George Everard, 1885
"Where have you been, Gehazi?" Elisha asked.
"Your servant didn't go anywhere," Gehazi answered.
2 Kings 5:25
In the kingdom of God it often comes to pass that the last become first, and the first last. In the chapter from which these words are taken we have an example of it. Naaman, aforetime a heathen and a stranger, is healed of his leprosy and becomes a true worshiper of Jehovah. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, who had enjoyed in such a position rare opportunities for acquiring the knowledge of God — goes back into the darkness, becomes, like Judas, the slave of covetousness, turns to a course of deceit and lying, and receives as a reward the leprosy from which Naaman was freed.
What a downright, palpable lie was that which he spoke to his master, "Your servant didn't go anywhere." For he had just returned with the two talents of silver and two changes of clothing which by gross falsehood he had obtained from Naaman. But the whole transaction profits him little. Deceit can hide nothing from God. Before Him, the darkness shines as the light. And now the prophet uncovers the wicked deed, and with well-deserved severity pronounces a sore judgment upon him and his seed. "Naaman's leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever! Then Gehazi went from Elisha's presence and he was leprous, as white as snow." 2 Kings 5:27
Permit me, my young friend, very earnestly to enforce the lesson that arises from the story. It is quite possible that to yourself, it may not be needed. You may from your earliest youth have shrunk from anything approaching a lie. Thank God if this is the case. But it is well even for you to be strengthened in your purpose always to be truthful. And there may be other readers by whom the caution is still more needed than by yourself.
Four points I will just name which I should like you to bear in mind.
1. All untruthfulness is the direct work of the Wicked One. "When he speaks a lie he speaks of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of lies!" (John 8:44). Peter said to Ananias, "Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?" All lying is from beneath. It is the child of Hell — and to Hell it leads.
2. It is a deadly wrong against the one who utters it. To speak falsely brings a stain and a blot upon the character. It leaves a dark mark which is not easily erased. There are lads walking about our playgrounds of whom the heart of the master says, "I cannot trust a word that lad speaks!" Moreover, sooner or later it brings a burden on the conscience. To cherish any habit of the kind is to do yourself harm in every way. Nothing can compensate you for it. Better far lose a thousand pounds, than tell a lie.
3. It is a grievous injury to those about you. Your example leads others into the same evil courses. If you deceive others — then they will strive to deceive you. Moreover, Christians should remember that we are "members one of another," hence we ought to speak only what is true. The eye ought not to lie against the ear, nor the hand against the foot. When in any way you deceive another, you utterly break the law of love.
4. It is a grievous dishonor to God Himself. He is "the God of Truth." We read of Christ that "deceit was not found in His lips." All through those thirty-three years, never did the least shadow of falsehood mar His holy and beautiful life. To act otherwise is to throw contempt upon Him, and to put a stumbling-block in the way of His kingdom.
But I trust you are at one with me in this matter. You wish to follow in Christ's footsteps — you wish to avoid every breach of the law of truth. To help you I will name a few special cautions that may assist you in keeping from every phase of this sin. For through the craft of the enemy, this sin assumes various shapes.
Most people see the evil of a positive, downright lie. But there is a lie that looks like truth — a word that is true in the letter, but false in the spirit — something that pleads necessity or custom, or in some way hides its baseness behind a fair face. This needs unraveling.
Take heed of a double use of words. A word may mean one thing to you, and another to the hearer. You may change the meaning of a sentence by the very tone of your voice, or your manner in uttering it. Someone may say something in a joke — and you may repeat it as if spoken seriously. You may leave out a word that modifies it, or add a word that exaggerates its force.
Take heed of silent lies. Your silence may deceive at times, as much as anything you could say. Have you known or done anything amiss, and keep silence as though you knew it not? Have you told all the truth about something you wish to sell?
Take heed of acted lies. You may act so as to deceive. You may look innocent and turn the other way, as if you knew nothing of something that took place under your eyes. You may conceal books which ought not to be in your possession. In a thousand matters, deceit is practiced though no false word is uttered.
Take heed of lies to cover a fault, or to obtain an advantage. I know few more frequent causes for untruthfulness than these. Perhaps you want to make good something you have said, and so you just cast in a spice of untruth to make the story fit, or to prevent acknowledging a mistake you have made.
In all these things, be quite honest with yourself and with God. Whatever conscience may bring back to you, hear its voice. Do not hide the wound by self-flattery or vain excuses. Lay bare every secret before the God of truth. Ask for full cleansing and forgiveness through Christ's blood. Then ask that through the grace of the Holy Spirit, you may abhor deceit in whatever shape it may tempt you. There is no more blessed heritage you can crave than this, that Christ should regard you with His approval, and say of you as once He said of Nathanael, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit."
"Truthful Spirit, dwell with me,
I myself would truthful be;
And with wisdom, pure and clear,
Let Your life in mine appear."