Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
– Ephesians 4:25 ESV
I remember growing up as a young teenager I struggled with this quite a bit. It was not that I went around lying to people but I found there was a huge temptation when I was responsible for something to “make excuses” if I did not do it correctly or did not get it done at all. I would usually come up with the typical “self-preservation lie” that I forgot, or circumstantial stuff happened rather than just admitting that I did not get on top of it or neglected it by doing other things.
I don’t think my circumstances are unique but I was feeling such self-imposed pressure to be accepted by people that I could not deal with “looking like a failure” when it came to responsibilities. It is really a strange oxymoron when you think telling a little “white lie” to cover up a failure in responsibilities truly covers up the problem. In actuality it creates a deeper problem by not only failing to do what I was responsible for doing but making excuses to not look bad makes life even more complicated. It obviously makes no sense but the extreme pressure to “not look bad” was overwhelming; I simply could not deal honestly with myself and I felt horrible not being honest with others. When you cannot be honest then we know there is something broken What I found is that I wanted people’s acceptance so badly that I thought that making excuses (lying) would somehow make me look better even though I struggled with my own self-acceptance.
The key to genuine honest is not self-effort or working harder to give the right impression. The verses right before verse 25 is the source of a truly honest life:
“… and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” – Ephesians 4:23-24 NAS
The solution to honesty and integrity is embracing a new identity in Christ. God creates a “new self” when we respond to the gospel which resulting in God’s creation of our new self in the likeness of His image marked by righteousness, holiness and truth. When we embrace that new self and surrender to accepting our new identity in Christ is the source of embracing genuine honesty with self and others. Only when we can truly embrace this new mode of existence and relationship with God in Christ can we learn how to be truly honest with self and others.
Notice the focus of verse 25 tells us to “speak truth with our neighbor”. This involves not only speaking truthfully but inevitably includes some level of honest transparency. The mark of our love for others, especially the family of God, is authentic transparency and honesty about life – both the good and the bad. This requires trust; without it there is no true honesty in our relationships. The temptation is to hide behind our excuses and tell people what we think they want to hear
(or what we want them to hear) and not be truthful. Honesty ought to be a distinguishing mark of God’s family and community of faith.