Speak Truth

Being able to take someone at their word is the foundation of every healthy relationship; believing we’re each speaking the truth enables us to understand and trust each other. Without this, no working relationship is even possible. Lying thus strikes at the very heart of friendship, and even of civilization itself.

Jordan Peterson challenges us to try to stop lying for 30 days, just to see what happens. Perhaps it’s striking … that we’re so accustomed to lying we need to be dared to stop; but it shouldn’t be a surprise – this is the default human condition. (Jn 3:19) But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; God can help us choose truthful speech as a pattern of life. (Ps 119:29)

Lying doesn’t just harm friendships and society, it rewires our own brains, distorting our very own nervous systems such that we can no longer properly orient ourselves in the world and recognize reality as it is. (Pr 1:28)

Deception is aligning our very own behavior contrary to the way we ourselves perceive reality, which signals our brains and bodies that reality isn’t what our senses are telling us; this actually corrupts and fractures our own ability to accurately perceive reality. (Pr 5:22) We deceive ourselves when we don’t act out the truth we already know (Ja 1:22), and self-imposed deception is the most dreadful kind of deception. (Mt 6:23)

Yet just because something’s true doesn’t necessarily mean we should volunteer it in conversation with others (Ep 4:15); there are dimensions of truth that others are not ready to hear. (Jn 16:12) Spewing truth with the wrong motive can be very destructive (Pr 12:18a); we must carefully consider whether our speech will tend to the general health and well-being of both ourselves and others (18b), and only speak in love. (Ep 4:15)

The real challenge comes when we feel pressed to speak truth that’s harmful or destructive. We might think we have no choice but to lie or let the truth do its harm, yet violating the law of Love isn’t an option (Ep 5:2); if our words won’t edify and help the overall situation, they’re forbidden. (Ep 4:29) Rather than letting others dictate our choices, we’re obligated in such cases to wisely re-focus the conversation on what’s truly edifying.

Consider the example of Christ, when those He’d miraculously fed were trying to forcibly make Him king. (Jn 6:15) After He evaded them by walking across a lake at night (18-19), they sought after Him and caught up with Him (24), asking how He’d managed to slip away. (25) Rather than telling them about the miracle, or offering them a little white lie in its place, Christ turned the attention on their true need. (26-27)

We’re made in the image of God as co-creators in eternity, and it’s primarily through our speech that we create. Whenever we open our mouths to speak, we fashion metaphysical reality from the void before us, bringing an eternal work into being which shall ultimately be on display before the entire universe for inspection and evaluation (Lk 12:3): we’ll give an account to God for every idle word we utter. (Mt 12:36) Let all the reality we create be true and right and good, for it’s by our words that we’ll either be justified or condemned. (37)

Speak truth to everyone, all the time (Ep 4:25), yet only speak prayerfully, as Christ Himself would speak (Col 3:17), seeking God for the ability to glorify Him and edify others. (Col 4:6) It’s wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep quiet (Ec 3:7), and as a rule, less is better. (Pr 10:19) As we speak, let’s remember the power of words (Pr 18:21), and speak appropriately. (Pr 15:23) While some truth cannot be spoken in love (1Co 3:2), there’s never a good time to lie. (Ps 119:163)

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By Thy Words

God cares about what we say; He’s paying attention to and recording every idle word. (Re 20:12) The LORD will require every one of us to give an explanation to Him before the universe for each and every word we’ve ever spoken, all of them, why we said what we said, what our motivation was. (Mt 12:36) We’ll be judged, justified or condemned, based on what we’ve uttered. (vs 37)

This is because our speech reveals our inmost nature, what we’re thinking and feeling is eventually expressed with our tongues. (vss 34-35) Most mere behavior is not necessarily good or bad, in and of itself: what gives an action its moral nature is why it’s done. What we say reveals our intent.

And our tongue, the enabler of speech, is a fire, a veritable world of iniquity, because it’s inextricably linked to our hearts, which are set on fire of Hell itself. (Ja 3:6) As we think in our hearts, so we are (Pr 23:7), and so we speak.

In light of this, we should be very careful with our hearts, continually examining ourselves for selfish, prideful motivations, constantly seeking God for a clean heart (Ps 51:10), that He would help us think, feel and speak rightly. (Ps 19:14)

We should measure our words and be precise in our speech, purifying our promises, only speaking what we fully intend to do. (Nu 30:2) We guard our mouths as with a bridle (Ps 39:1b) and think carefully before we speak. (Ja 1:19) We should always say what we mean and mean what we say, needing no oath to mark our sincerity. (Ja 5:12)

Our words are so powerful that God provides a remedy to correct commitments we happen make thoughtlessly, under duress, when we’re pressured in the heat of the moment to vow without proper time to examine our motives and consider the implications of what we’re saying. (Le 5:4)

In such cases, when we come to ourselves and realize what we’ve done, that we’ve committed ourselves in a manner that’s contrary to Love (Le 19:18), we promptly confess our sin, repent, and reconcile with God. (vs 5) God mercifully allows us to bring a sacrifice to Him to atone for our ways: it costs a life, one offered up in our stead (vs 6); it’s no light thing.

We can thus give account for careless words, spoken hastily and thoughtlessly, in advance, and address them now so we won’t be held accountable on Judgement Day. But words spoken under normal circumstances, with our wits about us, are etched into eternity for all to ponder. (Lk 12:3)

To think we can say whatever we like to get our way, to claim our lips are our own, that no one’s Lord over us (Ps 12:4), is to reveal a true enmity against Heaven. God’s people do not live like this. (Ps 39:1a)

As God did in Creation, it is through the spoken word that we who are made in His image bring forth metaphysical reality into existence from the chaos of the void before us; with our speech we create the present from the future to be eternally preserved in the past. We wound, we heal, we encourage and exhort, engaging in spiritual conflict for good or for evil. (Pr 12:18) Let us create soberly, fearfully, wisely.

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