I’m sure you have lived long enough, as have I, to experience the fact that time and truth run hand in hand. Truth wins out in the end.
Accordingly, the importance of truth in the capital community cannot be understated. Notice in this week’s Bible study the following Proverbs that depict the various benefits of being a man or woman of truth. When you understand the benefits of being truthful, versus the detriments of lying or bearing false witness, it proves motivational to say the least.
Read on, my friend.
The Scriptures speak repeatedly of the importance of developing a “truth habit.” That is, to work at becoming a man or woman who always thinks about and responds truthfully in every situation — even when an answer is not beneficial. Why? The maintenance and sustenance of truthfulness, exclaiming truth as a principle of life and a part of the moral fabric of our national culture — is far more important than any one individual. Notice the following Proverb highlighting the extreme importance of truth as a principle.
Proverbs 3:3 Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
Exodus 34:7a states that the above Hebrew word for kindness (hesed) is a fundamental characteristic of God:
…who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin;
Using the same Hebrew word as in Proverbs 3:3, this Exodus passage underscores the fact that God is literally abounding in kindness or, similarly translated in other English Bibles, steadfast love.
To the point of this week’s study, Proverbs 3:3 states that we are to be characterized by truth as well — and it is to be associated with being kind. The Hebrew word for truth is emet. In John 14:6, Jesus states that truth is also an inherent characteristic of God Himself:
“I am the way and the truth, and the life…”
God expects the same qualities that characterize Him to be manifest in us; such is commensurate with being created in His image. Further, the metaphoric language and picture of Proverbs 3:3 wherein it speaks about the heart of an individual, depicts the visceral and habitual need for the ongoing exhibition of both kindness and truth simultaneously.
An introduction to a Bible study on truth necessitates the preceding introduction — the importance and necessity of love and kindness as well. To have truth without love is to be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal per 1 Corinthians 13:1:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Mature in Christ is the believer who possesses both virtues and poor is the witness of he who states biblical truth without incumbent sensitivities; God is abounding in kindness as well as truthfulness.
II. TRUTHFULNESS: WHAT WILL IT DEMAND OF YOU?
Having established the foundational need for both kindness and truth coexisting in the soul of man, notice in addition the further proverbial admonition:
Proverbs 4:24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.
It follows that deceit and deviousness, in that they are far from God’s nature, must be far from ours as well! The idea of devious speech — speech opposite of kind and truthful speech — includes speaking gossip, slander, or harm toward others, which encompasses the idea of the Ninth Commandment stated in Exodus 20:16: “You shall not bear false witness.” Solomon further impresses this idea on his son, Rehoboam, the future Public Servant of Israel who will one day be tasked with the leadership of a nation, stating:
Proverbs 23:23 Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding.
All too often people do not buy into truth, but instead sell it out in the capital for reasons of political expediency. How sad it is to see the oft selling out of truth in the extremely competitive atmosphere of elections. The following Proverb helps us to not succumb to such pressures:
Proverbs 28:6 Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich.
The desire to be rich relates to more than monetary wealth; often in our culture it relates to power and upward mobility in one’s career, like getting elected to office. Do not sacrifice truth and personal integrity on the altar of political expedience, my beloved friend. Such haste in the moment of battle is not beneficial in the long run because time and truth do run hand in hand.
DEEM TRUTH TO BE MORE VALUABLE THAN YOURSELF OR YOUR CAREER
I am afraid this idea is largely lost in America today. Is your highest good in your career, winning the next election? Is truth subservient to that? May it not be so; God will honor your being principled versus expedient. Commit yourself to being a man or woman of truth today. Think of it this way in the specific terms of an election: Being truthful today may cost me an election, but in so doing it may set me up for what God has next in store for me. This is what truth demands of me.
III. TRUTHFULNESS: WHAT WILL IT DO FOR YOU?
Sometimes being truthful will cost you dearly, but God will honor your truthfulness. What follows are some of those benefits.
A. GOOD RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS
Proverbs 16:6 By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.
The Hebrew word for atone (kaphar) can be translated as “covered,” or “to make propitiation for.” Contextually the word is being used in a horizontal sense of man’s relationships with one another. Think of this context as similar to the man-to-man context of Proverbs 10:12, Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions. One avoids undue calamity in personal relationships by characteristic and simultaneous speech and actions of the same words used in Proverbs 3:3: lovingkindness and truthfulness. It is via a proper fear of the Lord that one is motivated to avoid behaving sinfully — being harsh or lying — in interpersonal relationships.
BEHAVING SINFULLY LEADS TO RELATIONAL DISASTER!1
On the other hand, proportional to your habitual love and truthfulness will be your interpersonal relationship success.
B. INTIMACY WITH GOD
Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.
The Hebrew word for faithfully (emunah) means “firmness and steadfastness.”
In other words, to learn to speak the truth firmly and consistently is to find delight with God. No doubt this demands courage. How firm are you in speaking the truth — yet do you do it with kindness? What a tension and balance this is! Personally, I wish I were much better at this. Conversely:
Proverbs 3:32 For the devious are an abomination to the Lord; but He is intimate with the upright.
