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What if you always told the truth? Would things work out for you?
A young woman from Myanmar has been trying to get her husband to America for four years. It’s been Uber rides to Manhattan, and consulate interviews, and lots of prayer by our English class. This is a woman so sweet that she calls me “Teacher” outside of class; so kind that she colors my hair for free; so humble that she works crazy shifts rather than trouble her husband about the mounting costs. Her Christian pedigree, in a Buddhist land, traces back generations to Adoniram Judson.
But I learned that she has told the judge one lie. All her other documents are meticulously accurate, she assures me, but her lawyer advised her that she must be very careful to say she resides in New York and not Philadelphia. Sensing my acute discomfort, the dear student protested (overmuch, methinks) that she must follow her attorney’s counsel since she has paid for this professional Sherpa guide to green card nirvana.
I told her this true story: A man I know was in prison for 10 years for a murder in Detroit that he did not commit. George became a Christian in the joint, and calls 10 years a bargain. And what an irrepressibly joyful Christian too!
When you tell a lie, it isn’t just a little lie. You enter into a different state of mind. Your freedom in Christ goes.
But when he was scheduled to go up before the parole board, George was planning, pro forma, to say that he was sorry for his crime and was a changed individual—because that’s what you’re supposed to say to the parole board, as everyone who knows the ropes will tell you. What the board wants is repentance. Faking repentance is your best chance out.
But a fellow Christian inmate said to George, “You can’t do that, you are a Christian now. You have to tell the truth. God works with truth and not with lies, ’cause God is truth.”
The day arrived and George—whose favorite verse is “Seek first the kingdom of God”—went up and told the board he didn’t do the crime. It was insane, by all jailhouse opinion. But it so happened that one fellow sitting on the board said, “I read through your case, and I don’t think you did it either.” George was paroled. Today he’s walking free, and God has set him up with a great job as director of a funeral parlor.
When you tell a lie, it isn’t just a little lie. That’s what Satan told you when he talked you into it and hid the price tag of that small untruth that changes everything.
You enter into a different state of mind. Your freedom in Christ goes. (’Cause if you don’t feel free, you ain’t free.) Now there is something you’re protecting. Something hiding in the closet ready to jump out. One more plate in the air you have to spin. A certain amount of energy will have to be expended to keep it going. A pilot light’s worth of perpetual attention will have to be paid to maintaining the lie lest some random question from left field catch you off-guard. It’s all the subsequent lies that will be needed that are the pain in the neck, a fact you did not anticipate.
God commands “sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8; 3 John 4; 1 Thessalonians 2:4). The Greek for “sincerity” means “tested by sunlight,” as in the practice of savvy buyers in Middle Eastern bazaars holding hawked pottery up to the sun to see if cracks in it had been concealed by wax.
Returning to our opening question: How much time will you allow before you can say if your lie paid off? Or if the truth paid off? Will you give it a month? A year? Ten years? A lifetime? When is the verdict safely in? It is not going well for the lady from Myanmar: There are setbacks and roadblocks galore. What would it have been to trust the way of truth? We never know the might-have-beens.
Who will take the adventure of radical truth? For “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18).