“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” Ephesians 4:25
In my first church ministry, I pastored a small, newly planted congregation, which meant that I shouldered many of the week-to-week office responsibilities. So, when the Sunday school curriculum needed to be ordered, our volunteer superintendent came to me with a gentle reminder: “Hey, Pastor, don’t forget to order the curriculum for the next quarter.”
“No problem!” I confidently replied. And then I promptly forgot.
The following Sunday, I bumped into him and his wife. “Hey, Pastor, did you remember to order the curriculum?”
I’m ashamed to say that my response was spontaneous and devastatingly deceitful. Without missing a beat, the urge for self-protection and preservation of personal pride emerged, and I straight out lied, “Yep!” and promptly walked to my office.
As I pulled my sermon notes out of my briefcase, God’s conviction in my spirit was brutal.
It was as though God were saying, “So you’re the preacher are you? The truth-teller from the pulpit today?” The Spirit’s probing was penetrating. I knew I was in deep weeds with God. The Bible tells us that He is truth and He cannot lie. Lying makes the “big-ten” list of sins in the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus said that Satan is the father of lies. So I was stuck! I had two alternatives. FedEx overnight. They’d never know! But I would, and so would God. The other option was to bring them into my office, admit my sin, and plead their forgiveness.
I knew that I needed to do what our text today commands us to do, to “put off falsehood” and speak truthfully to our neighbors. The church is to be a place marked by a commitment to truth, because our God is a God who is true. Genuine, loving relationships are always anchored in truth. When we veer from that, even a little, the consequences are disastrous—damaged relationships, compromised leadership, and most sadly, a loss of mutual trust, integrity, and effectiveness in our witness for Jesus Christ.
That Sunday morning I learned how strong our desire for self-preservation and self-glory can be. Lies offer the opportunity to keep people thinking well of us, and they are great for getting ourselves out of a tight jam. I also learned how hard it is to admit this kind of a failure. Admitting the truth about my lie would expose how flawed I really am. And, after all, I was the pastor. Pastors don’t make mistakes. I feared that revealing the real pastor who lived under the navy blue preaching suit could put my ministry at risk.
But ultimately, and thankfully, God’s Spirit gently prodded me to value the truth more than my own reputation, and I found myself calling the superintendent and his wife into my office.
“As your pastor, I am committed to the truth,” I said. “I failed to tell you the truth this morning. I not only forgot to order the curriculum this week, but then lied to you about it just now. I am deeply sorry and need to ask for your forgiveness.”
With grace and love, this dear couple instantly replied, “Oh, Pastor, that’s alright. We forgive you.” And I was able to continue my ministry that morning with a renewed sense of humility and wonder at the grace of God, and with a relationship restored.
I know it can be difficult to tell the truth sometimes. But the consequences of unchecked deception are lethal. Make the right choice: Tell the truth. Take it from me; you’ll be glad you did!
- Do you have areas of deception in your life today? In your marriage? In your schoolwork? In your workplace relationships?
- What would you need to do to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to [your] neighbor” today?
- If your life has fallen into a pattern of deception and lies, you can start the process of returning to the truth with one small step. Contact one person you have lied to and confess the truth. The temporary consequences you may face are far less serious than the consequences of allowing deception to go unchecked!