Truthfulness: The Clearest and Noblest PathApril 13, 2016
I want to share with you this month from my recent studies on spiritual growth in the life of a believer. I pray that the insight I’ve gleaned from the Scriptures will not only bless you, but also establish you on a clear path of accelerated growth in this season of your walk with God.
As pastors of a large church in Moscow, Denise and I live for the vision God has placed within us to establish in believers the revelation of Christ in them, “the hope of glory,” presenting everyone He has entrusted to our care “perfect in Christ Jesus” (see Colossians 1:27,28). We are committed to this process of seeing Christians “grow up into Him in all things” (see Ephesians 4:15).
But as a pastor and spiritual leader, I can tell you that the biggest marks of spiritual growth are not always what people think. In fact, one of the surest indicators of maturity in a believer’s life is the ability to exemplify habitually the characteristic of truthfulness. Ephesians 4:15 specifically relates that a sign of this high level of spirituality I’m referring to is the ability to consistently “speak the truth in love.”
The whole passage in Ephesians 4 on speaking truthfully teaches us that spiritual maturity is measured by how honestly we conduct ourselves in our relationships. Prophesying or giving a “word from the Lord” may sound spiritual — but true spirituality is measured in the way we connect with and relate to other people. The ability to be direct, honest, and loving is one of the greatest character traits we can attain to in life — and it is a trait that we must develop!
Just think how many of us were trained, even as children, to be politely dishonest. For example, when we received a gift we didn’t like, many of us were taught to say, “It’s just beautiful; I love it!” — when, in fact, we didn’t think it was beautiful, and we didn’t love it. Of course we should be grateful when someone takes the thought, time, and expense to give us a gift. And we certainly should express our sincere thanks. But to make so much of something we don’t really like is just a small example of how dishonesty has been interwoven in the fabric of our lives.
Being direct and to the point is difficult for most people to do, and it is equally difficult for most people to receive. But giving and receiving truth in a manner consistent with God’s character is an essential element of stability, growth, and effectiveness — both in an individual and in an organization.
As the leader of our ministry, I expect my team to be honest with me and to speak to me truthfully. Even if I don’t always like what they have to say, their honesty guarantees a clear and truthful relationship between us. However, if someone on my staff were to tell me one thing and then change his tune and tell a fellow employee something entirely different, it would create distrust between that staff member and me. If that happened, I wouldn’t know whether I could really count on that team member to be honest with me.
This is precisely what the Bible is talking about when it says that those chosen to be deacons cannot be “double-tongued” (see 1 Timothy 3:8). The Greek word for “double-tongued” is dilogos, and it means, two-worded. It presents the picture of someone who says one thing to one person about a situation, but then says something altogether different about it to someone else. This “double-tongued” individual is either inconsistent in what he tells people, or he is just simply dishonest.
Sometimes this characteristic of being “double-tongued,” or two-worded, indicates that a person is a people-pleaser. He wants everyone to like him, so he agrees with whomever he is with at the moment. This person may be concerned that if he takes an opinion contrary to his immediate audience, he will lose favor or influence with them. So instead of speaking his true convictions in an attitude of love, he finds himself violating his conscience. Beyond just remaining silent if he doesn’t agree with something others say, he actually verbalizes agreement with those in his presence, knowing that what he says is not really what he believes.
This trait of being double-tongued is a serious character flaw. And the Bible is very strong in telling us that a person who possesses this trait should not be used in leadership. A leader who tells the pastor, “I believe you’re right” and then tells the church members, “I believe the pastor is missing it this time” is not being a blessing to the pastor. In the end, he creates confusion and suspicion.
It’s a blessing to always know where I stand with a person and to never wonder if that individual really means what he or she says. When I can always count on a person to tell me exactly what he or she thinks, a foundation of trust can be established that is very important if we’re going to build a long-term relationship in the ministry.
My team is very honest with me. Because they are honest with me — and I know they love me and have my best interests at heart — I trust them incredibly. I know I can depend on their straightforward, truthful responses. Denise and I are visionaries — we are tremendous “idea people”! But we need the perspective of others to help us see all the details that must accompany a vision. We need their honest input in our lives. That’s why God sent us our team.
Please remember on this subject of truthfulness that we are called to speak the truth in love — not to “bludgeon” each other in the way we communicate what’s on our minds! We must ask God to teach us how to present the truth in a manner that makes it easier to receive. In fact, one reason truth is rejected is the inappropriate way it is sometimes packaged. When truth comes bundled with harsh tones of judgment, criticism, and condemnation, it can cause the recipient to put up a wall of defense as a safeguard against the attack. But when truth comes wrapped up in patience, tenderness, and love, it is much easier to receive.
In my own experience, I’ve learned that the truth in itself isn’t as hard to hear as the wrong way in which it is sometimes spoken. I think you know that cold water spitefully thrown in your face would not be a very enjoyable experience. In fact, it may be such a chilling encounter that you could become tempted to respond in kind and throw water right back!
Similarly, truth “thrown” at people with a hurtful, spiteful attitude is rarely truth that finds lodging in people’s hearts and minds to effect godly freedom and spiritual change.
Let’s look in greater detail at the manner in which we are to speak truthfully with each other.
When you are required to confront someone and speak the truth, remember the principle of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” (see Matthew 7:12). In other words, be mindful to speak the truth in love as you would want to have truth spoken in love unto you. Ask yourself this question: How would I want the truth spoken to me?
Would you want truth spoken to you brutally or harshly — or would you want truth spoken to you kindly and gently? If you’re in a situation in which you must confront someone with the truth, imagine how you would respond to that same truth if it were being presented to you. Then try to picture what would help you receive it in the easiest way that would bring growth to your life and be a blessing. As you ponder these ideas, what you discover will create a path for you to follow to speak the truth in love into someone else’s life. As you follow that path, you will usually end up treating that other person correctly — with dignity and respect — as you tell him or her what you perceive to be the truth.
One thing is very clear: The Bible commands us to put away lying, speaking “…every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25). The word for “lying” comes from pseudos in Greek, and it means falsehood or to be dishonest or untruthful. But this word doesn’t necessarily describe an outright lie. It could also mean not telling the whole truth.
Of course there are times — especially as a leader — when you should not divulge everything about a situation that you know. Certainly there is a time to speak and a time to keep quiet! But you usually know it if you’re withholding critical information that shades the truth or paints a very different image of a situation than is really true. That kind of not telling the whole truth is a picture of pseudos, or “lying,” that Paul admonished against in Ephesians 4:25.
When Paul commands us to “speak every man truth,” the word “speak” is the present imperative in Greek. That means it points to a habitual action that is to characterize life. In other words, God’s Spirit is exhorting us to develop the trait of always telling the truth — the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us, God!
If you are in a position of authority in your family, ministry, or organization, you must set the example by being truthful with the people who live, serve, and work under you. When you are truthful, people will know you are being straight with them. Even if they don’t like everything you say, they will know they can always depend on you to tell the truth when they need to hear it and not “fudge” about it. If you are truthful, you will set the standard for integrity, truthfulness, and trust among all the members of your team.
This doesn’t mean that honesty will always be easy. Taking the path of truthfulness can be very difficult — however, it is always the clearest and most noble path to take. I believe you want that for your life and for the relationships you hold dear.
How can Denise and I and our team be praying for you this month? We count it one of our highest honors to join with you in faith to see God’s best manifest in your life in abundance.
We really do love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families