In my first church ministry, I pastored a small, newly planted congregation, which meant that I shouldered many of the week-to-week office responsibilities. So, when the Sunday school curriculum needed to be ordered, our volunteer superintendent came to me with a gentle reminder: “Hey, Pastor, don’t forget to order the curriculum for the next quarter.”
“No problem!” I confidently replied. And then I promptly forgot.
The following Sunday, I bumped into him and his wife. “Hey, Pastor, did you remember to order the curriculum?”
I’m ashamed to say that my response was spontaneous and devastatingly deceitful. Without missing a beat, the urge for self-protection and preservation of personal pride emerged, and I straight out lied, “Yep!” and promptly walked to my office.
As I pulled my sermon notes out of my briefcase, God’s conviction in my spirit was brutal.
It was as though God were saying, “So you’re the preacher are you? The truth-teller from the pulpit today?” The Spirit’s probing was penetrating. I knew I was in deep weeds with God. The Bible tells us that He is truth and He cannot lie. Lying makes the “big-ten” list of sins in the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus said that Satan is the father of lies. So I was stuck! I had two alternatives. FedEx overnight. They’d never know! But I would, and so would God. The other option was to bring them into my office, admit my sin, and plead their forgiveness.
I knew that I needed to do what our text today commands us to do, to “put off falsehood” and speak truthfully to our neighbors. The church is to be a place marked by a commitment to truth, because our God is a God who is true. Genuine, loving relationships are always anchored in truth. When we veer from that, even a little, the consequences are disastrous—damaged relationships, compromised leadership, and most sadly, a loss of mutual trust, integrity, and effectiveness in our witness for Jesus Christ.
That Sunday morning I learned how strong our desire for self-preservation and self-glory can be. Lies offer the opportunity to keep people thinking well of us, and they are great for getting ourselves out of a tight jam. I also learned how hard it is to admit this kind of a failure. Admitting the truth about my lie would expose how flawed I really am. And, after all, I was the pastor. Pastors don’t make mistakes. I feared that revealing the real pastor who lived under the navy blue preaching suit could put my ministry at risk.
But ultimately, and thankfully, God’s Spirit gently prodded me to value the truth more than my own reputation, and I found myself calling the superintendent and his wife into my office.
“As your pastor, I am committed to the truth,” I said. “I failed to tell you the truth this morning. I not only forgot to order the curriculum this week, but then lied to you about it just now. I am deeply sorry and need to ask for your forgiveness.”
With grace and love, this dear couple instantly replied, “Oh, Pastor, that’s alright. We forgive you.” And I was able to continue my ministry that morning with a renewed sense of humility and wonder at the grace of God, and with a relationship restored.
I know it can be difficult to tell the truth sometimes. But the consequences of unchecked deception are lethal. Make the right choice: Tell the truth. Take it from me; you’ll be glad you did!
- Do you have areas of deception in your life today? In your marriage? In your schoolwork? In your workplace relationships?
- What would you need to do to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to [your] neighbor” today?
- If your life has fallen into a pattern of deception and lies, you can start the process of returning to the truth with one small step. Contact one person you have lied to and confess the truth. The temporary consequences you may face are far less serious than the consequences of allowing deception to go unchecked!
He moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord —Genesis 12:8
Bethel is the symbol of fellowship with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abram “pitched his tent” between the two. The lasting value of our public service for God is measured by the depth of the intimacy of our private times of fellowship and oneness with Him. Rushing in and out of worship is wrong every time— there is always plenty of time to worship God. Days set apart for quiet can be a trap, detracting from the need to have daily quiet time with God. That is why we must “pitch our tents” where we will always have quiet times with Him, however noisy our times with the world may be. There are not three levels of spiritual life— worship, waiting, and work. Yet some of us seem to jump like spiritual frogs from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work. God’s idea is that the three should go together as one. They were always together in the life of our Lord and in perfect harmony. It is a discipline that must be developed; it will not happen overnight.
In Psalm 103, King David writes, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” The Sages ask: Like which father? They explain that this verse isn’t talking about just any father who has compassion for his children; it is talking about the Patriarch Abraham. He, more than anyone else in the Bible, demonstrated endless love and compassion for all humanity.
Abraham’s unique love for people was best demonstrated when he prayed on behalf of the people of Sodom. It’s one thing to have compassion for good people who slip up once in a while; it’s another to feel empathy for people who are prone to evil. The people of Sodom were cruel, immoral, and godless. Yet Abraham made every attempt to save them when God informed him about their imminent destruction.
Abraham tried to bargain with God and find enough good people in Sodom to make all worthy of salvation. He focused on the good in the people and not on their overwhelming wickedness. Ultimately, Abraham wasn’t successful at saving the doomed people of Sodom; however, he does succeed at teaching us an important life lesson.
