“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”
It happened in my kitchen about 12 years ago at the height of my desire to impress the world as an amazing and competent new mother.
Ever the girl who loves order & planning, I had typed out a weekly schedule to keep my life tidy and efficient. On this particular evening when a number of folks were over from church, one fellow noted the schedule displayed proudly on my fridge, and good-naturedly began teasing me for it. He proceeded to go down the day’s tasks and confirm that I had indeed done them.
Though I had done a few of the day’s duties, I hadn’t done all of them, like pay my bills for example, since I was suffering from infant-induced sleep deprivation and felt a nap was warranted instead of tasks. But when he said, “So, you paid your bills?” I looked him in the eye and said what any sinful, proud and self-preserving individual would have said.
I said yes.
Do you want to know what makes this horrid story even better? The guy I lied to…
… was my pastor.
So alluring are the immediate benefits of deceptive words that we rarely give any thought to what they cost us in the long term. Or if we do weigh the cost, our heart’s desire intoxicates us to the point of impaired judgement. We take the gamble, play the deceit card and hope to beat the odds.
It would do us great good to remember that:
Deceptive speech creates instability. “…a lying tongue is but for a moment.” [Prov. 12:19] Even if deceit is used as a temporary escape, we have introduced into our lives a vulnerability to a long list of consequences related to being “found out”. Consequences that are usually far worse than the original trouble we sought to avoid in the first place. That is an unsteady and precarious way to live.
And when deception is our habit, we are not a haven of stability for those around us. Our words are rickety. Shaky. Unsound. Words others can place no confidence in. In a world that is already reeling from uncertainty, we offer our dear ones no enduring refuge of honor and truth since we are too busy grasping for whatever slipshod words will brace our teetering life.
Deceptive speech displeases God. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord…” [Prov. 12:22] Considering that God is the creator, sustainer, saviour and judge of this world, there are many things I wouldn’t want to do to Him. Grossing him out is pretty high on the list. An “abomination” is something that is disgusting, nauseating and repulsive. As a pre-teen riding my bike back and forth to a friend’s house, I remember the smell of a swollen, rotting, raccoon that had baked for weeks in the hot, Texas sun. Can you imagine the stench? Not unlike that rotting carcass, any deviation from truth, no matter how big or small is disgusting to God and he hates it. [Prov. 6:16-17]
Deceptive speech can ruin our life. “A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.” [Proverbs 17:20] God’s word is clear that we reap what we sow. We cannot sow lies and expect that they will not turn up as injury or misery in our families, our friendships, our reputations, our jobs or our ministries. As smart as we think we are and as many people as we think we can dupe, “…he who breathes out lies will not escape.” [Proverbs 19:5] Ultimately, we will never beat the odds.
Deceptive speech can ruin the lives of others. “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.” [Prov. 25:18] Whether we mean to or not, we may stand at the end of our lives accountable for the destruction of another person – their life, their relationships, their reputation, their well-being. It could be an outright lie in a legal situation meant to kill and destroy [25:18]. It could be a lie cloaked in the guise of a joke, but rescinded too late to undo the damage [26:18-19]. It could be flattery lavished thick when truth would have spared someone harm or shame. [26:28] Or maybe it’s simply unkind insinuation that plants seeds of speculation in the minds of others. Whatever the variety of untruth we employ, “With his mouth, a godless man would destroy his neighbor.” [Prov. 11:9]
Deceptive speech makes us a disappointment to others. “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.” [Proverbs 25:14] Saying we are something that we are not is a pre-meditated let-down for everyone around us. Saying we’ll do something that we never actually do leaves folks disenchanted with us. Our words are empty and disposable when not supported by the integrity to see them through to reality or completion. No matter how good a slight deception or empty promise makes us look to people at first, the effort we spend is wasted because those are throw-away words that always leave a broad wake of disappointment.
Deceptive speech reveals our true rank in life. “Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a prince.” [Prov. 17:7] Certain speech befits certain statuses. We may be a well-educated, sharp-dressed, corporate dignitary or a mini-van driving, field-trip chaperoning commoner. But regardless of title or position, how we speak reveals our true station. Regardless of her clout and finery, an influential woman who deals in any kind of deception, is a fool. And despite her humble wage and sphere, the common woman known for trusted, unfaltering words is a legitimate noble. What you say reveals who you are.
