Let’s face it: unless we stay in bed, we are going to be lied to pretty much every day.
Perhaps most blatantly attempting to mislead us are advertisements, pitching out their products and events, in an effort to secure our money (see Proverbs 21:20). While “truth in advertising” laws curtail outright lies, everything about an advertisement is designed to make us want to buy something. The polished actors, the glitzy settings, and the exciting music are all aligned to convince us that we’ll be more popular, better looking, or richer if we follow their lead. (On the other end of the spectrum, even mandatory caveats are listed in fine print, delivered by a speed-talker, or minimized in other ways. For instance, a study published at Nature.com suggests that including minor side effects in pharmaceutical ads causes viewers to be desensitized to the major side effects, in an “argument dilution effect”.)
More subtle than the outright lies, though, are the opinions that are shared – whether in conversation, or on the Internet – as fact. Whether intentionally or through self-centeredness, some people present their arbitrary points of view with the expectation that others will simply accept them as the truth. Unfortunately, many do. (Even after fostering a healthy skepticism of what I read on the Internet, I’ve had to change my view of certain news articles and urban legends, after getting more information.)
And finally, there are falsehoods that exist out of simple ignorance. Whether well-meaning or malicious, some claims are simply based on a lack of facts, or they repeat someone else’s error.
However, let’s face it: sometimes lies are easier to take than the truth. Some of this was prophesied:
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT
(See also Romans 1:25.) It is human nature to seek out answers that we like. This results in habits that range from surrounding ourselves with sycophants, to marginalizing anyone who disagrees with us. As I heard a pastor say, “If you don’t believe that, just post something about politics on Facebook”.
Instead, though, if we truly want to retain integrity in our words and actions, the alternative is to identify actual truth. Some suggestions on how to do so are discussed in the second part of this article, but the teachings of Jesus make it clear that His followers aren’t called to a false construct or a self-justifying story. Instead, He calls people to truth:
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
John 4:23-24 NLT
(See also 1 Timothy 2:3-4.)
From my point of view, this is actual, objective, fact-based, demonstrable truth. If it wasn’t, why would Jesus invite His followers to seek it out? (See Matthew 7:7-8.) Instead of just presenting another point of view, Jesus offers each of us a chance to test His claims, and opens the door to let us investigate what He said. He didn’t shy away from those who wanted to evaluate His statements. And, He capped off His ministry by proving that He was who He claimed to be, when He was raised days after His thorough (and grisly) execution.
Ultimately, though, our goal is not just to find truth, but rather to find it and to share it with others. While the truth is not always accepted in a duplicitous culture, at least the truth will have its day, and those who are truly seeking it will find it.
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 NLT
(See also John 8:31-32.)
In the second part of this article, let’s consider how to find truth in the first place.