From Abraham we learn that we need to try and see the good in every single person. No matter how far astray a person may wander, we must try and find something redeeming about them. We must search out mitigating circumstances and judge that person favorably. If we can see others in a positive light, then they will learn to see the good in themselves as well, and when they see themselves as good, they may just begin to live that way, too.
The philosopher Plato put it this way, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” For the most part, when we encounter people, we only see them superficially. We aren’t privy to the entire story that’s beneath the surface. We don’t always know what kind of childhood a person had, and we aren’t aware of the battles they may be facing in the present. There is far more that we don’t know than what we do know about any given person.
Only God sees beneath the surface. As King David wrote, “For he knows how we are formed . . .” (103:14). When God looks at His children He sees the whole picture and so He judges them favorably and has deep compassion for them. We must learn to see each other through God’s eyes — with empathy, understanding, and love. With that kind of perspective, we can do more good than harm. Instead of bringing people down, we can help to raise them up.
Then David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest who came trembling to meet David and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” David answered Ahimelech the priest, “Saul has given me orders about some business and has said to me, ‘Let no one know anything about the business on which I am sending you and about which I have given you orders.’ I have also directed the young men to meet me at a certain place. Therefore, if you have at hand five loaves of bread, give them to me or whatever can be found.” The priest answered David, “There is no plain bread at hand, but only holy bread.” So the priest gave him holy bread, for there was no other bread there except that which had been removed from the temple to be replaced at once by hot bread.
Now Doeg, the Edomite, the chief of Saul’s herdsmen, was there that day. And David said to Ahimelech, “Have you not here at hand a spear or sword? For I did not bring my sword or my weapons with me, since the king’s business required haste.” The priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine whom you slew in the valley of Elah is there, wrapped in a cloth. If you wish to take that, do so, for there is no other except that here.” David answered, “There is none like that; give it to me.”
Then David went from there and escaped to the stronghold of Adullam. When his brothers and all his father’s clan heard of it, they went down there to him. Every one who was in trouble and every one who was in debt, and every one who was discontented gathered about him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
When Saul heard that David and the men with him had been found, he was sitting in Gibeah, under the tamarisk-tree at the high place, with his spear in his hand. And all his servants were standing about him. Saul said to his servants who stood about him, “Hear, O Benjamites! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is it not true that all of you have plotted against me so that no one tells me that my son has made an agreement with the son of Jesse, and that none of you has pity upon me or tells me that my son has made my servant David my enemy as he now is?” Then Doeg the Edomite, who was standing by the servants of Saul, spoke up and said, “I saw the son of Jesse go to Nob, to Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub. And the priest inquired of God for him and gave him food and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”
Then Saul sent for Ahimelech the priest, and all his family and the priests who were in Nob; and all of them came to him. Then Saul said, “Listen, son of Ahitub!” He answered, “Here I am, my lord!” Saul said to him, “Is it not true that you and the son of Jesse have plotted against me and that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, that he might rebel against me?” Ahimelech answered Saul, “Who among all your servants is trusted like David, your son-in-law, chief over your subjects, and honored in your household? Is this the first time I have inquired of God for him? Far be it from me to be disloyal! Do not think that I or any of my clan have any evil intention, for your servant does not know the slightest thing about all this.” But Saul said, “Ahimelech, you shall surely die, you and all your family.”
Then Saul said to the guards who were standing about him, “Turn and kill the priests of Jehovah, for they have plotted with David; and although they knew that he was fleeing, they did not tell me.” But Saul’s servants would not raise their hands to kill the priests of Jehovah. Then Saul said to Doeg, “Turn and kill the priests.” So Doeg, the Edomite, turned and killed them. On that day he killed eighty-five men who wore the priestly robes.
But Abiathar, one of the sons of Ahimelech, escaped and fled to David. When Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of Jehovah, David said to him, “I knew that day, because Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I myself am responsible for the death of all your family. Stay with me, have no fear, for whoever seeks your life must first take mine, for you are placed in my charge.”
We have a friend who has a phonograph for his correspondence. It consists of two parts. One is a simple and wonderful apparatus, whose sensitive cylinders receive the tones and then give them out again, word for word, through the hearing tube. The other part is a common little box that stands under the table, and does nothing but supply the power through connecting wires.
Now, the little box might insist upon being the phonograph, and doing the talking; but if it should, it would not only waste its own life but destroy the life of its partner.
Its sole business is to supply power to the phonograph, while the latter is to do the talking. So some of us are called to be voices to speak for God to our fellow-men, others are forces to sustain them, by our holy sympathy and silent prayer. (Some of us are little dynamos under the table, while others are phonographs that speak aloud the messages of heaven.)
Let each of us be true to our God-given ministry, and when the day comes our work will be weighed and the rewards distributed.