Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Our Fears and Falsehoods

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh” (Genesis 18:15).

Why do people lie?

Of the many things that God could have spoken in giving guidance and instruction to his people, why did God choose to tell the Hebrews (and us) not to bear false witness against a neighbor?

We rarely ask this question. Perhaps we live in such a deceit-ridden culture that we simply assume that people lie and thus the need for God’s command is obvious. But what motives lurk behind the lies? What gives rise to rumors and gossip, to misrepresentations and accusations?

Maybe our falsehoods are driven by ambition. We distort the truth to get ahead, to close the deal, to make ourselves look better than we are. Sometimes we have to admit that our falsehoods are driven by animosity to another person. We simply don’t like someone or some group of people; we relish hearing their faults and feigning concern as we turn around and repeat them to others.

But if we’ll peel back the thick rind of both our ambitions and our animosities what we will likely find at the core is fear. At some level all of our falsehoods are rooted in the shared soil of fear.

The biblical stories around Abraham and Sarah give us a picture of two people who sought to follow God, and yet were deeply flawed. Thankfully, these stories teach us that the following and the flaws are not mutually exclusive. One glaring flaw that both of them shared was their willingness to play fast and loose with the truth.

When famine forced Abraham (Abram) to live in Egypt, he feared that the Egyptians would be so taken by Sarai’s (Sarah’s) beauty that they would kill him in order to have her. In his fear he planned a deception. “Say that you are my sister . . . so that my life will be spared because of you.” Later on he repeated the same lie to Abimelech. Both times, fear is behind the falsehood.

When Sarah overhears from visiting strangers that God will give her a baby within the year, she laughs at this word of promise. The Lord responds: “Why did Sarah laugh?” And then we are told, “Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh’.” Again, a fear-driven lie.

And what about us? What fears drive our deceptions?

When our false witness is a misrepresentation of who we are, we may be driven by a fear of not measuring up. We may fear that the truth of who we are is not enough to win respect or acceptance or approval of others. When our false witness is aimed at someone else we may feel threatened – perhaps fearful that someone else will receive the approval we yearn for.

What’s the strategy to counter this? Many of us tend to fear the wrong things. We fear other people. We fear events that are beyond our control. The Bible, however, urges us to fear the Lord. It has been said that those who fear the Lord won’t need to fear anything else. Those who do not fear the Lord will fear everything else.

What other connections do you see between fear and falsehood?

Grant us grace, O God, that is greater than all our fears. Cause our hearts to so reverence you that we are free to live truthfully. Make us truthful about and with ourselves; make us truthful about and with others. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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