The English word for devious is from the root “to deviate” meaning “To deviate from a right, accepted, or common course: astray.”2 It is an apt English translation for the Hebrew word (luz) and could also be translated as “twisted.” God finds people who turn aside the truth, who twist truth, to be abominable. That’s not a good thing. Notice that these aforementioned two Proverbs connect lying lips and deviousness respectively to not having delight and intimacy with God: If you want to have and sense delight and intimacy with God, it follows that you must be truthful!
PEOPLE IN THE CAPITAL COMMUNITY SHOULD BE ARDENT SEARCHERS FOR TRUTH, STRONGLY CONDEMNING ANY AND ALL FORMS OF DEVIATION IF FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN THEIR SENSE OF CLOSENESS TO GOD!
The ultimate source of truth is the Bible. The Word of God is the historically reliable final arbitrator as to what is truthful. Again, Jesus not only underscores the treasure of truth, but personifies it in John 14:6 when He states, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” One must therefore become a Bible student to develop in truthfulness in order to be increasingly pleasing to God. Remember, there is a judgment day coming for both the believer and unbeliever wherein everyone will answer for every deviation from truth.
Proverbs 14:2 He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him.
Not only does keeping the truth benefit your personal relationships and your intimacy with God, but it builds your sense of personal integrity.
C. PERSONAL INTEGRITY
Solomon personifies wisdom in chapter 8 of the Book of Proverbs. As he defines her, in verses 7 and 8, he states further characteristics of wise people:
Proverbs 8:7-8 “For my mouth will utter truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverted in them.”
The wise person will not only speak truth, he or she will also mentally ponder what is righteous. This is the sign of a mature believer — a disciplined thinking pattern that has trained his or her cerebral faculties through continual and repeated arrest of sinful thoughts and motives. The biblical theology of the mature believer serves to inform him of the existence of his fallen nature within him. Therefore he forms mental disciplines to not pander to, but rather mortify his fallen nature, knowing that he still possesses a fallen nature even though Jesus Christ is in the process of sanctifying him.
DO YOU TAKE THE CARE OFTEN NECESSARY TO MENTALLY ARREST YOUR SINFUL NATURE AND ITS PROPENSITY FOR EVIL THINKING?
The following Proverb depicts the need to form this habit:
Proverbs 17:20 He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.
Personal integrity is impossible to achieve in a crooked mind. And a crooked mind is the seedbed of perverted language — and both are watershed precursors to falling into evil. Nip things in the bud and it will be much easier to maintain a sense of personal integrity; don’t let the horse get out of the barn. Again, do not pander to your fallen nature. Starve it instead.
D. KINDNESS AND TRUTH
What the fourth attribute, truthfulness, will do for you is this: You will receive kindness and truth! By keeping those virtues, you will receive those virtues; what goes around comes around!
For sure, attitudinal premeditation is a determinative aspect of relational success or failure. Deciding beforehand to do another good or evil is the thought in the following Proverb:
Proverbs 14:22 Will they not go astray who devise evil? But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good.
Kindness and truth accrue to the one who premeditates to devise good to another! “Give and it will be given to you” states Luke 6:38. One reaps what one sows states Galatians 6:7.
E. LONGEVITY AND PERSEVERANCE
Here is yet another benefit of what truth will do for you. The fifth benefit of being truthful is longevity and perseverance.
Proverbs 12:19 Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment.
To my point in the opening preamble of this Bible study, time and truth run hand in hand, lies are eventually found out. Truth, however, endures. “Truthfulness carries not only the idea of veracity and accuracy, but also of durability, permanence and reliability”3 states a leading commentator on Proverbs.
IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR LONGEVITY AND PERSEVERANCE IN OFFICE, THEN BECOME A HABITUAL TRUTH TELLER!
Don’t shade things to benefit yourself; this will be found out, especially in elections where opposition researchers abound.
F. ADMIRABLE BEHAVIOR
Proverbs 21:8 The way of a guilty man is crooked, but as for the pure, his conduct is upright.
Conduct refers to the way and work of an individual. It bespeaks of his or her personal integrity or lack thereof. Crooked behavior evidences someone who is guilty of something, whereas upright behavior points to a clear conscience. The former has something to hide, the latter does not. How much easier it is to live without hiding things. A wonderful benefit of forming habitual truthfulness is the commensurate admirable behavior that results. Coach Wooden had another way of saying this, “Work on your character, not your reputation,” he’d preach. I think he got that from Proverbs 28:6.
G. ACCURATE COMMUNICATIONS
The following Proverb is from a series known as “the sayings of the wise.” It speaks to one’s ability to become an accurate conveyor of truth to another.
Proverbs 22:21 To make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer him who sent you?
In a day largely void of writing materials, the verbal conveyance of truth was critically important. Trust in a messenger is indicated four times in Proverbs (10:26, 13:17, 25:13 and 26:6). The conveyor must continually avoid exaggeration and dwell on certainty. Such a discipline is all within the corpus of being a truthful person. A truth teller both then and now needs to accurately convey what is told to him by another. Being committed to truth will make you a man or woman who is increasingly committed to and manifesting of accuracy and precision.
