Matthew 26:59-63a (NIV)
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'” Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent.
Jesus’ trial was rigged from the start. The religious leaders weren’t looking for truth and justice but for lies damaging enough to warrant a petition to the Roman governor for Jesus’ execution. They found their answer in two witnesses who came forward and testified about what they heard Jesus say. We know their testimony was an inaccurate quote of what the Gospel of John records in 2:19: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Scripture goes on to say that the “temple” Jesus spoke of was his own body.
So, were these witnesses lying or telling the truth as they saw it? Were they collaborators or mere pawns in the religious conspiracy to destroy Jesus? The fact is, we don’t know.
We do know that eye-witness testimony can be unreliable because we are humans and not digital recorders. We cannot take in every detail of a situation but filter what goes into our brains. Moreover, every time we take out a memory to share it with others, we report our interpretation of what we heard or saw, tweaking facts and leaving out details in a process that is mostly unconscious.
This inaccurate reporting gets worse when we have an agenda we want our testimony to support. Perhaps we are discussing a political candidate or arguing a doctrinal issue. We may be called to testify about a loved one who has gotten into trouble with the law. We may want to boost our reputation, save our job, or avoid conflict in a fragile relationship. Consequently, we may speak in half-truths, fudging the facts and glossing over details because we want our testimony to sway others toward the outcome we desire.
Although we may not intend to lie or exaggerate, we can fall into such behaviors without conscious thought. With some effort, however, we can teach ourselves to recognize when we are fabricating information about ourselves and others, even incrementally, and practice speaking only the truth.
FATHER, help me to notice the inaccuracies in the stories I tell others. Forgive me for deliberately misinforming people or telling half-truths in attempts to further my own interests. I know that all lying is abhorrent to you and contrary to your nature. Teach me to love truth and to guard my spoken words.
John 8:44-45; Colossians 3:9-10
In what area of your life are you most likely to exaggerate or otherwise speak falsely? What steps can you take to correct this habit?