In the first two essays in this “Back to Basics” series for the Disciplined Order (much of which is based on Dr. Albert Day’s classic book, Discipline and Discovery), I set forth the cause of our Lifestyle, which included a study of the virtue of obedience.  In the third essay we began to consider the calling of our lifestyle.  Under that heading we noted several practical virtues that call us to specific, outward lifestyle decisions: simplicity, frugality, and generosity.  
 
            In the last essay we move from the calling of our lifestyle to its character.  The remaining four virtues that Dr. Day sets forth in Discipline and Discovery all deal with character issues.  So in essay six we studied the first of the four character virtues, humility.  My basic approach was to suggest four things humility is not.  It is not self-righteousness.  It is not weakness.  It is not a lack of self-esteem.  And it is not a denial of one’s gifts and graces. 
 
            Turning to the positive side of humility, I suggested that the truly humble person is one who has dismissed the self from the center of life, one who is more interested in accomplishing the will of God than his or her own ambitions.  In other words humble persons are as righteous as possible, without being self-righteous.  They are strong, without being self-willed.  They recognize their limitations, without being self-deprecating.  And they acknowledge their gifts and abilities, without self-aggrandizement. 
 
            So then, humility is the first virtue of the Christian lifestyle that displays character.  The second, to which we will give attention in this essay, is the virtue of truthfulness.  Dr. Day’s chapter on truthfulness is excellent.  He begins with a discussion of the meaning of the concept of truth; a question that you will remember bothered Pontius Pilate.  At Jesus’ trial Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38)  Unfortunately, no answer by Jesus is recorded.  But as Dr. Day points out, the distinction between the truth and a lie is not always easy to make (D&D, p. 91). 
 
            At Asbury College, where I taught for nearly thirty years, we occasionally had students with a very legalistic turn of mind.  I remember one in particular who simply could not grasp the finer distinctions in regard to truth.  He insisted that one should be truthful, that is never lie, under any circumstances.  To him a lie to the Nazi Gestapo to save the life of a Jew in hiding during World War II would be morally equivalent to a lie to the FBI to protect a family member who was a serial killer. 
 
            That student had no ability to see the possibility of a larger truth that would create situations where lesser truths must be violated.  There are situations where we must choose between two evils.  For example, we might have to choose between obeying God (which is a biblical command) and obeying the civil government (which also is a biblical command).  Of course in situations like that we must obey God.  Thus one who is faced with that choice must disobey a biblical command, because a greater biblical principle is at stake. 
 
            The classic case of this very conflict in the first century was the Roman government’s insistence that all citizens, including Christians, worship the Roman Emperor as a god.  Christians couldn’t do that and remain obedient to God.  So they had to defy the government, disobeying one biblical command in order to keep another. 
 
            An interesting illustration used by Dr. Day is the physician-patient relationship.  Physicians often are reluctant to tell patients the truth about their physical condition, because a straightforward explanation might discourage the patient, who then might give up the fight when there still is hope.  To tell a patient that he or she has one chance in a hundred could cause the patient to lose hope in the one chance.  So the physician uses hopeful language instead.  And many would argue that the hopeful language they use is not a lie; it is the truth (D&D, pp. 91-92).
 
            But as interesting as these theoretical situations that represent moral dilemmas are, in the real lives that most of us live, these are not the issues over which we fail.  For most of us, when we fail in the area of truthfulness, it is in connection with a principle with which we fully agree.  For example, Bible believing Christians agree completely that Christians ought not to fornicate or commit adultery.  But some among us become so frustrated with the level of intimacy, sexual pleasure, or excitement that we are experiencing that we compromise that great truth and sin against God.  
 
            And of course a decision of that kind immediately requires further compromise.  Cheating on a spouse, for example, demands a constant flow of lies: lies about the extra-marital relationship, lies about one’s whereabouts, and lies about what one has been doing.  Truthfulness thus becomes something sacrificed on the altar of self-indulgence.
 
            I assume that most who are reading this essay have avoided these cruder sins.  But how have we responded in other kinds of relationships and situations?  Again, Bible believing Christians agree that we ought to be very honest in all the situations and relationships in which we find ourselves, apart from those rare ethical dilemmas mentioned above.  But we have a desire to receive honor and affirmation, and we sometimes respond in immoral ways. 
 
            Illustrating from my teaching experience again, I know that Christian students at Asbury College sometimes cheat on examinations in order to receive a particular grade that they want, or need.  Christians have been known to falsify their resumes in order to get a particular job.  Occasionally Christian scholars plagiarize the work of others in order to make their writings more suitable for publication.  There are Christian ministers who consistently misrepresent the size of their congregations, even in official reports to the denomination.  Indeed it is an embarrassment to the ordained ministry that exaggeration of attendance figures and the like is so common among ministers that a negative, colloquial expression has entered into the language of our culture.  Have you ever heard the expression, “a preacher’s estimate?”  
 
            Another area in which truthfulness sometimes suffers at the hand of Christians is that of money.  We all have a natural desire for things that are beautiful or that please in other ways.  And we enjoy the power that comes with money.  Therefore it is very tempting to cheat on our taxes, “cut corners” on a contract, or take advantage of a person whom we know to be vulnerable because of a business setback.  There is something despicable about a Christian businessman’s driving a sharp bargain with someone just when that person is reeling financially?  After all, from a business standpoint that is the way to maximize profits. 
 
            There is no doubt.  Lying is the selfish self’s strategy for getting what it wants and keeping what it has.  For that reason (as Dr. Day reminds us) being truthful is our most effective strategy to deflate and destroy our selfish self, and free ourselves for fellowship with God (D&D, p. 95; the above several paragraphs are based roughly on p.94).
 
            Thus we must resist the lie in every area of life.  We must be truthful in our relationships so that they can develop in an atmosphere of trust.  This is especially true in our families.  We must be truthful in our work so that our employers can count on us to do what is best for the company.  We must be truthful in our finances so that unbelievers cannot rightly accuse us of dishonesty, or worse yet, hypocrisy. 
 
            But in addition, we must discipline our words, voice tones, and actions, because it is easy to mislead others by these means.  For example, one easily can exaggerate the truth into a falsehood.  It also is easy to speak true words with a tone of voice that communicates something quite different from what the words express.  And we all know how to lie with body language. 
 
            Day tells of a politician who sought a way of commenting favorably, but truthfully, on all the babies that mothers brought to his political rallies, no matter how misbehaved or ugly they were.  In the latter cases he decided to say, “”Well, this is a baby!”  Of course the statement was true.  It was not a baboon.  But the way he said it implied more than the words actually said.  It implied that the baby “was an unusually perfect specimen of an infant.”  Thus Day believed the politician’s truth was a lie (D&D, p. 99). 
 
            Day’s advice at the conclusion of the chapter was as follows.  Watch your words.  For example, check your exaggerations, and if necessary, apologize for them. 
 
            Watch your tone of voice.  The inflections or tones we use easily can mislead people. 
 
            Watch your actions.  A shrug of the shoulder, a way of moving the eyes can create a lie without a word said. 
 
            And avoid taking credit for the ideas of others (plagiarism).  Whether writing or speaking, give credit where it is due. 

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