Truth-telling seems to have gone by the boards of late.
Over the past few decades, college professors and best-selling authors have been found guilty of blatant plagiarism. Journalists have been exposed for writing stories from interviews they had with people they never met at places they've never been. There are periodic reports from major universities of students being expelled for printing term papers off the Internet and offering them as their work.
A turbulent American economy traces more directly to a fundamental lack of honesty among people in the financial markets than to terrorism. Investment firms urged their brokers to dump poor-performing stocks on trusting buyers. Top officers at major companies used "creative accounting" to pursue their greedy goals - and flushed down the toilet the pensions of countless people who are struggling now just to get by. And I haven't even used the word "politician" yet!
We are facing an integrity crisis of the first order. We don't know whom to believe. Sometimes we simply say we don't know whether we can believe anyone. We are defensive. We live cynically. We don't trust one another.
One researcher estimates that somewhere between ten and twenty percent of the payroll of a typical corporation is spent on people whose job is to check on its own employees, suppliers, and customers for fraud. What a waste of manpower and money due to the lack of basic integrity in our fallen world.
If I lie to you, I demean you as a person - deciding that you have no right to know something relevant to your life or that you can't handle knowing the truth. Thus the paternalism of some physicians and families to a dying patient.
If I lie to you, I am robbing you of your freedom - forcing you to make decisions on the basis of false or misleading information. Thus the tactics of some salespersons or televangelists.
If I lie to you, I am arrogant in the extreme - playing a role which says I have the right to decide when you should know enough to make your own informed decision. Thus the strategy of certain political or religious leaders to put others at jeopardy for the sake of some end-justifies-the-means scheme.
"Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself" (Ephesians 4:25 MSG).
Dr. Rubel Shelly is Pastor of Woodmont Hills Church of Christ, Nashville and authors Fax of Life a weekly service. He is the author of more than 20 books, including several which have been translated into languages such as Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Russian. To subscribe to Fax of Life, send email to faxOfLife@woodmont.org