Continuing our examination of Ephesians 4:25 to take off lying to put on truth, why do we shun lying and desire Truth? For three reasons. First, lying brings the judgment of God. Second, we shun lying because Truth is the most foundational principle of Christianity.
Third, there is a superlative reason we shun lying. An even deeper motive for speaking the truth is that all believers are members of the same body. Here is a fascinating picture! As Paul has emphasized many times in Ephesians, he again gives us the picture of a body.
To illustrate, our eyes do not deliberately try to deceive the brain but try to send truthful information, that is, the way things really are, which is what Truth means. The brain, for example, does not deliberately try to deceive the feet into walking in the wrong direction or the hand to pick up a red hot iron. In short, if our body parts were constantly lying to one another, our body would soon destroy itself.
Paul’s point, then, is simply this: lying is diametrically opposed to the doctrine of the Church. The Church, whether the universal Church or a local church, is a body, and a body must have unity and harmony. But how can there be unity and harmony without honesty? Oh, may we please realize that a lie damages the whole body. When a Christian exaggerates, cheats, betrays a confidence, makes an excuse, or just tells an outright whopper to cover up his sin, he (or she) hurts all the members of the Body of Christ. There is no such thing as “a little white lie” because every lie hurts the body as a whole.
As commentator Kent Hughes writes: “A lie is a stab into the very vitals of the Body of Christ. This is so because a lie is a sable shaft from the kingdom of darkness . . . There is no place in the Christian ethic for the well-intentioned lie. In the moral behavior which Christ inspires, the end never justifies the means.”
Notice the word neighbor. The Greek (plēsion) refers to one standing near, a neighbor, a fellow man. While the context obviously shows that Paul is talking about fellow Christians, Scripture also teaches the deeper principle that a neighbor is anyone near to us, a fellow-man of any creed or nation, and even our enemies, as our Lord made clear in Matthew 5:43-44 and in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Truth, then, must characterize our dealings with every individual, whether Christian or non-Christian.
So, Paul tells us to speak every man truth because mutual trust is absolutely necessary for fellowship, and because of this trust we can speak openly with one another.
Lying is indeed the easiest thing in the world to do. During the weeks I was preaching these messages on the New Life, I ironically encountered a sales clerk at Wal-Mart whose name is Alethea. I did a double-take when I read her nametag, so I asked her, “Did you know that your name is the Greek word for truth?” With a smile, she answered, “Yes, and sometimes it’s very hard to live up to.” Indeed it is.
So the Christian “puts off the garment of lying” and “puts on the garment of truth.” The reason a lie is despicable is because it’s a perversion of Truth. God created Truth, but when we lie we are trying to turn falsehood into Truth. How ugly that is! Dear Christian, the next time you are tempted to tell a lie, which might be in the next few hours or even minutes from now, just stop and think about how despicable a thing it really is. And may we always be aware of the subtle forms that lying takes. May we truly [put] away lying, for when we do all that is left is Truth, and that must be our sole desire.