The old joke goes like this: How can you tell when a lawyer is lying to you? Answer: His mouth is moving. I apologize to all of you lawyers and those who have a lawyer friend or relative. The real question is, “How can we tell when a Christian is lying?” The answer is: we can’t.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Why does Paul start this section that directly follows the description of the new man in Christ with this admonition: put away lying?
Perhaps on the one level, Paul started with this command because it is something that is so pervasive, even in the church. We learn as children that if we tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, sometimes that means punishment. Sometimes there is pain attached to the truth, so we learn to lie. When we get saved, we know it’s not good to lie, so we try not to lie, technically. But it is like riding a bike. Once you learn to do it, you never forget. We can lie to one another and not think twice about it. We can lie about how we are doing. We can lie about our sins. We can lie about our marriages. We can lie about our kids. We can lie about our financial struggles. We can lie about our fears. We can lie about our insecurities. We can lie about our loneliness. Not only can we lie about anything and everything, we can lie in so many different ways. We can lie with what we say. We can lie with what we don’t say. We can lie with a look. We can lie with a hug or a handshake. We can lie with a laugh. We can lie with a tear. We can lie with a big ol’ grin on our faces. We can lie with our presence. We can lie with our absence.
Speaking of absences, I remember when I was in the 11th grade, and I got it into my head that I really didn’t need to go to school every day, so I started skipping. It was easy to lie to my parents about it, since they were gone to work by the time my ride came to take me to school. It was easy to lie to my friends who came to pick me up: I would just stick my head out the door and shake it, with this sad, sick look like I didn’t feel well. It was easy to lie to my teachers. I just wrote them a note each time and signed Dad’s name to it. It was easy! After lying to my parents, friends, and teachers, I would go and lie on the couch all day and watch game shows. Talk about a sick puppy. I stayed home from school for “Let’s Make a Deal?!” Well, the Bible says your sins will find you out. It just so happened that my English teacher bumped into my dad at a meeting one night, about half-way through the year. “I’m so sorry that Mark has had such a problem with sickness this year,” he said, while looking at my dad to see his response. Just as he suspected, this was big news to my father. Dad sat me down that night and spelled it out for me. “You will stop lying to me about this. You will go to school every day and stay all day. Or…you will pack your bags and move out. As long as you’re living under my roof, you will do what I say. Finishing school is non-negotiable.”
Do you see what happened? As long as that thing was in the darkness, I could go on in my sin, even though it was eating away at my soul, while the TV programs were turning my brain to mush. But when it was brought into the light, it had to die. I don’t think any of us realize how much bondage and baggage comes along with every lie we tell. So, what should we do, starting yesterday?
Put away lying.