The lead story in the June 2017 National Geographic magazine was titled “Why We Lie: The Science Behind Our Deceptive Ways.” The byline read, “Honesty may be the best policy, but scheming and dishonesty are part of what makes us human.”
I admit that the title surprised me. It seems more like an article appropriate for Psychology Today or even The New Yorker. What does lying have to do with geography? It is much more about the human condition than the lay of the land. In addition to dabbling in science, the article took a swipe at the President and lumped “climate change deniers” together with other reprehensible prevaricators of the truth. At least National Geographic can line up with other organs of the press as being on “the right side of history,” so to speak, and promote the correct causes.
What they did not do was make any reference to lying being a moral evil, other than obliquely note that honesty has been passed down in society as a positive quality. Everybody lies, so it merely mirrors the human condition.
The article ended without offering any real hope for people to change. Why should we be surprised, then, when major news outlets are outed for producing fake stories? We have come to expect politicians who run on issues stating very strongly what they will do to blatantly contradict their own clearly stated campaign promises when they get to Washington. Lying seems to be a fixture in the political landscape.
How different from the Christian message which is based on truth. In fact, when the Apostle Paul wrote about putting off the old man, the first admonition for the new man was about honesty. “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). When one of the “plain people” was in court he was asked why he would not swear an oath. “Why must I take an oath when I always speak the truth?” was his reply. This is simply Christianity 101.
However, the article was not without some merit. It spoke of the ubiquity of lying. In other words, liars are everywhere. This knowledge is nothing new, though the writer claimed that it was “documented systematically” merely two decades ago. Had the researchers read the scriptures from thousands of years ago, they would have been confronted with that point with a very moral judgment attached to it. “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Ps. 58:3). Lying is not merely a human condition; it is an indicator of human wickedness. At birth, humans are estranged from God. We are caught from birth in a web of lies. Until released from the lie, we go our own way and make up our own truth. In sum, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Doing research on lying and making resolutions are not good enough to emancipate us from the bondage of deception. We must be committed to the truth or we will compromise with falsehood. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Following truth takes a greater power than we possess. Jesus is that power. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:36).
There is good news, however, about the possibility of being delivered from lying as well as other sins. Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies. “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44b). In contrast, Jesus said that He was the truth and the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Opening the way to the Father was why Jesus came, but it was not easy.
Consider the lies surrounding the arrest and sentencing of Jesus. The Jews held an illegal trial. They used false witnesses. Their accusations rested on presumption of guilt, not the truth of real evidence. “If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee,” they argued. Their lies were so blatant that Pilate saw through them, saying, “I find no fault with this man.” Yet the lies won out. “Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him” (John 19:6b). Justice failed. Truth had fallen in the streets. Jesus was sentenced to death by the lies of His enemies and the cross was laid on Him as He stumbled toward Golgotha. The lies continued as He hung on the cross. “He saved others. Himself he cannot save,” they taunted. Oh, but He could have. He could have called ten thousand angels to set Him free, but He endured the cross. The lies seemed to have won. Jesus died.
Liars assume that others will lie too. The celebration of the enemies of Jesus was tempered by the nagging remembrance that Jesus had predicted He would rise from the dead in three days. So they convinced Pilate to authorize a guard at the tomb so that the disciples would not “steal the body” and lie about Jesus rising from the dead. But it was no lie. On the third day, Jesus rose again in power. The stone was rolled away and the tough guards fell to the ground as if they were dead.
While the disciples were rejoicing in their risen Savior, the Jews were conniving. This time they paid the guards to lie. “Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept” (Matt. 28:13). Ignore the mortal danger of guards admitting to sleeping on duty. Ignore the credulity of believing that the disciples could have quietly removed a massive stone, entered the tomb, and carried the body away without waking even one of the numerous guards who had been given the responsibility to prevent that very thing. Yet, lies will continue if the price is right. “So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matt. 28:15).
People lie because they are at heart enemies of the truth. They follow their father the devil and do his works. But Jesus came to undo the lies and witness to the truth.
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John3:8).
Among the first things that marks a Christian is that he stops lying and loves the truth. It is basic. It is what we look for in those who proclaim the name of Christ. So the Apostle John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).
Enough of the deception. Just the truth, please.