I recently watched an interview with Ben Bradlee on Charlie Rose, it was filmed a few years ago. Rose asked Bradlee how the Washington political scene had changed since Bradlee’s early days with Newsweek and the Washington Post. Bradlee’s reply was, “Now everybody lies.”
With mid-term elections upon us we are bombarded with political advertisements – and once again we are reminded that as a rule people will tell us anything for a vote. In the corporate world we see that corporations will tell us anything for a dollar. I am afraid that all too often churches will tell us anything so that we’ll come and stay and give. I am more afraid that I will tell others anything to get my way or to take the easy way out.
Frederick Dale Bruner, in his commentary on Matthew, in working with Matthew 5:33 – 36 (oath taking) writes, “At first, we must admit, Jesus’ Command against Oaths seems to be the least weighty and least relevant of all his Commands. How can taking oaths compare with taking life or breaking marriage? And yet the more one studies this Command the more on is impressed with its range. Did Jesus realize that not to swear at all would constantly put disciples in unavoidable and unenviable tension with all governments, all of which have historically required oaths?
“First of all, the Command’s larger purpose should be honored. Quite simply, the Command of Truth seeks to protect speech in the community as the immediately preceding two Commands sought to protect sex. The trustworthiness of what we say is as important to a community’s welfare as the trustworthiness of our temperament or morals. Discipleship applies to speech, too.”
Bruner quotes Paul Minear, “In a culture which depends on oral speech…the intrusion of the intent to deceive pollutes reality at its very source…in such a culture a community becomes deeply dependent upon the ruthless and rugged integrity of its teachers.”
Who is left to tell the truth if not the disciples of Jesus?
Bruner makes much of the fact that truthful speech is simple speech. No oaths, no constant appeals to God, no embellishments.
I find that I have opportunities each day to decide whether to tell the truth or not, whether to take the easy way out (the short term easy way, but the long term destructive way) or to tell the truth.
Sad to say, but I have learned that just because someone tells me to have a “blessed day” that it is no indication whether or not they will tell me the truth or be charitable in their business dealings. In fact, it often seems to me that when folks tell me to have a “blessed day” that it is a license for them to kill the truth and kill charity. I know that isn’t the case for all, but I can write that if my staff at work would encounter a few less “have a blessed day” professing Christians that perhaps a few more of my staff would become followers of Jesus.
I know I live in a world of lies, a world in which the father of lies propagates lying throughout societies and relationships; the question for me is whether I will go against the grain and tell the truth, will I follow Jesus, who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.
Everybody lies. Do I? Do you?