So why do we shade the truth when there is so much at stake? As usual, we need to look to the heart:
“Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips.” [Prov. 26:24a] When we hate someone but don’t want to show it because that would look too ugly on us, we often end up lying. Instead of dealing with it properly before God at the heart level and getting to the place where we don’t hate that person anymore, we coexist with the hatred. Like a beautiful glaze covering a cheap pot, we hide our loathing beneath disingenuous words. [Prov. 26:23-25]
Or perhaps we hate and don’t hide it at all. That hatred flows out of us as slanted words delivered strategically with every intent to discredit, wound and destroy.
“… a flattering mouth works ruin.” [Prov. 26:28] Because we haven’t invested enough time in gaining the necessary wisdom to navigate difficult conversations with truth & love, we don’t know what to say and therefore, shade the truth to avoid an awkward conversation. We’d rather allow someone waltz down a course that could lead to their harm or embarrassment than inconvenience ourselves with speaking a difficult but helpful truth. “No, that dress doesn’t accentuate your back fat.” “No, really. You sound great. I’m sure the worship team would love to have you.” “Oh, you’re marrying Bob. That’s …uh… great.”
We don’t want to own up to mistakes or admit to what our words or actions reveal about us, so we shade the truth to cover over our weaknesses and missteps. We’d rather risk being found a liar then being thought of as less than perfect. “I don’t know where that dent came from.” “Sorry I’m late – the traffic was really bad.” “Please pardon the mess. My house doesn’t normally look like this.”
We want others to think highly of us, so we embellish, exaggerate or justify small compromises in truth, to position ourselves in a more favorable light. Like in my opening example, our image (or others’ immediate impression of it) means more to us than building a legacy of legitimate honour. “That’s right. I paid my bills today.”
Instead of embracing everyday moments as opportunities to train our children in the areas of respect, contentment and self-control, we utter little lies of convenience and excuse them because engaging is just too tiring. “I think we might have lost that movie.” “The Super-Snazzy-Sunday-School-Sing-Along CD got scratched so we can’t play it anymore.” “No honey, you can’t have gum because I don’t have any more in my purse.”
Though we wouldn’t articulate it like this, through our use of deceptive words, many of us reveal a practical doubt in God’s ability to produce good from a situation where it appears honesty might uncover us or cost us. So we take matters into our own hands, disobey God’s express command to speak the truth (, Prov. 4:24, 24:28, Eph. 4:25), and lie to manage a precarious situation because, in our minds, God isn’t big enough to handle this.
But we couldn’t be more mistaken. God is sovereign over that specific situation but also offers to the honest, enduring blessings far greater than any immediate, situational outcome. Though honesty usually produces beneficial results, even if the immediate situation doesn’t play out as we’d like, there are beautiful rewards and opportunities promised to those with truthful lips.
We have so much to gain:
- Delighting the heart of God. [Prov. 12:22]
- Enjoying an enduring stability and firmly established reputation [Prov. 12:19]
- Being granted great favour and opportunities to influence. [Prov. 16:13]
- Gifting others with words that are delightful, welcomed and sweet. [Prov. 24:26].
- Being a defender of others as an instrument of rescue and clarity. [Prov. 14:25]
And as we’ve explored, we have so much to lose. Perhaps the best place to start a new policy of honesty today would be with ourselves as we think through what we’ve just read. We cannot afford to operate with bad functional theology or nurse the sinful attitudes that breed deceptive speech . If we do, we will live a perilous and impoverished life.
There is a sweeter way. And that’s the truth.
P.S. As an aside to my earlier story, in case some of you were wondering: I did go meet with my pastor, admit what I had done, and ask his forgiveness. It was tough and humbling, but a needed lesson for me. Not looking as impressive would certainly have been preferable to pleading guilty to lying!
I will be announcing the winner of the Proverbs 31:26 sign at the end of next week’s post – our final study in the Speech Matters series.
This is your last chance to get into that draw by either sharing this post or subscribing to the blog. So if you find this post helpful please share it with some friends who would be encouraged by it and send me a note letting me know that you did so I can enter you into the draw. Thank you!