Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Heresy of Hearsay

Heresy of Hearsay
Photo by Dyanna Hyde [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Matthew 5:33-37
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’   But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ for whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

Exodus 20:16
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”. 

In the Talmud, the story is told of a king who had two jesters. He sent one of them out to bring to him the best thing in the world and the other, to bring back to him the worst thing in the world. In a short while both jesters returned, each with a package. The first bowed low, opened his package and exclaimed “the best thing in the world, sire!” Before the king was a TONGUE. The other jester began to laugh and quickly un-wrapped his bundle. “The worst thing in the world, O King!” he said, and behold, another TONGUE. And so it is!  The tongue has the most awesome power in the entire world. By a word, fortunes are gained or lost; by a word men are exalted or debased; by a word, the course of a nation is determined; by a word, God is praised or denied; and by a word, man shall be eternally condemned or glorified.

There is no one nor any place that is exempt. The teacher in the Sunday School, anxious to impress his boys about the danger of telling lies in summing up his lesson said; “Now, when little boys who lie grow up, where do they go?” One little fellow, who had evidently been around held up his hand and said: “To the golf courses”. But they also go to Church and to the office, to the market place, to school and wherever people go.

With this in mind, there are several questions we ought to ask ourselves and our God.

1. Why Does One Lie or Bear False Witness?

the devil
Image from ClaudioJose 

A phrase made popular by Flip Wilson says “The Devil made me do it!”. It always gets a laugh and rightly so. It not only good comedy, it is good theology. We lie because we are like our father the devil. He is a liar from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44). It began in the Garden of Eden and will not be finished until Jesus comes again.

On the other hand, we all know the devil doesn't make us do it. We choose to lie, to deceive, and to bear false witness. It is a sin of our own making.

Then, again why do men/women choose to lie?  There are many motivations:

People lie to satisfy the desire to injure others. 

A well known Clinical Psychologist says; “Some achieve neurotic satisfaction in hurting the reputations of others. They have a sadistic motivation!” These are emotionally sick and spiritually destitute.

People lie to satisfy the desire to attract attention and feel important. 

Is it really true? My people have a saying; “Tell a woman that the child she carries is beautiful, she would answer you; wait till I bathe her” Ask a fisherman the size of his best catch and watch a few pins fall. Ask a preacher the size of his Sunday school, and watch the revival begin. Everyone wants to feel important and exaggeration helps. Perhaps that is your problem.

People lie to satisfy their desire to rationalize their own actions or to divert attention from their own sordid lives. 

Look in the gossiper’s backyard and you will find more garbage than you can deposit at the feet of his/her innocent victims. Psychologists tell us that we are quickest to point out the faults in others that exist in our own lives. You can learn a person’s secrets and find an index to his character by the things he will gossip about.

2. How Does one lie or Bear False Witness?

In Speech

This includes

- Perjury in a court of law. 

This is, of course, a criminal offense, but it still happens. A Judge once said: “After a broad and varied experience covering a period of twenty years within the courts of this country, I am only able to report two cases in which there was no perjury or subornation of perjury to be found or suspected.” Another judge of a Supreme Court frankly declared “We have reached the point where we merely try to find out which side is lying most” This is a serious defect in our national character.

- Gossip. 

This is done when one repeats what he has heard, usually without regard to its foundation in fact or lack of it, and without regard to the damage to the other person. In addition, no regard is given to the context or circumstances of the story. And it is usually an enlarged version. One lady had been listening to a choice piece of gossip from another at the end she asked; “Is that all there is to the story?” the other replied; “I guess so, I have already told you more than I heard!”

- Half-truths or distortion of truth. 

There is a way of twisting the truth or using only a portion of it in order to give it an entirely different meaning. Someone has said that the danger of telling a half-truth is that you might tell the wrong half. This is often the case.

- False Advertising. 

The advertising world breaks the ninth commandment as often and as deceitfully as possible.  A traveller pulled up in front of a motel which advertised “Free WiFi”. “How much are your rooms?” he asked. “Eighty Naira and Fifty Naira”, the clerk quickly quoted. “What is the difference?” “The eighty Naira room has the Free WiFi.” We do this very freely. What have you been advertising and falsely too?

- The Communications Media

This includes Press, Radio, and Visual Communications. Freedom of the Mass Media does not mean freedom from responsible communication.

In Silence

One does not have to open his mouth to be a party to a lie or to false witness. When you hear your Church being attacked or the pastor or a member and remain silent you become a party to the attack. You consent to what is being told. Silence is not always golden, it is often just yellow.

By Your Life

One can live a false life. His life can be a lie. He may profess one thing with words and another by actions. The world is waiting to be shown.

Gorilla Acting
Licenced through Creative Commons
The story is told of a man who was running a zoo which had a very active Gorilla and demonstrating lion. The Gorilla particularly attracted so many visitors and of course was a money spinner for the owner. One day, the Gorilla died. The Zoo keeper carefully skinned the gorilla and dried the skin. One afternoon, a young school leaver job seeker called at the zoo asking for a vacancy. The Zoo keeper looked him over and felt he was the same size as his dead gorilla. So he told the job-seeker, the only vacancy I have is that of a Gorilla-acting. The young man felt it was better than walking the streets. So he was trained in the tricks of the gorilla and then dressed in the skin of the gorilla. He was a perfect match. Once again, the zoo-was bustling with visitors coming to see the gorilla. One day as the gorilla was dangling from one tree branch to another, the branch broke and he saw himself falling into the Lion’s den. He shouted as he fell down. The Lion rushed to him and whispered into his ear; “stop shouting otherwise I will be forced to do my work as a lion!” It was then that the young man discovered that even the lion was acting. So many of us are just gorilla-acting! 

3. What are the Results?

One’s Spiritual Condition is revealed.

A Greek father of the Church once said “By examining the tongue, physicians gain insight into the health of the body; and philosophers, by so doing gain insight into the health of the heart”

People get hurt. 

Three people are injured when one is guilty of bearing false witness:

First, the person himself is injured. He becomes a liar. He has to live with that for the rest of his life. He has to face himself and his conscience every day knowing what he has done. He becomes distrustful of all others. There is an old proverb that says: "Unhappy is the man who tells a lie because he can never believe that anyone else is telling him the truth.”

The victim is injured. His reputation may be, and many times is ruined for life. Years ago there was a celebrity case of a man who had slanderous charges made against his character. He had no alternative but to defend his name in court. The case received much publicity during the months of preparation and investigation. The trial extended over a period of weeks. The slandered man fought to clear his name, not just for himself but for his family. Finally, after a lengthy trial, the court cleared the man completely. He received a large sum of money for the damage done to his name. When at last the verdict was rendered in his favour, the man committed suicide. He had endured the pain of the trial for his family’s sake. But in the process, the smear against his name drained from him all desire to go on living. For even a false witness leaves an irreparable damage.

The hearer is injured. He becomes a party to the foul deal. He is accountable to society as well as the Saviour.

4. How can the tongue be tamed? 

Of ourselves there is no solution, but by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit it can be done. What is the antidote to the poison of the tongue? The antidote is love. Jesus said: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Paul tells us that love is the first fruit of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. “Love does not envy; love does not vaunt itself; love is not puffed up; does not seek its own; is not easily provoked; bears all things; hopes all things; endures all things.” In one word, love does not bear false witness. Let us read First Corinthians 13:4-7 together: 
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
God bless you all.

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