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)