weaknesses and failures, but God’s truth ultimately leads to His love for us, and it is when we come to understand His love that we are empowered and enabled to overcome the trials of life and secure the victory leading to life everlasting! We are to be like God—standing up for the truth and telling the truth to everyone!
Now, earlier in this chapter, however, Paul does address how we are to speak the truth. He says, “Speak the truth in love” (cf. Ephesians 4:15). While the content of our words is important, the way in which I say them is also so very important. Our words may of necessity at times hurt, for if we are correcting or admonishing someone it may be difficult to do so. But those words can be uttered either like the dagger of an assassin, or like the scalpel in the hands of an accomplished surgeon. Let us be careful how we speak. If we must correct, let it be done in love. If we must admonish let it be done with care. Let us not stand as the high and mighty and brow-beat someone, but rather approach one another as a brother or sister in Christ. Let us tell the truth, but then speak those words which will also bring a message of love and forgiveness to the ears of those suffering hurt. Yes, GOD CALLS UPON HIS CHILDREN TO BE HONEST! Let us always speak the truth!
Let us always remember—as believers we are all members of Christ’s body! God had chosen to do His work among us primarily through His word—both spoken and written. Paul assures us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Consequently, the truth of God is not only important because of its content, but also in view of its express purpose, which is to bring faith to the hearts of those who hear it and lead them into a living relationship with the one, true God—their Savior and Lord!
When the apostle Paul reminds us that we are members of one another, he is expressing a truth that is repeated frequently within the Scriptures, primarily in the New Testament epistles. The apostle Paul points out that the preaching of the message of Jesus Christ brings us into a very special relationship with our heavenly Father and with each other—a relationship based upon the forgiveness of our sins and in view of our faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 1). Paul points out that our faith in Christ unites us in the body of Christ, so that even as our physical bodies have many different organs, and yet they are one body—helping and servicing each other, so we are one body helping and servicing each other.
Lies—dishonesty in any form—are like poison introduced to the body. Poison, if ingested, is dangerous. It harms the body and can even kill the body. If we are dishonest with each other, we will lose the trust that God establishes between us in view of our unity of faith. If we are dishonest with each other, we will become suspicious of each other and those suspicions will divert us from our true kingdom work as we no longer look ahead together and strive for common goals, but rather turn on each other with anger and thoughts of revenge. Remember, one of Satan’s original three tools of temptation used to lead our first parents to sin was a lie. Satan’s lie then and his lies now are intended to destroy trust and create suspicion, so that we might devour each other and then fail to accomplish everything good that God has in mind.
Truth, like a medicine properly administered, heals a body and helps a body recover and regain strength. Jesus came to administer God’s truths for our blessing. He told Pontius Pilate, “For this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, hears My voice” (John 18:37b). While Pilate then and many in our world today simply scoff and respond, “What is truth” (John 18:38), those of us whose hearts have been touched by the simple truths of Jesus, have experienced the healing power of Jesus. Let us not succumb to Satan, let us not succumb to our own rationalizations, which would lead us to be dishonest with one another. Rather, let us remember that by faith in Jesus we are united by the truth of God and charged with sharing that truth for the joy and salvation of many. Dear friends in Christ,GOD CALLS UPON HIS CHILDREN TO BE HONEST! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting