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 overstated. In this Bible study, the following proverbs depict the various benefits of being a man or a woman of truth. Understanding the benefits of being truthful versus the detriments of lying or bearing false witness proves motivational to say the least.
Read on, my friend.
The Scriptures speak repeatedly of the importance of developing a “truth habit.” That is, working to become 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.
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart (Proverbs 3:3).
Exodus 34:7a states that the 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 in Proverbs 3:3, this Exodus passage underscores the fact that God is literally abounding in kindness, or as 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. Furthermore, the metaphoric language and picture of Proverbs 3:3 in speaking about the heart of an individual depicts the visceral and habitual need for the ongoing, simultaneous exhibition of both kindness and truth.
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 the believer who states biblical truth without incumbent sensitivities. God is abounding in kindness as well as truthfulness.
II. TRUTHFULNESS: WHAT WILL IT DEMAND OF US?
Having established the foundational need for both kindness and truth to coexist in the soul of man, notice in addition the further proverbial admonition:
Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you (Proverbs 4:24).
In that deceit and deviousness are far from God’s nature, so must deceitful and devious actions be far from ours as well! The idea of devious speech, i.e., 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:
Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding (Proverbs 23:23).
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 not to succumb to such pressures:
Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich (Proverbs 28:6).
The desire to be rich relates to more than monetary wealth; often in our culture it relates to power and upward mobility in a career, including being 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 unbeneficial in the long run because time and truth do run hand in hand.
We should deem truth to be more valuable than ourselves or our careers.
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 goal? May it not be so! God will honor your being principled versus expedient. Commit yourself to being a man or a 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, truthfulness may set me up for what God has next in store for me. Truth demands this stance of me.
III. TRUTHFULNESS: WHAT WILL IT DO FOR US?
Sometimes being truthful will cost us dearly, but God will honor our truthfulness. What follows are some of those benefits.
A. GOOD RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS
By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil (Proverbs 16:6).
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 like the man-to-man context of Proverbs 10:12, Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions. We avoid undue calamity in personal relationships by characteristic and simultaneous speech and actions of the same words used in Proverbs 3:3: lovingkindness and truthfulness. Via a proper fear of the Lord, we are 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 our habitual love and truthfulness will be our interpersonal relationship success.
B. INTIMACY WITH GOD
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight (Proverbs 12:22).
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, being straightforward demands courage. How firm are we in speaking the truth? Do we speak with kindness? What a tension and balance this is! Personally, I wish I were much better at this. Conversely:
For the devious are an abomination to the Lord; but He is intimate with the upright (Proverbs 3:32).
The English word for devious is from the root “to deviate,” meaning “to deviate from a right, accepted, or common course: astray.”2 This apt English translation for the Hebrew word (luz) could also be translated as “twisted.” God finds people who turn aside the truth, i.e., twist truth, to be abominable. That’s not a good thing. Notice that Proverbs 12:22 and 3:32 connect lying lips and deviousness respectively to not having delight and intimacy with God. If we want to have and sense delight and intimacy with God, we 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 as a result of their sense of closeness to God!
The ultimate source of truth is the Bible. Historically, the Word of God has always been the 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.…” We must therefore become Bible students to develop in truthfulness in order to be increasingly pleasing to God. Remember, a judgment day is coming for both the believer and the unbeliever wherein everyone will answer for every deviation from truth.
He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him (Proverbs 14:2).
Not only does keeping the truth benefit our personal relationships and our intimacy with God, but it builds our 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:
“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” (Proverbs 8:7–8).
Those who are wise will not only speak truth, but they will also mentally ponder what is righteous. This is the sign of mature believers: a disciplined thinking pattern that has trained their cerebral faculties through continual and repeated arrest of sinful thoughts and motives. The biblical theology of mature believers serves to inform them of the existence of their fallen nature within. Therefore, mature believers form mental disciplines not to pander to, but rather to mortify their fallen nature, knowing they still possess the fallen nature even though Jesus Christ is in the process of sanctifying them.
Do we take the care often necessary to mentally arrest our sinful nature and its propensity for evil thinking?
The following proverb depicts the need to form this critical habit:
He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil (Proverbs 17:20).
Personal integrity is impossible to achieve in a crooked mind—the seedbed of perverted language—and both are watershed precursors to falling into evil. Nipping our thinking in the bud will help in maintaining a sense of personal integrity; don’t let the horse get out of the barn. Again, we cannot pander to our fallen nature; we must starve it instead.
