Oct 26 - Liar, Liar...

Liar, Liar...

October 26, 2014

Proverbs 6:16-19

October 26th, 2014

YHWH hates six things, seven things he despises:
1. Proud eyes
2. A false tongue
3. Hands that shed innocent blood
4. A heart that devises evil plans
5. Feet that run quickly after evil
6. A false witness, who whispers lies
7. The one who incites conflict among brothers.                        Proverbs 6:16-19

The 9th of the 10 commandments speaks to lying, in one of its most destructive and vindictive ways – purposefully causing harm to another person through misrepresentation in a court of law.

Do not testify falsely against your neighbour.
        Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20

In the synopsis of some of the Ten Commandments in Leviticus 19 (in a section which ends with, “love your neighbour as yourself” (19:18), we read:

Do not lie to one another.    Leviticus 19:11

As much as God hates our lies, so great he desires us to be honest.

You (God) delight in truthfulness inside a person.                               Psalm 51:6

We tend to think that people are either honest or dishonest. For, example, Bernie Madoff deliberately bilked investors out of billions of dollars.  The actual loss to investors was estimated at $18 billion.  Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison, the maximum allowed, his one son committed suicide, his other son died of cancer, and his brother was sent to prison for 10 years. 

If most people are honest and there are only a few bad apples like Bernie Madoff – or the joker, then maybe we’re doing OK.

However, the fact is that it may surprise us to find out that all human beings lie to one degree or another – even Mother Teresa – whose deep personal thoughts about being abandoned by God were covered by her smile.  

Studies have shown that babies begin practicing deception as early as six months of age through such attention-getting gambits as fake crying or laughter in order to get attention.  
One year olds know how to conceal the truth.  
Two year olds can bluff.  
5 year olds lie outright and they will try to manipulate others through flattery.  Over that time period, outrageous, unbelievable lies gradually go by the wayside as children learn what kinds of lies work and when.  
9 year olds become masters of the cover-up.  
College students lie to their mothers once out of every 5 interactions.

Other studies have shown that that every person is lied to 10 to 200 times on any given day.  
Strangers will lie to each other 3 times in the first 10 minutes of meeting each other.  
Extroverts lie more than introverts.  
Men lie 8 times more about themselves than they do about other people.  
Women lie more to protect other people.  
Married couples lie to each other once in every 10 interactions.  
Unmarried couples lie to each other once in every 3 interactions.  
60 percent of the subjects lied at least once during a videotaped 10-minute conversation even when all of them believed they had been completely honest.  When they watched the playback, they were amazed to find out that they had in fact lied.  

Just think about the lies that we tell that doesn’t even register in our conscience.  And not only do we deceive others, we can trick ourselves into believing that a lie is the truth.  In other words, we deceive ourselves:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.            1 John 1:8

Have you ever texted someone that you’re on the way, when you’re not?  
Or told someone that you just fished a long ignored email out of the spam folder?
Have you ever taken office supplies from work to use at home?  After all, it’s just a pen or some paper. 
Have you ever rounded up your billable hours?  Claimed higher losses on your insurance claim?  Recommended unnecessary treatment or work?  , Sold unneeded insurance?  
Hidden income from the tax man?  
Brought stuff across the border without claiming it … just wear the new shoes or the new sweater?  
Used someone else’s material and claimed it as your own?
Told a story in a way that makes you look just a bit better?
Have you ever told the waitress that the food was fine, when it wasn’t?  And then tipped quite good.

It seems to me that none of us can go through a day without lying.  This may be the reason why we read in James:

If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.                James 3:2

Sometimes we use euphemistic terms like “white lie” or “fibbing” or “fudging” to make our lies seem more acceptable.  We cross our fingers behind our backs when we lie, as if that somehow suspend the rules of fair play. We are masters at rationalizing or minimizing dishonesty in ourselves so we don’t lose our self-respect.

“Oh, the tangled webs we weave 
when first we practice to deceive.”

Do you like that line? I made it up myself.  Just now, on the spot. Honest.  NOT.

