Telling the truth is a foundational touchstone to our way of life. Can you imagine trying to get through a single day not knowing if others are telling us the truth about anything? Truth is such a vital part of our way of life that we must assume that others are telling us the truth in order to make sense out of anything. Chaos and disorder are the results of lies and dishonesty.
Telling the truth is pretty much a voluntary choice that we must choose to conform to daily. Telling the truth may not always seem to our advantage and we might struggle when we perceive that might be the case. When the police officer asks us, “Do you know how fast you were driving?”, it might seem to our disadvantage to tell the truth. I am guessing that every human being might struggle with telling the truth at one time or another.
Let me share a time that taught me that telling the truth is better than the alternative. I had recently married my wife. We were as most new couples typically poor and had little extra in the money department. One of the gifts from my wife’s parents to us was her car. It was generous of them to give it to us and I knew I would have to register it with the state I was living in at the time. To transfer title, I would be required to pay a tax based on what I had paid for the car. It seemed like a lot of money at the time. The day came for me to change the registration and truthfully, I was struggling with what to tell the DMV what I paid for the car. I didn’t pay anything as it was a gift, so I thought that they might value the car more highly than I wanted to pay tax on. I was tossing around in my mind what price they might believe if I told them a low figure. I struggled with telling the truth as I stood in line. As I neared the front of the line, I had settled on a ficticous low price for the car. Finally, I stood in front of the lady behind the counter and eventually she asked me how much I paid for the car. In a moment I knew I would be haunted by my dishonestly and I told her the truth. “It was actually a gift,” is what I told her, expecting that I would be taxed heavily for my honesty. To my surprise she said, “Oh, there is a one-time exemption for a gift. It’s your lucky day sir, no tax!”
I stood there feeling grateful, but more than a little sheepish. I had almost decided to not tell the truth and now it was my “lucky” day? Such irony.
I have pondered this. If I had gone through with my original plan to not tell the truth, perhaps I would have “gotten away with it,” however I might never have known that I actually cheated myself by not knowing about the gift exemption. I might have thought I saved myself some money and wrestled with my conscience trying to rationalize my actions when in reality I ended up with a clear conscience and no tax. The only way I would have known was to do what ultimately I ended up doing, telling the truth.
I wonder how many times this scenario is played out with different parts and pieces in all of our moral choices? How many times have we “gotten away with it” and in reality cheated ourselves? We may never know when we take the outcome into our own hands. We diminish the possibility for grace and mercy to be offered to us when we choose against the truth. Sure, we might be penalized even if we do tell the truth, but perhaps that is the price of a clear conscience.
“Better is the poor who walks in his integrity
Than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.”
— Proverbs 19:1 (NKJV)
“They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”
— Jonah 2:8 (KJV)
Rev. Stephen Brown has served as the Senior Pastor of New Life for the past 26 years.