November 13, 2016
One of my favorite baseball stories doesn’t involve big-name stars on a major league baseball team. It’s about a boy just starting to play the game. The story appeared a few years ago in “Sports Illustrated.” http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-honesty-complete-virtue-2-kings-12
The umpire, Laura Benson, called the runner out, but young Tanner immediately ran to her side and said, “Ma’am, I didn’t tag the runner.” (Ibid)
Umpire Benson reversed the call and sent the runner to second base, and Tanner’s coach gave him the game ball for his honesty. (Ibid)
Two weeks later, Laura Benson was again the umpire and Tanner was playing shortstop when a similar play occurred. This time Benson ruled that Tanner had missed the tag on a runner going to third base and she called the runner safe. Tanner looked at Benson and, without saying a word, tossed the ball to the pitcher and returned to his position. Benson sensed something was wrong. “Did you tag the runner?” she asked Tanner. (Ibid)
His reply: “Yes.” (Ibid)
Benson then called the runner out. The opposing coaches protested until she explained what had happened two weeks earlier. “If a kid is that honest,” she said, “I have to give it to him. This game is supposed to be for kids.” (Ibid)
Where are the Tanner Munseys in our world?
If you did an Internet fact check after the recent presidential debates, it would have been difficult to find one running for President.
But before we digress into politics, let’s look in the mirror, for after all, this is one subject where it’s easy to look at the speck in someone else’s eye when we may have a log sticking out of our own.
As the Bible says, “There is no one righteous, not even one …. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit” (Rom. 3:10-13).
Once I stopped by to see an elderly woman who lived in a trailer with her dog. Even though her son lived nearby, he allowed his mother to live in a filthy home. The trailer should have been condemned and it was obvious by the smell of urine that reeked from inside that the dog didn’t make it outside often enough.
On this particular day I had my sons with me. John was about six. Ryan was about four. I was able to get the dear woman to come outside and sit on the steps and we chatted for a while before the dog made his way to the door. Four-year-old Ryan squeezed by the woman and the gate to pet the dog. That’s when he caught a whiff of the inside of the trailer.
He came back and interrupted our conversation and he asked the woman why her house “stinked.” Well she wasn’t quite sure what he said so she turned to me and asked, “What did he say?”
Let me pause here and say that I read a book in seminary called “Situational Ethics,” by Joseph Fletcher. We debated questions in class like, “Are there times when it is justified to do something wrong when we think it could bring about something good?”
Was it wrong for Robin Hood to steal from the rich and give to the poor?
Was it wrong to lie to the Nazis if a person was hiding a Jew in World War II?
Was it wrong to protect the soul of an elderly woman from the honesty of a four-year-old who asked an embarrassing question?
I didn’t think so, but no sooner had the lie come out of my mouth to cover my boy’s insensitive honesty, he rebuts my words and says, “Naw-uh, that’s not what I said. I said “Why does your house stink?”
And that time, without any doubt, she heard what my son said.
I suppose there are rare times when lying does have its situational moments. In the Old Testament, Rahab lied as she hid the spies in her house that had entered the Promised Land. Most people would probably lie to protect their family from physical harm, but we are on slippery ground when we begin to rationalize the truth because the Bible says that “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22).
Why it is so? Read the sign in the parking lot. What does it say? “It’s all about relationships.”
Lying destroys relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Lying destroys trust.
When we realize that the person we are in relationship with cannot be trusted, then the foundation of the relationship erodes away.
People also lie because we have trouble being honest with ourselves.
Sometimes it is difficult to see ourselves as other people see us.
Let’s say you are a person who constantly makes promises that you cannot keep. You tell people that you will show up for an event or help out with a project or be somewhere at a particular time but it doesn’t happen.
Now all of us have made calendaring mistakes and have actually forgotten meetings, which we’ve had to apologize for. However, some people have a pattern of making promises that they do not plan to keep. This is really a form of lying.
When you say you are going to do something and you know in your heart that it’s not likely to happen, there is no integrity in that. After a while, people get tired of hearing excuses. This destroys relationships.
If confronted, these people often become defensive and might even try to rationalize their behavior. However, this erodes marriages, and relationships between parents and children. Friendships dissolve. People lose jobs because of this.
People lie because lying begets lying. It’s like the Lays Potato Chips slogan, “Bet you can’t eat just one.” One lie almost always leads to another. This is the trap that Satan likes to set for us.
Lying is like a drug. There is a little bit of adrenaline rush for some people. Saying something we know is not true and getting away with it is like getting something for free. We didn’t have to earn it. So some people wonder, “If I got away with it one time, can I get away with it again?”