A couple of years ago, the behavioural economist, Dan Ariely, did tests to determine the general level of dishonesty among university students.  In one of these studies he handed out sheets of 20 addition problems but did not give enough time for the students to do them all.  He told them that they would be paid for every question they got right.  

What they found is that on average the students solved 4 questions during the allotted time.  But then they introduced the possibility of lying.  

Then they ran he same exam, but told students that they were to shred the test and then just report how many they had gotten right in the allotted time.  While there were a few people who had absolutely no shame in claiming they solved all puzzles, that was not true in general.  On average the students reported getting 7 questions right in the allotted time.

So the researchers came to the conclusion that, given the chance, most of the students just cheated a little bit.  At the end of the day, they still wanted to be able to look in the mirror and feel good about themselves … and telling a small lie is more acceptable to oneself than telling a whopper of a lie.  This ability to tell a lie they termed the personal fudge factor.  

And they found out that they could influence the personal fudge factor of their subjects.  

One thing that increased lying was making the prospect of a monetary payoff more "distant," in psychological terms. They tempted students to receive tokens for every right answer, which they could trade in for cash just a few steps further.   Subjects in this token condition cheated twice as much as those lying directly for money.  Maybe you can see the implication when it comes to the amount of dishonesty when it comes to the stock market.

Another thing that boosted lying was observing a co-student student in the room who clearly cheated.  Unbeknownst to the test group, an acting student who had a university sweat shirt on was inserted.  After about one minute into the experiment he got up and claimed the impossible – that he had solved all the matches.  He was paid out in full without questions asked and walked out. Watching this the remaining students claimed they had solved twice the number of problems as the control group.  (Note: When the sweat shirt had the emblem of a rival university, lying about the results actually decreased).

The researchers concluded that lying is infectious.  This may be why so many people at Enron participated in the cover up of billions of dollars in debt (from failed deals and projects) in order to artificially hike stock prices.  If everyone at work seems to profit by lying, why shouldn’t I?

In another study at MIT, 450 participants, were given the same task with the 20 math questions.  However, ½ of the students were asked to recall the 10 commandments.  The other half were asked to recall 10 books they read in high school.  

With giving the option to shred their papers, the group who recalled the 10 books, demonstrated the typical widespread but moderate cheating found in earlier studies.  

However, in the group that was asked to recall the Ten Commandments, and given the option to shred their papers, not one of the students cheated – even though not one could actually recall all 10 of the commandments. 

They re-did the experiment.  This time they reminded half the students of MIT’s honour code (none of them realized that MIT didn’t have an honour code).  Again, not a single person in that group lied about their results.

They re-ran the experiment for a third time.  This time they used a group of self-declared atheists, and asked them to swear on the Bible about being truthful.  Again, they were surprised that not a single person in the group lied about the test results even though they could shred the results.

They concluded that reminders of the importance of morality or a moral code, right at the point when people are making a decision – appears to have a significant impact on whether or not a person is truthful.  


Now imagine that we would be able to give ourselves moral reminders, think about God, sing a praise song, pray, before we speak with someone, take a test, do our taxes and so on, especially as we think of the passage we are considering this morning … what kind of impact could that have in our own lives?

The fact is that we live in a post-truth society – 
a society where our courts are not necessarily designed to bring about justice, 
a society where politicians are known to lie, especially during election campaigns,
a society where executives in large companies lie, 
a society where government lies,
a society where business people lie.  

A store manager overheard one of his salespeople say to a customer, “No, we haven’t had any for a while, and it doesn’t look as if we’ll be getting any soon.” Horrified, the manager came running over to the customer and said, “Of course we’ll have some soon. We placed an order last week.” Then the manager drew the salesperson aside. “Never,” he told him, “Never, never, never say we’re out of anything – always say we’ve got it on order and it’s coming.  Now, what was it she wanted anyway?” The clerk said, “Rain!”

If you think about it, given all the lying that takes place, by ourselves and within our society, it is surprising that we still seem to believe that people by and large tell us the truth.

We say that lying is wrong, theoretically we are against lying, but we all lie and covertly accept this in ourselves.  Why?  

