Giving a straight answer is ⌊like⌋ a kiss on the lips.
Do not testify against your neighbor without a reason,
and do not deceive with your lips.
Do not say, “I’ll treat him as he treated me.
I’ll pay him back for what he has done to me.” (Proverbs 24:26, 28-29 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 24:23-34 GW)
Consequences have gotten a bad rap over the years. Generally, we think of a consequence as something negative. But it’s not. A consequence is a result or effect, a conclusion or product of some cause or action.
The popular sense of a consequence is negative. This was the premise of the popular TV show, Truth or Consequences, which a city in New Mexico was renamed for. But, a consequence can be good or bad or neutral in its impact.
A straight answer
Giving a straight answer, or an honest answer, has a good consequence—it’s, like a kiss on the lips. This figure of expression indicates respect and affection. It’s the opposite of deception.
Directness and honesty are not so common these days. Not a day goes by without an indication or revelation of untruthfulness by someone we encounter in daily life, a celebrity, or government leader. At least, it seems that way.
Sadly, disinformation—a common euphemism for indirect, often untrue statements—has become the norm. It’s not just people in the spotlight—the news media, government spokespersons, celebrities, etc.—but also in advertising or companies who justify not honoring a guarantee.
Before we get indignant and outraged at all this indirect and dishonest communication—think about yourself.
How many times have you been less than truthful or avoided the full truth in conversations between you and your spouse, parents, children, friends, co-workers, or neighbors? We use the euphemistic label white lies to describe this behavior.
How many times have you or I said or thought something like—Why didn’t you just tell me the truth? What we mean is this—Why didn’t you care enough and respect me enough by giving me a straight answer?
Dishonesty and a deeper problem
As far as negative consequences, these other verses speak for themselves. Well, it ought to be obvious these lead to negative consequences. But is it obvious to us?
The problem with lying—even half-truths and white lies—is the continual need to reaffirm the first lie with other lies. Lying becomes habitual. It’s a behavioral mode called avoidance—of consequences, confrontations, or just continued conversations.
But there’s a deeper problem here. One we tend to mutter under our breath or just think without saying—payback. Payback is just another word for revenge. Revenge is a distorted sense of justice—of making things right as we see them.
What we are called to
As believers—followers of Jesus—we are called to be beacons of light in a dark world (Matt 5:14-16; Phil 2:14-16) and to love our enemies rather than get retribution (Matt 6:43-48; Rom 12:19).
So, we are called to give direct, honest answers to one another. To love the truth and speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). To love our neighbors and to be merciful even as our Father in heaven is merciful (Luke 6:36).
God calls us to be beacons of light in a dark world, to love our enemies, to give direct, honest answers and to love the truth and speak the truth in love to one another, our neighbors, and others—and to be merciful.
When you find yourself being less than honest with someone or even yourself, ask the Lord to give you a love for the truth and for others. Seek to be light in the midst of darkness and to be merciful when others are not.
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