D. KINDNESS AND TRUTH
What the fourth attribute, truthfulness, will do for us is as follows: we will receive kindness and truth! By keeping those virtues, we will receive those virtues. After all, what goes around comes around!
For certain, 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:
Will they not go astray who devise evil? But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good (Proverbs 14:22).
When we premeditate on ways to devise good to another, kindness and truth will accrue! “Give, and it will be given to you…” states Luke 6:38. We reap what we sow states Galatians 6:7.
E. LONGEVITY AND PERSEVERANCE
The fifth benefit of what truth will do for us can be gleaned from Proverbs 12:19. Being truthful develops perseverance and extends longevity.
Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment (Proverbs 12:19).
To my point in the opening preamble of this Bible study, time and truth run hand in hand; lies are eventually exposed. 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.
Looking for longevity and perseverance in office? Then become a habitual truth teller!
The ploy of trying to shade things to benefit ourselves will be disclosed, especially in elections where opposition researchers abound.
F. ADMIRABLE BEHAVIOR
The way of a guilty man is crooked, but as for the pure, his conduct is upright (Proverbs 21:8).
Conduct refers to the way and work of an individual, addressing 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. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden had another way of saying this: “Work on your character, not your reputation.” I think he took that statement from Proverbs 28:6.
G. ACCURATE COMMUNICATIONS
The following proverb is from a series known as “the sayings of the wise.” Proverbs 22:21 speaks to our ability to become an accurate conveyor of truth to another.
To make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer him who sent you (Proverbs 22:21).
In a day largely void of writing materials, the verbal conveyance of truth was critically important. Trust in a messenger is addressed 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 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 us men or women who are increasingly committed to and manifesting of accuracy and precision.
These seven virtues—seven triumphal treasures of truthfulness—will inure to our benefit if we determine to be men or women of veracity.
IV. TRUTHFULNESS: HOW WILL IT DEFEND US?
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:
Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness (Proverbs 20:28).
This is what truthfulness can do for those who hold office—and the overall health of the culture.
The stability of the government rests primarily upon the loyalty and veracity of those 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 excerpt is precisely what Solomon is conveying to Rehoboam—and us—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 us? Psalm 89:14 states regarding God’s reign: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You. Such is the standard to which all in governance should aspire. Such passion for truth preserves the officeholder! Notice the same principle of longevity resulting from truth-telling in the following proverb:
A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever (Proverbs 21:28).
Various other proverbs contain principles that promote the upholding, establishment, and longevity of those desirous of remaining in public office. And one of those proverbs pertains to being always truthful.
Digressing from the virtue of truthfulness as a preservative to holding office, the following are four other preserving virtues 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
According to the book of Proverbs, what are four additional keys to being established in office?
A. BE JUST WITH THE POWERLESS
How a leader treats people 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.
If a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever (Proverbs 29:14).
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 an additional insight into how a leader maintains His pleasure in His appointment is as follows:
It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness (Proverbs 16:12).
In principle, to choose the way of righteousness is to choose the way of landing in office.
We do not need 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 to establish ourselves in office, the third biblical insight, achieving God’s favor while in office, is revealed in this Proverb:
Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness (Proverbs 25:5).
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. Choosing his “high-school buddies” over his dad’s proven, seasoned professionals 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 achieving your purpose(s) in life.
D. STOP OPPRESSION AND UNJUST GAIN
No one needs to be convinced that graft is corrupting. Yet still, these practices determine the course of many leaders and governments today!
A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days (Proverbs 28:16).
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—whether direct or indirect.
These four keen biblical insights, in addition to being truthful, relate to how we please God and maintain 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 in this study to discipline themselves to truthful thinking, speech, and behavior. The following closing proverb is fitting.
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 (Proverbs 30:7–8).
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 the prayer of both you and me and may the virtue of truth remain a vital aspect in American culture!
1. John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary (Dublin: Christian Focus Publications, 2006), 354.
2. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. “devious,” accessed April 5, 2022, http://www.merriam-webster.com/devious.
3. R.N. Whybray, Proverbs (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 197.
4. Tremper Longman III, Proverbs, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 385.
5. Kitchen, 458.
7. John N. Oswalt, “kun,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980) 1:433–34.