January 7, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:15 says we should be “speaking the truth in love.” In last Thursday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I suggested that we should be “trustworthy truth speakers” all the time. Whether at work or home, whether in church or online, whether selling products or filing our IRS forms, we should tell the truth.
But does that mean we should always tell the truth? Aren’t there some situations in which truth telling is not required, or maybe even unwise?
Throughout my pastoral tenure, I’ve had people ask me questions like these. Usually they are doing so when they’re facing a situation in which telling the truth might have negative consequences. In their defense, they usually cite extreme examples, like when Christians hid Jews from the Nazis and lied about it. In cases like this, the duty to protect innocent life might indeed take precedence over the duty to tell the truth.
But arguments like this are rarely relevant to the actual situation at hand. For example, people might be tempted to lie in difficult work situations. Suppose their boss wants them to give a positive financial report to the company board, but, in reality, things are not positive. Telling the truth might end up in getting a person fired. Isn’t it better in some situations to lie?
Surely there are times when telling the truth is risky. Certainly, there are situations in which truth-telling will have negative consequences in the short run. So what should we do in these times?
I believe that Scripture commends telling the truth even when it may be costly. But your conviction won’t come from my holding this belief. Rather, it will come when you study and pray over God’s Word. It will come when you wait upon the Lord and seek his guidance. It will come as you share your difficult situation with other Christians who can help you discern God’s will and who will pray for you and support you.
I am convinced that we will not be able to be truth tellers in the difficult situations of life by ourselves. We need each other in these times. And, most of all, we need the Spirit of God who enables us to do what’s right even in the most challenging times. As Jesus said in Luke 12:11-12, in reference to times when his followers would be on trial, “Do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
P.S. If you’re looking for a more in-depth discussion of truth telling, you may find my book Dare to Be True helpful.
Something to Think About:
Do you think there are times when lying is the best choice? Why do you think so? Or why do you not think so?
Have you ever faced a situation when you believed that it was not right for you to tell the truth? What was this situation and why did you think as you did?
Do you ever share difficult work situations with your small group or with a wise Christian friend? If not, would you be willing to try this the next time you face a truth-telling challenge?
Something to Do:
Bring up the subject of truth-telling in your small group or with a Christian friend. Talk about what you really think about telling the truth. Share challenges you face in your life. Pray for wisdom for each other.
Gracious God, you are the God of truth. You call us to be people who speak the truth in love. Yet, sometimes, it’s hard to do this. And, once in a while, it’s hard even to know if it’s right to tell the truth. Admittedly, Lord, sometimes I’m just afraid of the consequences of being honest. But there are times when it’s hard to know what’s best. I ask that you give me wisdom in those situations. And, more than wisdom, please give me courage to speak the truth when it feels risky. May my words always honor you. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Authentic Communication Requires Truthtelling
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.