Garrett writes in from Lewisville, Texas to say, “I’ve come to realize, painfully, that I am a compulsive liar (possibly pathological), mostly to gain attention. However, I hate that I do this, especially now that I see that I do it. It’s such a bad habit, I can’t break it on my own. I’ve been saved for a little while now, and I can see its toll on my walk and my life. What steps can I take to end my addiction to lying?”
I am going to fasten on, Garrett, to your statement that you do it mostly to gain attention. Now there are a lot of reasons why people lie. You have pointed out one. There may be others, but I think you are right: that is a huge reason why we exaggerate — which are untruths — and why we just flat out affirm things that aren’t so, because if we deny them, then we are going to look bad in other people’s eyes. You put your finger on a deep cause of untruth and lying in people’s lives. So let me go at that root.
Content in God’s Approval
Why do you want, need, and crave the attention, the approval, and the admiration of other people so much? I think that is the question you should ask, and you should dig down to the root of that and expose that. Let me help you do that.
You, as a believer, have God’s attention, God’s adoption, God’s delight, God’s assistance and promise, God’s commitment, and you will one day have his complete acceptance into a flawless heaven. You have that in Jesus Christ, and that is superior in its preciousness to any approval that man could give you.
Meditate long and hard on the fact that, compared to the attention and the approval and the assistance and the commitment and the praise of all the other people, God’s approval is infinitely better: “A [true] Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:29). Amazing. So, to be born again is to have your heart changed so that you love the approval of God. It is thrilling to you that God in his mercy would find you worthy of his well done or worthy of his approval.
Here is one of the ways that Paul tried to pull the plug on the craving for approval that the Corinthians had when they were lining up to brag behind their favorite teacher. Do you remember that? They really were craving to be somebody, to look like they were somebody, because they were associating with somebody who was somebody. And here is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:21–23: “Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours [Garrett], whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” If you take every one of those and analyze them, they are just mind-boggling: Apollos is yours. Life is yours. Death is yours. Present is yours. Future is yours. What more could you want than what you have? And therefore, he says, it is just crazy to boast about having some special teacher or some approval of man.
Hosted by the President
I thought of this analogy. Suppose the President of the United States calls you on the phone and says, “I would just like to have you come as my guest. You are very special to me, and I would like to have dinner with you.” And you would say, “What are you talking about?” So you go, and you meet with the President of the United States, and you have dinner with him, and he talks about your life. He doesn’t let you get in a question otherwise. He wants to know all about you, and he is enjoying you and all the stories you are telling him.
And you walk out of there, and on your way home one of your friends says something like, “Did you ever get invited out by the mayor of your town?” Now, are you going to lie and say, “Yeah, yeah, I did.” No, you are not. You are going to say, “No, but I got invited out by the President.” Now what is going on there? What is going on is that you have been set free from the need to get that praise.
And you have been set free because you have been loved by the President — you have been known by the President. You have been taken into his care. That is how real God should be to you. Jesus goes after this problem of loving the praise of man in Matthew 6 and he goes after it in Matthew 5 and maybe that is a good place to end.
Free to Tell the Truth
Imagine yourself, Garrett, about to be slandered. You are about to be reviled. Somebody is about to say something ugly about what you did or didn’t do, and you are so afraid of being reviled and slandered that you correct them and say, “I didn’t do that,” or, “I did do that.” But that is not true, because you didn’t want to be reviled even though it was a good thing that you did.
Here is what Jesus says: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11–12), which means that if the President has welcomed you — if God has loved you, if God promises to give you all things with Christ — you have no need to fear the slander of men anymore. You should be the freest of all people with your contentment in God.