Telling Half the Truth

by

In the courts of law, we are told to swear that we will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Many of us easily see that if someone does not tell the truth then he is lying. We also easily see that telling truth mixed with falsity is being deceptive. However, very few people seem to see that telling half the truth is telling a lie. It is being misleading.

This is especially the case when you know that the half that you are hiding will make the person to whom you are talking not make the decision or judgment he ought to make based on the full information. In other words, the very reason why you are hiding the other information is in order to be viewed in a light that is not true, often in your favor.

King Saul of Israel majored in telling lies. However, he often did so not by telling blatant lies but by telling half-truths. When the prophet Samuel confronted him about the assignment God had given him to destroy the Amalekites, Saul’s answer was, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:13, see also v. 20).

Thankfully, the Lord had already told Samuel that Saul had done much more than that. He had taken the spoils for himself and had spared King Agag. He had even erected a monument in his own honor. Saul hid what he knew would displease Samuel and only spoke the truth that he knew would please the prophet. In a word, he was being deceitful.

This type of deceitfulness is very common, even among professing Christians. Perhaps you may have skipped church so that you could watch your favorite football team on television and then an uncle also came to visit. So, when you are asked why you were not at church, you say, “Well, I had to entertain a visitor.” It is true that you had a visitor to entertain, but that was only half of the truth. The main reason why you missed church is that you were watching football.

Why do we often lie like this? It is because telling half the truth tends to be easier on the conscience than a blatant lie. You say to yourself, “Ah, but I did not tell a lie.” Sadly, you did. You were being dishonest. You deliberately gave the other person the wrong impression.

As Christians, we are children of light (Eph. 5:8–9). We must reject any form of deviousness. We should walk in integrity. We should not yield to the temptation to chisel the truth until only what is favorable remains. The hymn-writer, Norman McLeod, urges us:

 

Perish policy and cunning,

Perish all that fears the light!

Whether losing, whether winning,

Trust in God and do the right. 

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.