Well, the motivation for lying is usually tied up in self-esteem, self-preservation, or self-enrichment.

So we lie in an effort to create the best possible version of ourselves and avoid the consequences of letting others see our imperfect self.  We want others to see us differently from who we really are.

We lie to bail ourselves out of an awkward situation. 
We lie to spare the feelings of others. 
We lie to preserve or strengthen alliances. 
We lie to enhance our social standing. 
We lie to keep ourselves from getting in trouble. 
We lie to avoid embarrassment.
We lie to cover up our mistakes and misdeeds and avoid punishment.  (Time I drove my toy car all over the walls and created tire marks and then blamed it on my sister)
We lie about our accomplishments or abilities so that others respect us more.
We take credit for work we didn’t do in order to get a raise.
We misrepresent ourselves to a person of the opposite gender to enhance our attractiveness.

We lie because it works, and because we gain benefits by lying. 

Sometimes we like to be lied to, especially if it strokes our egos in the area we most need it.  I’m still amazed how many people enter singing competitions who cannot sing because they’ve been told by well-meaning family members that they have a talent.  

Can we tell when a person is lying to us?  Well, yes, if we know the tells and are trained to look for them.  

Looking up to the right (if right handed)
Looking down, 
Shifting of the blink rate, either not blinking or blinking a lot, 
closing eyes slowly, 
either breaking eye contact or, keeping too much eye contact, 
covering of eyes, mouth or throat, with the hands
smiling with their mouth, but not with their eyes.
instead of being fidgety being unusually calm
quick movement of head before answering a question, 
shaking of the head from side to side while making an affirmative statement or answering “yes”,
pausing or seeming withdrawn,
clearing throat or swallowing before answering a question
pointing their feet toward an exit.  
Altering of vocal tone, often lowering it. 
Placing some object, even if small between themselves and you. 
Use of formal language “I did not have sexual relationships with that woman”
Use of qualifying language, “in all honesty,”  “I’m not lying, that salmon really was 4 foot long.”
Giving way too much unnecessary detail.
Telling stories in strict chronological order. (get them to tell the story backward and they get things mixed up)
Slight shrugging of shoulders
If they think they got away with something will smile … called duping delight (pic of OJ).  

The worst tell is a flash of contempt.  

It is the only asymmetrical facial expression, one corner of the mouth slightly pulled up and in.  It means that the person has dismissed you, thinking themselves as superior to you.

While one single indicator is not conclusive, those who are trained to spot lies look for clusters of tells and can often are able to spot a lie 96 % of the time.

When we give our lives to Jesus, we give Him everything and this includes our tongues as well.  And it isn’t as if God thinks that lying is something innocuous.  

If anyone considers himself religious but does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.        James 1:26

Those are pretty strong words.  And they can be applicable to lying.  The truth is that God hates lying, as we read earlier.  Here is a few more verses out of Proverbs 12 that reiterates that fact:

An evil man is ensnared by his lies. … Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. … Lying lips are an abomination to YHWH.  
Proverbs 12:13,19,22

Jesus said of Satan that there is no truth in him … he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).  In the garden of Eden the snake lied to Eve in three ways:  it misrepresented the commandment: “What, you’re not allowed to eat fruit from any of the trees?”  
He called God a liar: “Don’t worry, you’re NOT going to die if you eat the fruit.”  
And he lied about what eating the fruit would mean:  “Hey, if you eat it, you’ll know good from evil and you’ll be just like God.” (Genesis 3:1-5) 

On the other hand, three times Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).  He will guide us into all truth.  

So what is the answer to our own propensity to lie?  How we can overcome our own tendency to lie?  It actually means a change in the way that we think on the inside.  We need to be conscious of God’s presence with us.  We need ongoing reminders of God’s moral code.  

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.             Philippians 4:8 

So I like this blessing because it speaks of this change – and I’ve turned it into the closing prayer:

May God be in our heads, 
And in our understanding;
May God be in our eyes,
And in our looking;
May God be in our mouths,
And in our speaking;
May God be in our hearts,
And in our thinking.