Liar, liar, pants on fire

Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate that is. The reason we hold the truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it. —Mark Twain

Hi. My name is Charlie, and I’m a recovering liar. (Group: “Hi, Charlie.”)

I started out like everyone does, just telling those little “white lies”—you know, the dog ate my homework kinda stuff. No big deal. Just a harmless pick-me-up when I got in a jam. I never cheated excessively, just when I had to. Maybe I plagiarized a term paper or two, but hey, everybody did that.

Before I knew it, I was a hard-core truth-abuser, padding my expense reports, finagling my taxes, always ready with a smile and a whopper when those blue lights started flashing in my rear-view mirror. I know—we’re all liars here and you’ve heard it all before. Anyway, the good news is that I’m on the wagon. I haven’t stretched the truth in over a week now. (Applause.) Thanks. One day at a time.

I know something about liars because I’ve been one. Like most liars, I bent the truth for self-serving reasons—I wanted to look good when I ought to have looked bad.

Chances are good you’re a liar, too. It’s seductively easy. All it takes is a smile and a clever story to the boss or spouse or teacher, and Presto!, you’ve thrown them off the scent. Crisis averted! Job saved! Reputation regained! A well-timed lie can be a life-saver.

Jayson Blair is a liar. He’s the recently-fired New York Times reporter who built a career quoting people he’d never spoken to. Those Enron executives are liars. They dressed up in their tailored suits and told the stockholders everything was peachy, while back in the office they were shredding documents and pawning the furniture. And how about that Iraqi Information Minister?

“So you are a king, are you?” replied Pilate.
“Indeed I am a king,” Jesus replied; “the reason for my birth and the reason for my coming into the world is to witness to the truth. Everyone who loves truth recognizes my voice.”
To which Pilate retorted, “What is ‘truth’?” —John 18:37-38, JB Phillips

Truth looked Pilate right in the eyes, but he didn’t recognize it. It was close enough that he could have reached out and touched it with his fingers, but he let the opportunity slip away.

For us, too, there is a moment of truth when a lie forms itself in our minds and we admire it. How lovely it is! How clever! How wonderfully made! Beside it stands the truth, all tarnished and dented and worn. Both are within our grasp. Which one will we choose?

God understands the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. We may fool others, but God is never deceived.

Jesus lived among us and knows full well the cost of loving the truth. Integrity comes at a price. Honesty means that every now and then, I’m going to look pretty ugly. At such times, the answer is not to hide behind a lie, but to reach out for Jesus, the one who offers us mercy and grace when we need it the most.

And that’s the truth.

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