Monday, July 18, 2011


Whether you are watching TV, a movie, or looking at a photograph in the newspaper or a magazine, it is difficult to tell if the images are real or not. Video games are nearly as realistic as film. There is a blurring of the lines between virtual and real.

The blurring of lines can be a challenge when it comes to truth telling—sometimes we call it shading the truth—changing it enough to suit our desires.

People are desperate to know the unvarnished truth. Whether in advertising, politics, or the news, people are skeptical about what they see, hear and read—there is so much blurring.

Recently a witness in a murder trial was accused of “falling on the sword” for her accused daughter—a thinly disguised phrase suggesting the witness lied. A politician made a false statement in an interview and his or her staff later “walked back” the comments—more blurring.

Is it the real deal or are we looking at graphically-enhanced pictures, hearing slanted news, or reading bloviated stories? Who can we believe?

The ninth commandment is part of a broad biblical condemnation of sins through speech (and a correspondingly vigorous promotion of speaking the truth). While false and deceptive witness was clearly and repeatedly condemned, several famous stories indicate the rule was not always strictly observed, even by the heroes of the faith. For example, Jacob was frequently engaged in deceptive witness, Isaac bore false witness about his own wife Rebekah, and Samuel deceived some of Saul’s people when he went to anoint David as Saul’s successor.1

Despite this inconsistent performance by biblical characters, the teaching of Scripture is constant. The book of Proverbs is especially full of counsel about our speech. Two of the “six things that the Lord hates” and that are an abomination to him are “a lying tongue” and “a lying witness who testifies falsely” (Prov. 6:16-19).

The other side of this broad condemnation of false witness is the equally extensive praise of truthful witness. Proverbs commends wise, noble and true words: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov. 25:11).

Truthfulness is an underlying principle of ECFA’s standards—everything done in the name of our Lord should reflect truthfulness.

One of the key elements in good relationships between a church or charity and their givers is truth telling. Once trust is gone, a relationship is difficult to restore. Failure to tell the truth can be done so subtly that it goes unnoticed. We begin by blurring the truth about “small things” that “don’t matter.” Then a pattern develops. Soon valuable credibility is lost.2

ECFA especially focuses on truth-telling as it relates to how our members secure charitable gifts. The relationship between a giver and an organization is one built on trust. That trust is developed and maintained through truthful, honest, reliable, and trustworthy communications.

The concept is so vital that two decades ago ECFA established separate standards to especially ensure that a member’s relationships with those who financially support a member are maintained at a high threshold. Under these standards, ECFA members commit to represent facts truthfully when communicating with those who are considering whether to provide a charitable gift.

When communicating a giving opportunity, it is important to consider how it will be understood by a giver. After reading or hearing the appeal, the giver’s perception of the giving opportunity should be as close to the actual facts as possible. The accurate representation of words, pictures, graphs, and other information is vital.

And thinking like Jesus doesn’t only apply to raising resources—it applies to everything we do; it’s all covered when we think His way.

Telling the truth is a fundamental concept as we strive to be a reflection of God. May it always be our witness!

1 Doing Right, David W. Gill, Intervarsity Press, 2004, page 283-4
2 Based on Honesty, Morality & Conscience, Jerry White, Navpress, 1996, page 51