MUST I ALWAYS SPEAK THE TRUTH?
T. PIERCE BROWN
To 99.4% of us who are considered conservative and sound in the faith (those who are at least as pure as Ivory soap), the answer is so obviously and apparently “Yes,” that we are suspicious of anyone who would even ask the question. Without a second thought, we give the answer, and often without any intention of even giving it a second thought. I suggest that we make a habit of giving a second thought to almost anything, no matter how obvious or simple we think the answer is.
In this case, we should be aware that the questioner might mean, “If and when I speak about any person or thing, should I always speak the truth?” The answer to that should be an unequivocal, “Yes.” However, the questioner may mean, “I have heard or know a truth about a person or thing. Am I required to tell it on any or every occasion when I have an opportunity?” He may even have in mind this thought: “Can I possibly be doing wrong by telling the truth?”
Let me give you some illustrations that indicate that one may need to think twice before he answers a simple question with a simple answer. Suppose that I heard that Tom, Dick, and Harry, who are all members of the Lord’s church, play golf each week. I also heard that they like to drink beer when they go on the golf course. It is a truth that I heard those things. Am I required to tell anyone the truth that I heard those things? I do not know whether or not the things themselves are true, and I am not saying they are. I am simply telling the truth, which is that I heard those things, and I may even add another truth, that I believe those stories. Is this authorized of God, and pleasing to Him? Surely you know it is not.
Furthermore, suppose I say to you, “I know that Tom, Dick and Harry were playing golf last week, and I know that they did not drink over two bottles of beer apiece all day long, for I was with them. If you doubt that, ask them.” You ask them. They reply, “That is true. We did not drink over two bottles of beer then or ever. We have never even drunk a single bottle of beer in our lives.” No one can properly accuse me of lying about them, for they admitted the truth of my statement. I have told the truth. Is my telling the truth in that case good or bad? Is anyone either ignorant or ungodly enough that he will affirm that telling the truth is the right thing to do in either of the two cases mentioned?
Unfortunately, we have a large number of those who claim membership in the Lord’s church, and apparently some preachers, who do not seem to understand those principles. If they think they have heard something bad about a brother, they see nothing at all wrong with publishing that fact abroad, as long as they have not actually made up the lie themselves. We have seen reports filled with innuendoes and false implications that certain brethren are false teachers or practicing ungodly activities of various sorts, but in some cases the writer of those reports seemed to deliberately refrain from telling a complete lie. He simply did one or both of the things we have suggested that can be done while telling the truth. Many secular organizations have more decency and morality about them than that. If you are not familiar with one of their mottoes, you might ask one of them, and see if your Christianity does as much for you as the secular organization does for them.
Truth is important, and it is still true that Jesus said, “Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free” (John8:32). But like the Sword of the Spirit, it needs to be handled with care, or you can do much damage to yourself, a friend or the Lord’s family if it is not used properly.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.
Cookeville, TN. 38501
Phone: (615) 528-3600