Truth-Telling

God is a truth-teller.
We must be truth-tellers.

 

by Dan Busby

 

Truth is to trust as Einstein is to physics and as the Wright brothers are to flight.

Most truths are so
naked that people
feel sorry for them
and cover them up,
at least a little bit.
Edward R. Murrow

Trust starts with truth-telling—telling the naked truth. This is a metaphor for plain and unadorned truth from an ancient Roman fable. Truth and Falsehood went for a swim. Falsehood emerged from the water first, dressed in Truth’s clothes, and departed. Truth refused to wear the clothing Falsehood had left behind, preferring to go naked instead.

“What is the nature of truth? The New Testament says—and I believe—that truth is a person. I think truth is also a quality. The poet John Keats would have us believe that truth is beauty, and in many cases it is. Truth can at time be a promise. Truth can be communication. There are many wonderful ways in which to think about the concept of truth” as Max De Pree put it.[1]

The Bible gives clear guidance on truth: “We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God” (2 Cor. 4:1–2).

Christ did not simply
speak the truth;
He was the Truth—
Truth through
and through,
for truth is a thing
not of words
but of life and being.
Frederick William Robertson

There are six things that God detests—that he abhors. Among them is giving a false witness (Prov. 6:16–19). It is not just an offense on the person. It is an offense on God.

“God never lies” (Titus 1:2). Some translations say, “God cannot lie.” He is always truthful. There is no deception or dishonesty in God at all.

In contrast, Satan is a liar. He is the father of all lies (John 8:44). If we lie, we are doing something that will benefit me at your expense. We are assaulting the other person. We are also showing a lack of trust in God when we do not trust that He can work in a situation.

“A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club or a sword or a sharp arrow” (Prov. 25:18 ESV). Their actions assault people and murder reputations. It is the equivalent of pulling a gun on them. You are willfully intending to do malicious harm. It may be saying something that is untrue without saying all that is true. It could be repeating something someone has said without checking the facts.

There is an old Jewish proverb about a rabbi who lived in a small town. He was a man of good character. He had given many years of his life serving the community. People saw him as an honest, trustworthy man.

What is true has never
been a question
to be decided by polls
or popular opinion.
Truth isn't "democratic"—
it's something that
God has written into the
very fabric of nature.
Chuck Colson

One day a visitor came to town and began saying untruthful, horrible things about the rabbi that undermined his credibility and character. This led to a lot of speculation and division in the community. Some became suspicious of the rabbi’s character. Others assumed every negative thing the visitor said was true and turned against the rabbi. This devastated the man who had worked so hard for so many years to build up a reputation in that community. This went on for some time. The visitor decided to stay in that town and make it his home.

After some time had elapsed, the man who had undermined the reputation of the rabbi met with him and said, “I regret everything I said about you. It was unfounded and untrue. I want to make it up to you. So what can I do to fix what I have broken?” The rabbi said, “I want you to go home and take your pillow from your bed. Take the pillow outside the house and on a windy day, I want you take the pillowcase and I want you to scatter all of the feathers from your pillow into the wind.”

The man went home and did as the rabbi asked, releasing all of the feathers from his pillow to the wind. The man then came back to the rabbi and said, “I did what you told me. Is there anything else I can do?” And the rabbi said, “You need to take your pillowcase and collect every single feather and put them back in the pillowcase.” The man said, “That’s impossible.” “Yes,” said the rabbi, nodding gravely, “that is how it is: once a rumor, a gossipy story, a ‘secret,’ leaves your mouth, you do not know where it ends up. It flies on the wings of the wind, and you can never get it back!”

Once someone tells a lie about a person or a ministry—especially if the lie is shared in cyberspace—the lie lives on and continues to harm the people and organizations.

He occasionally stumbled
over the truth, but hastily
picked himself up and
hurried on as if nothing
had happened.
Winston Churchill
said of Stanley Baldwin

Today we have the ability to slander people more effectively and more quickly than ever before in the history of the world because of technology. Today’s communication is constant, global, and permanent. You can get upset, key in a few words, and send it to the world—24/7.

About 40 times in John’s Gospel, we read: I tell you the truth, I tell you the truth, I tell you the truth. In instances, the Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, said: “I am not lying” (Rom. 9:1 ESV). “I am the way, the truth and the life,” said Jesus (John 14:6 NIV). Jesus is the truth, He says the truth, and He does the truth. “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matt. 5:37 NKJV). We need to be plain-spoken people in our communication about who God is.

