Eva and I have a female friend that often jokingly quotes Psalm116:11 to single young women: “All men are liars!” she says. But really, it’s no joke. The book, The Day America Told the Truth finds that the majority of us can’t get through a week without telling a lie. 1 in 5 of us can’t make it through a single day without lying. And we’ll lie to just about anyone, and we’re more likely to lie to those we are most closely related. In fact, 91% of us lie regularly. It has become a cultural trait. Child magazine reported that we should no longer read Pinocchio to our kids because lying is healthy for them. Psalm 116:11 was never truer: All people are liars!
But the word for us today is “truthfulness.” In Exodus 20:16, it says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” It’s the Ninth of the Ten Words to Change our Lives, God calls us to honesty and integrity in our speech. In short, we should practice truthfulness. Instead, we practice lying in a variety of ways. We are apt to flatter someone to gain their approval or to exaggerate our own accomplishments to win respect. If we don’t like someone, we will insinuate falsehood about him or even deliberately slander her. Sometimes we’ll deceive others by remaining silent in the face of lies. No matter what method we choose, the book of Proverbs reminds us that lying remains destructive. Proverbs 11:9 says, “With his mouth the ungodly destroys his neighbor” showing the damage we do to others with our lies. Amazingly, lying is just as destructive to the person doing the lying. Proverbs 11:3 says “dishonesty will destroy those who are not trustworthy (NCV),” meaning it will bring ruin to the person who lies.
If lying is so dangerous and destructive, what should we do? We need to develop a truthful tongue and here six biblical ways to do just that.
First, each of us needs a heart transplant. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matt 12:34). If we want to be truthful, we need to get honest with God. We do this by recognizing that we have failed, that Jesus died to take the punishment for all our failures, and then was raised from the dead. If we trust in what Jesus has done for us, the Bible says we’ll be transformed from within, in other words, we’ll get a new heart.
Second, we must confess our lies immediately. The Bible teaches that when we disobey God, we need to talk with Him about it right away. Here’s what the apostle John wrote: “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Confession actually means agreeing with God, and we need to get on the same page as the Lord immediately after failing Him.
Third, we should pray for truthfulness. David wrote, “Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips” (Psa 141:3). The wisdom writer prayed, “Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me” (Prov 30:8). If we want something deeply, we’ll pray for it, and that includes praying for a truthful tongue.
Fourth, it’s wise for us to be surrounded with the truth. There’s several ways we can accomplish that. For example, in John 17:17, Jesus told His Father, “Your word is truth.” Daily input of the Bible is a way to be surrounded by the truth. Another way is to be surrounded by truthful people. Paul reminded us, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Cor 15:33). If we hang with people who lie, we’ll become liars. The converse is true is well; If we associate with honest people, we’ll be influenced towards honesty. And yet another way to be surrounded with the truth is to consciously choose truthful thoughts. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things” (Phil 4:8).
Fifth, we need to practice disciplined speech. In Psalm 39, David wrote, “I said, ‘I will guard my ways so that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle as long as the wicked are in my presence’” (Ps 39:1). If we want to get good at something, we need to practice it, whether it’s playing piano, hitting a baseball, or cooking a meal. If we want to be truthful, we need to learn to practice honesty, by constantly muzzling our mouths.
Finally, we need to always be loving when we speak the truth. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Speaking the truth with love.” Too often, truth tellers are perceived as harsh and unkind. Therefore, we need to balance our honest words with kindness, always wanting what is best for those to whom we speak.
In the old movie called Crazy People, an advertizing executive began to tell the truth about the products he was advertizing. For example one slogan he wrote was, “Volvos: They’re boxy but good.” Although he was very successful, everyone thought he’d lost his mind and was put into a mental institution. It’s a funny story but it’s not true. The reality is, if we become people who are truthful, those around us will learn to trust us. Truthfulness is the path to becoming trusted family members, dependable co-workers, and faithful friends.