These then are seven virtues — seven triumphal treasures of truthfulness — that will inure to your benefit if you determine to be a man or woman of veracity.
IV. TRUTHFULNESS: HOW WILL IT DEFEND YOU?
Longman, in his great commentary on the Book of Proverbs, states in regard to Proverbs 20:28, “It is through… constant faithfulness, between all parties involved that productive governance can take place and the king himself can avoid usurpation.”4 Here is what he is commenting on:
Proverbs 20:28 Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness.
This is what truthfulness can do for you who hold office — and the overall health of the culture.
THE STABILITY OF THE GOVERNMENT RESTS PRIMARILY UPON THE LOYALTY AND VERACITY OF THE ONES WHO GOVERN
“What the king demands of the citizens (cf. 20:8 & 26) he must demand of himself as well, for God certainly does.”5 States Kitchen in his similarly great commentary on Proverbs, “It is both by strict adherence to the truth and by passionate and compassionate commitment to God and His people that the king wins their loyalty. In so seeking these qualities in his relations with his subjects, he imitates God’s own rule.”6 This is precisely what Solomon is conveying to Rehoboam — and you — in this Proverb. Obviously America is not a land of kings, but the principle still applies to those elected to office.
How will truth defend you? Psalm 89:14 states in regard to God’s reign, Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You. Such is the standard that all in governance should aspire to. Such passion for truth preserves the office-holder! Notice the same principle of longevity resulting from truth-telling in the following Proverb:
Proverbs 21:28 A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever.
Various other Proverbs contain principles that promote the upholding, establishment, and longevity of one desirous of remaining in public office. And one of those is this one pertaining to being truthful at all times.
Digressing from the virtue of truthfulness being a preservative to holding office, here are the four others that Solomon mentions to his son who would be the next king. Notice the repetition of the idea of establishment (kun) meaning “to be firm” that runs throughout the following Proverbs. In fact, the word for established is used 25 times in the Old Testament regarding the establishment of a dynasty.7
WHAT ARE FOUR ADDITIONAL KEYS TO BEING ESTABLISHED IN OFFICE ACCORDING TO THE BOOK OF PROVERBS?
A. BE JUST WITH THE POWERLESS
How a leader treats one who cannot pad his pocket, gain his attention or jeopardize his agenda speaks volumes about his or her character. When God finds a person who is just and truthful with the powerless, He promises him security.
Proverbs 29:14 If a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever.
Not only does being just with the powerless promote personal security, but it stabilizes the land. Proverbs 29:4 states, The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it.
B. DETEST WICKEDNESS
If God sets rulers in their place, and He does per Romans 13:1, then here is an additional insight into how one maintains His pleasure in His appointment.
Proverbs 16:12 It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness.
IN PRINCIPLE, TO CHOOSE THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IS TO CHOOSE THE WAY OF LASTING IN OFFICE
One does not have to look far in American history to recount the response of God (via His orchestration of voters) to remove wicked people from office.
C. REMOVE WICKED COUNSELORS
In addition to being truthful in order to establish yourself in office, the third biblical insight, achieving God’s favor while in office, is revealed in this Proverb:
Proverbs 25:5 Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.
Rehoboam, to whom Solomon wrote this Proverb, is the classic example of its violation! He refused in his reign to listen to the right advisors. He chose his “high school buddies” over his dad’s proven, seasoned professionals. This fact led to his devastating failure. How important it is to prune the unrighteous and disloyal from the leader’s midst! To do so is to gain longevity in leadership. Don’t underestimate the deleterious effect that bad staff can have on you achieving your purpose(s) in life.
D. STOP OPPRESSION AND UNJUST GAIN
No one need be convinced that graft is corrupting. And yet still, these practices determine the course of many leaders and governments today!
Proverbs 28:16 A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
If the principle of this Proverb is accurate, those who are dishonest will be removed from power. Time and truth run hand in hand. The prolonging of a leader is related to his integrity regarding bribes — be they direct or indirect.
Here then are four keen biblical insights in addition to being truthful that relate to how one pleases God and maintains His blessing relative to His appointment to serve in Government: In addition to being truthful, be just with the powerless; detest wickedness; remove wicked counselors; and stop oppression and unjust gains. God will honor and establish those officeholders who keep these additional four virtues in view!
Truthfulness is part of God’s very nature. Jesus will manifest a perfectly truthful governance when He returns to rule the world. And even though we presently live in a fallen world, all leaders should be motivated by the fear of God and the benefits listed herein to discipline themselves to truthful thinking, speech, and behavior. The following closing Proverb is fitting.
Proverbs 30:7-8 Two things I asked of You, do not refuse me before I die: keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion.
All of us can easily be deceived. We often think we’re smarter than we are; we can be unaware of the craft or trickery of others. Herein Solomon prays that God would protect him from himself: that he would not be void of the truth. May such be the case and prayer of you and me — and may the virtue of truth remain a vital aspect in American culture!
4 Longman III, Temper Proverbs, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006) p. 385.
5 Kitchen, 458.
7 Oswalt, John N., ‘kun,’ Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980) 1:433-34.