Speedy Morris was the basketball coach for LaSalle University. One day, he was shaving when his wife told him Sports Illustrated was on the phone. He got so excited over the prospect of national recognition that he hurried his shave and nicked himself. Not wanting to delay the caller, he ran out of the bathroom, lost his balance, and tumbled down the stairs. Limping, and with blood and lather on his face, he finally got to the phone. “Sports Illustrated?” he panted. Imagine his disappointment when the voice on the other end droned, “Yes it is. We are calling with a special offer on your subscription.” The Sports Illustrated operator was technically correct, but she could have been more forthcoming.[2]

Truth is vital for Christ-centered ministries because

• Truth flows from the Word of God. His Word is pure and unchangeable (Prov. 30:5).

• Truth reflects God’s character; lies reflect Satan’s character. When we speak the truth, we are imitators of God (John 8:44 and Eph. 5:1).

• God’s truth is the supreme weapon against the father of lies. Only when we know the truth and commit ourselves to obey it will we stand strong (Prov. 19:9; Ps. 101:7).

If we are not truth-tellers, the following may occur:

1. Integrity may falter—consenting to improper actions in the ministry.

2. We may make bold claims that we know cannot be wholly substantiated.

3. We may be prone to selective integrity—telling the truth part of the time but not all of the time.

4. We may stoop to repeating what someone else said without checking to see if it is true.

5. We may say some things that are untrue about a person or a situation without saying all that is true.

If I only had three words
of advice, they would be,
"Tell the truth."
If I got three more words,
I'd add, "All the time."
Randy Pausch

As you will read in the next chapter, I grew up in the country. But I learned that living in the country is a relative thing. As the story goes, one day some folks were trying to find a family that lived outside of our village. One of the “locals” drew them a map, and off they went. First they drove 8.4 miles on a county paved road. Then, they turned on a gravel road for 4.6 miles. At the end of the gravel road, they came to what was simply two ruts across a pasture. They went 3.7 miles in the ruts. Then, they drove 2.2 miles on what was nothing more than a varmint trail. They came to a creek . . . pretty deep, a swift current . . . and no bridge. They saw a rope, and it appeared that people had used it to swing back and forth across the creek based on some worn spots in the grass on each side of the creek. So, they swung across the creek.

They saw a house in the distance and they started toward it, “helloing” the house as they went. (When you approach a house in the country, you “hello” the house for your own safety.) They walked up to the house and were about to knock when they saw a note fastened to the rusty screen with a straight pin. There were seven words scrawled in pencil on that scrap of tablet paper. It read: “Gone to the country for the weekend.”

I shared that story to tell you this. In some circles, it seems like truth is relative and has gone to the country for the weekend. But truth is not relative—truth is truth, and its importance is eternal.

God set the example of telling the truth—the whole truth—all of the time.

In Ezekiel 22:30, we read:

I looked for someone to stand up for me against all this, to repair the defenses of the city, to take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect this land so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. I couldn’t find anyone. Not one.

In 1 Corinthians 13:6 (AMP), we see that love and truth are strongly linked together. The love that only comes from God “rejoices when right and truth prevail.” God is happy, He is full of joy, and He rejoices when truth prevails, when truth wins, and when truth flowers.[3]

God is a truth-teller. We must be truth-tellers.

 

  Questions   for reflection

 

 

Yes Absolutely

To Some Extent

Not At All

  1. Is truth-telling a value that is consistently articulated at the ministry—starting with top leaders?

 

 

 

 

  1. When a staff member shades the truth in any way, does senior leadership immediately raise the integrity issue and insist that the communication be corrected?

 

 

 

  1. Are all communications between the ministry and its constituents consistently and thoroughly truthful—the website, other electronic messaging, printed material, spoken communication, and more?

 

 

 

  1. Is all messaging not only truthful but complete? In other words, is anything omitted in the messaging that, if shared, would provide a different view of a particular matter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Max De Pree, Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1997), 100.

[2] Max Lucado, And the Angels Were Silent: The Final Week of Jesus (Portland, Ore.: Multnomah, 1992), 60.

[3] Based on a paper, “ECFA: Building Credibility and Confidence.” Presented on September 11, 1979 by Ted W. Engstrom, chairman, temporary board of directors, to representatives of the founding ECFA members gathered in Chicago, Illinois.

 

From TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness, ECFAPress, 2015, www.ECFA.org/KnowledgeCenter.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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