May I Fib?

Mark Fackler

READ : Zechariah 8:14-17

Speak the truth. (v. 16)

The great Christian scholar Thomas Aquinas allowed lying when the speaker’s intention was to get a laugh, but lying was never right when done for hurt or advantage. Yet Thomas knew that without a little truth-twisting there wouldn’t be any good jokes.

Zechariah insists on people speaking truthfully to each other, especially in the serious business of settling legal disputes. In arguments over rights, or claims against another’s property, truth must never be compromised. Another great Christian leader, Augustine, insisted that the worst lie of all is the lie that directs a soul away from God. (Augustine did not allow for Thomas’s joking lie, but he did say that lies “for fun” were the least sinful!)

“Speak the truth” is God’s first command in this prophetic oracle; “Love no false oath” is his last one. Truth-telling creates trust and community. Liars isolate themselves; no one can depend on them. Here God announces his intention to bring good to his people. For that to happen, the people must be trustworthy. Their words must be true.

One of John Wayne’s characters once said, “Words are what men live by, words they say and mean.” That’s pretty good theology for a cowboy, and good for us too.

If you want to hear truth yourself, first speak it.


Lord, teach my lips to be truthful. And my eyes, and my aim.