Most of us have seen Jim Carrey’s 1997 movie “Liar, Liar.” As a successful lawyer famous for twisting the truth to get ahead, his character repeatedly disappoints his little boy, Max, by failing to show up when he says he will. He even misses Max’s birthday, causing Max to realize his daddy has a lying problem. Max blows out his candles with a secret wish that his daddy will have to tell the truth for the next 24 hours.
Max’s birthday wish comes true immediately, and his daddy can’t make himself tell a lie or even withhold part of the truth. He stutters, stumbles over words, tries to hurt himself to avoid telling the truth and eventually makes a hopeless mess of himself.
In the end, he comes to see that Max is more important than business success, and the happy ending shows a truth-telling father and son spending quality time together.
Although the movie is hilarious, the truth of “Liar, Liar” is that the majority of people lie routinely without so much as a twinge of guilt. A new book, Tangled Webs (James Stewart), details the problem. He says lying was originally a crime against God, condemned in the Bible. But with time and a watering down of our spiritual commitment as a nation, guilt is no longer a pressure, and lying is rampant.
Mr. Stewart tells the stories of four famous liars: Bernie Madoff, Barry Bonds, Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby. These and many others have told the ultimate in lies, lying in court while under oath. Perjury is high-risk lying, and all four have paid in spades.
Interestingly, these celebrities didn’t get charged for their criminal behaviors. Instead they went to prison for lying about that (at least three of them, since one has only recently been convicted). Was lying worth their losses?
I can’t wag my finger at a liar, though, having stretched the truth many times. It was fascinating to hear the author of Tangled Webs wonder aloud during a radio interview where this “epidemic of lying” originated.
He assigned blame, at least partially, to parents not teaching the value of truth to children. But his interviewer said, “I think lying is in all of us.” She was right. We all want to make ourselves look good, and Satan, a professional liar, coaches us on how to do that. But God, the ultimate in truth, tells us there are 7 things he hates, and in that short list, 2 of them are lying. (Proverbs 6)
Scripture details the laws of lying: (1) if we tell one lie, we’ll have to tell more; (2) lying always hurts others; and (3) the truth will come out. Thinking of these irrefutable laws motivates me to tell the whole truth.
I want God to be pleased with me, not to hate what I do or say. And telling the truth is a sure way to win his approval.
(Tomorrow: the telling of a whopper.)
”Don’t scheme against each other. Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth. I hate all these things, says the Lord.” (Zechariah 8:17)