Proverbs 11:1 “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.”
As far back as there has been trading going on, people have devised ways to get more than their fair share in a trade. Do you think they cheated people just one time and stopped? Oh, no. If they got away with it once, they were caught in the web of temptation like an insect in a spider’s web.
Once I did the funeral for a family in Moultrie. The deceased had two sons. The younger son talked his dying father into changing the will, leaving everything to him. Of course, the older son felt cheated. The scales and the balances had been turned against him at the last minute, assisted by a brother who struggled to hold down a job and had depended on his parents for support for much of his life.
If I knew his back story, it wouldn’t surprise me to discover that he had cheated others before he cheated his brother. Of course, this lack of honesty destroyed his relationship with his brother.
When people discover they have been deceived or cheated out of what should be theirs, restoring that relationship becomes very difficult.
The prophet Jeremiah knew and understood that we have a heart condition. He wrote, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (17:9, NASB).
Our hearts were pure in the beginning but were poisoned with a lie from the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve are told that they could eat of any tree in the garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Gen. 2:17)
The serpent comes to Eve and tells her, “You will not die.”
That’s not the lie. Look again at the warning God gave Adam: “…for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
But because of God’s mercy, Adam lived for 930 years after that. So the serpent didn’t lie when he said, “You will not die.”
The lie comes in verse 5: “…for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
“You will be like God.” That’s the lie. That didn’t happen.
“Knowing good and evil.” That was also a lie. That didn’t happen either. (http://larryeubanks.com/serpent-lie-death/)
Why do we lie? We still want to be our own gods. We still think that we can make our own rules about what is right and what is wrong.
What we cannot seem to understand is that our lying unabated and unforgiven will eventually lead to death, the death of love, trust, hope, peace, joy, and relationships.
As long as people believe there is something to be gained, people will be tempted to lie. It seems that the threat of repercussions from lying is not enough to keep some people honest.
It’s not as though people don’t know the truth. There is wisdom in the adage, “Everybody knows what truth is because everybody knows how to lie.”
But not everyone knows Jesus or tries to live by his teachings. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The lie that Satan wants us to believe is that by concealing the truth we gain more than by sharing the truth, when actually what happens is that lying actually binds us.
We become bound by our unforgiveness, our bitterness, our anger, our lack of trust, our desire for revenge, and our broken relationships, all of which result from lies.
Jesus once met a Samaritan woman by a well in the middle of the day. The fact that she was there alone without other women tells us that she probably didn’t have a good relationship with the other women. Her world had become small and lonely.
Jesus began to speak to her, which was against the custom of his day. As they talked he asked her to go get her husband and bring him back to the well.
The woman said, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said, “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
Jesus’ reply to this woman is a bit sarcastic. While speaking truth, she still concealed truth, which Jesus confronted her with. Isn’t that the game we play with people and God all the time?
Before their conversation was finished, this woman was convinced there wasn’t anything Jesus didn’t know about her. She believed he knew the truth about her, the entire truth, and he still accepted her. That’s what compelled her to run back to her village and risk telling others that she had met a man she believed was the Messiah.
Do you think the people in the village were going to listen to a woman that had been married five times and was living with another man at the time?
Do you think they were going to listen to a woman whose relationship with other women might have been so strained they would not allow her to draw water with them at the well?
Yet there is something about the truth—Jesus says it will set you free. Perhaps this is what they saw in this woman. Perhaps they saw a freedom in her like they had never seen before. There was nothing in this invitation for her as she invited them to go meet this man for themselves. Her invitation to go see the Messiah was for them.
Lies tend to harm.
Truth seeks justice.
Lies are selfish.
Truth is selfless.
Lies tear down relationships.
The truth builds relationships.
Lies bind us to evil.
Truth releases us to freedom.
Lies will lead us to destruction.
Truth leads us to Jesus and His kingdom.
Let’s pause now for a time of confession.
Bow your heads and name a lie that you have been telling yourself. Confess it and leave it here.
Is there a lie you have told a parent, spouse, co-worker, or friend? Confess it to God and seek his forgiveness. Should you confess it to them and seek theirs?
Is there a lie that you have been telling God? He already knows, but acknowledge it and seek forgiveness.
Thank you, God, for hearing our prayers. Thank you for forgiving us of our sins as we confess them to you. If we have wounded anyone by our dishonesty, show us how to make amends. Grant us the resolve to live as your disciples, and embrace lives of honesty and integrity.