When I was in the first grade, many, many years ago, I heard a story about our first President, George Washington. The story had a major impact on my life then and since. The story was about George Washington being given a hatchet when he was about six years old, which he took and used it to chop down everything in sight. One morning he even chopped down a cherry tree. When he was caught and confronted by his father, young George hesitated but told his father, “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree.” Rather than punishing George, his father praised him for tell the truth. Since the first grade unto now, I have believed in the value of telling the truth.
The world since my first grade days has changed drastically in every field of endeavor; from science to entertainment, from politics and religion. Especially in the area of truth, its usage and value. Sir Winston Churchill hit the nail on the head relative to the power and influence of a lie: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
A business that has emerged in the past few years, and is especially used during this political seasons, is fact checking. The statements by politician are checked relative to whether they are true or false. The most outrageous lie is given a Pinocchio award. This is a sad commentary on the state of our nation, the media, and the lack of value placed on truth.
We live in a day when many people have no trouble with accepting a lie, as long as it fosters a cause they believe in. And interviewer on the street was asking questions about, “When is it okay to lie?” The answers were shocking and amazing. Most answers can be summarized by, “It is okay to lie as long as it doesn’t physical hurt anyone and it helps you succeed in life. The consensus was that everybody lies, so it is no big deal.
Years ago I read a little piece of humor that has stayed with me as a preacher. A preacher and his family were driving home from a morning service, when the soft voice of his son asked from the backseat, “Dad, this morning up in the pulpit where you preaching or were you telling the truth?”
Truth will always be truth, regardless of lacking understanding, enjoying a wrong, disbelief, or ignorance. Truth, from God’s perspective doesn’t change with the times, passage of new laws, acceptance by popularity, or because it is being championed by the masses. Jesus Christ, the truth incarnate, said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
A lie has never freed anyone. Oh, it may make you feel good, happy and accepted for a while, but sooner or later it will find you out and let you down (cf. Numbers 32:23).
Speaking of truth, it is a biblical fact that God’s people have always had problems with the truth. Here is an example in the days of Isaiah. “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who said to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits’” (Isaiah 30:9, 10). Another classic case is the Jews stoning Stephen while he was preaching the truth (cf. Acts 7:54-60).
It is easy to be duped by philosophy and traditions. Pilate bought into the popular epistemological quest of his day, promoted by Greek philosophers, when he asked, “What is truth?” (cf. John 18:38). Pilate was, knowingly or unknowingly, championing Marcus Aurelius who had said, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
The major enemy of the truth is Satan. This is obvious when we first meet him in the Garden of Eden, and he offered Eve the possibility of becoming a god herself (cf. Genesis 3:1-8). Jesus affirmed the status of Satan as a liar and cause of others to lie: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Whatever happened to the truth? From the Garden of Eden until today, Satan has influenced mankind to adjust, reject, and trivialize it. No one nor any discipline, saint or sinner, is exempt from his goal of tampering with the truth and destroying it completely. This is why we need to heed the words of Solomon: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).
What is truth? The clarion voice of Christ answers: “Jesus said unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one come to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6). In chapter one of John’s gospel he declares that Jesus is the incarnate Word, the living truth. Therefore, His words are true, “Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Therefore, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
To borrow a principle from the apostle Paul, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without significance” (1 Corinthians 14:10). As Christians, truth lovers and seekers, we must be careful as we listen to these voices. Are they speaking the truth? How do we know if they are or are not speaking the truth? Just because it is a spokesperson on a popular media outlet, politician with charisma, charming TV preacher, or a so-called documentary, we must “Buy the truth and sell it not.” We must with an open mind and heart seek to “know the truth.” The word of God, rightly divided, exegeted, and applied is the key to knowing and using the truth.
Whatever happened to the truth? There are several Scriptural answers: First, Satan steals the word—truth—out of human hearts (Luke 8:12). Second, people fail to take the truth seriously; like King Agrippa (cf. Acts 26:24-32). Third, the study of the truth of God’s word is neglected by both Christians and non-believers (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15). Fourth, there are those who do not love the truth (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10). Fifth, there are those, for whatever reasons, who turn the truth into a lie (cf. Romans 1:25). Sixth, there are those who are afraid of making enemies or losing friend if they speak the truth (cf. Galatians 4:16). Seventh, the lust of the flesh and temptation to sin reduces the power of the truth in a person’s life (cf. James 1:11-17).
Whatever happened to the truth? Regardless of the answers, those of us who love the truth must buy it with commitment, study, sharing it and living it in a lying and sinful world (cf. 1 John 5:19).