BRADY COLUMN: Nothing but the truth

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

In the Jewish Talmud there’s a story about a king who sent his servant out to get the best thing in the world.  The servant returned shortly with a package in which he had a tongue.  The king commended the servant for his wisdom, then asked him to go out and get the worst thing in the world.  This time the servant was gone for a longer period. When he came back, however, he had another package.  The king opened it, and there again was a tongue!

How true to life is this ancient tale.  The gift of speech can be either a great blessing or a great curse.  As a curse, we damage, hurt and destroy people and community life when we speak untrue words about them or societal issues.  Thus, it was with good reason that God says in the 9th Commandment, “Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor” (Deuteronomy 5:20).

Originally, this commandment was given to uphold the judicial System, to prohibit lying in a court of law.  To bear false witness, then, is to give false testimony against someone in court.  But I believe that “bearing false witness” goes well beyond bringing faulty evidence into a judicial system.  As with the other commandments, God intends this one to apply to all aspects of our daily lives.  In other words, this 9th Commandment is God’s answer to our truth decay.  It is a notable defense against the deception of our time.

Writing in his book, “Conversations of the Heart,” Bishop Woodie White says, “At a time when deception seems so commonplace, it is no perfunctory exercise to give pause to the meaning of truth.”  The Bishop continues, “To tell the truth is still a desired and expected virtue that holds together and gives meaning to relationships, covenants, and social intercourse.”  Stating it another way, community life itself depends on truthfulness.

With all this in mind, I’m thinking of several various lies that go on in our society today.

There’s the lie of slander!  This is the defaming of other persons.  Sometimes it’s a matter of revenge; someone hurt us, and we intend to get even.  But more often, slander is the product of jealously.  We resent another person’s success, and we want to cut them down to size.

There’s the lie for profit!  A friend told me about a business deal his company was making that didn’t seem quite right to him.  The deal would make a ton of money for his company.  They wanted him to sign for the company.  He refused and ultimately lost his job.  But as he said, “I can still look in the mirror!”  That’s integrity!

There’s the lie of silence!  One of the most subtle forms of false witness is inappropriate silence.  Sometime silence is not golden; sometimes it is criminal.  The cause was lost because nothing was said.

There’s the lie of the half truth!  This is the lie of slanting the truth to suit ourselves-telling only half of the story.  Quite often the daily news we get depends upon the station or network we watch or the press we read.  Then, there is the political discourse!  So much depends on the propaganda of the party.

There’s the lie to self!  This is the lie of not owning up.  It is so easy to blame someone else rather than accept our own responsibility.

Then there’s the lie to God!  We say we love God, but do not take him seriously. In the book, “The Day America Told the Truth” by James Patterson and Peter Kim, 90 percent say they believe in m God, yet when asked how they make up their minds on issues of right and wrong, these same folks do not turn to God or religion for help.”

To be sure, there are other lies, but God’s word stands, “Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.” I say again, it’s a notable defense against the deception of our time. Listen up, America!