Published November 8, 2016

Paul's Epistle
"Liar, Liar"

"Liar, liar, pants on fire...!"

If that old expression1 were, in fact, true, this political season would have seen an abundance of burning britches – a conflagration unlike any we've seen since the great Chicago fire.

It's sad, really.

A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,500 people asked what was the first word that comes to mind regarding the presidential candidates. For one candidate the top word, by far, was "liar."*  The second word was "dishonest" and the third word was "untrustworthy." Wow. A separate poll of 2,000 American adults by the Economist/YouGov poll found similar results. And Wikileaks released one of her behind-closed-doors speeches in which she flatly declared that she'll actually have one "private" position on issues but will lie to the public, saying something totally different, for political gain.

It's nothing new, of course. A poll reported in the Washington Examiner found that 61 percent of Americans believe President Obama "lies at least some of the time on important issues." Remember this famous whopper: "If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan?"  It's all quite stunning.

We've come a long way from our first President, George Washington, who is famously reputed to have said, "I cannot tell a lie." Today, only 43 percent of Americans believe lying is morally wrong, according to Pew Research Center. An AP-Ipsos poll found 65 percent of Americans feel it's OK to lie when trying to protect someone's feelings. Young people, 18-29, are most likely to say it's alright to lie.

So why is this happening? A USA Today poll found that only 56 percent of Americans teach honesty to their children. A noted physician went on TV to say, "Lying is an important part of social life, and children who are unable to do it are children who may have developmental problems."2 So lying in our society is not only not discouraged, it is actually encouraged.

But, again, it's nothing new. Satan's lie in the Garden of Eden – which Eve and then Adam "bought" – was what brought about the curse on this world that humanity has been living under ever since. Satan, of course, is called by Christ "a liar and the father of [lies]," in whom "there is no truth" (John 8:44). So liars, knowingly or (most likely) unknowingly, are simply following Satan's example.

But what about us as Christians? Aren't we always to follow the Lord's example? After all, He called Himself "the truth" (John 14:6). He is, in fact, the embodiment of truth. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Aren't we to be like Him?

God clearly takes a very dim view of lying. Do you recall what happened to Ananias and Sapphira when they brought their gift to Peter, claiming it was what they received for selling some possession? They said it was the full amount they had received. It wasn't. Peter said, "Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God" (Acts 5:4). Ananias and, later, Sapphira both dropped dead as a result of their lie.

God doesn't normally cause liars to fall over dead right away, although He could. But it's a sign that something else is dead or dying – one's spiritual life. And that's even more significant than one's physical life.

"Therefore," Paul says in Ephesians 4:25, "putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,'3 for we are members of one another." That's evidence of what Paul calls the "new man" in Christ, created "in true righteousness and holiness" (v. 24).

God's rule is simple: "...let your ‘yes' be ‘yes,' and your ‘no,' ‘no.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one" (Matt. 5:37). In other words, always tell the truth. Not to do so is sin.

Sure, it's not always easy. But let's live our lives in such a way that honors God always with truthfulness. Then God can say, as John did in 3 John 1:4, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."

- Paul

1. It's said to be adapted from an 1810 poem by William Blake called "The Liar." Amusingly, the wording there is, "Your trousers are alight."
2. Daily Bread, Sept. 23, 1991.
3. Paul is quoting from Zechariah 8:16.
* That word never even showed up on the other candidate's lengthy list.

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