Daily Readings and Thought for November 9th. “I ALWAYS TAKE PAINS TO HAVE A CLEAR CONSCIENCE”
There is an oath in which people promise to say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – in a court of law! The fullness of that wording is interesting as it tries to counter the common human tendency to bend the truth, sometimes to the extent that it becomes an outright lie.
It has been said that “half-truths” are more dangerous that lies. We have examples of this in both our Old and New Testament readings today.
In Ezra we are reading of the struggles of the first contingency of Jews who returned from captivity to Jerusalem with the purpose of rebuilding the temple. Nebuchadnezzar in destroying it, was so thorough that even the foundations were wrecked. The non-Jews who, were transported to the area from Assyria, (Ezra 4 v.20) take offence when the Jews forbid their involvement in the work. The result is they try to stop the work.
When a new King comes on the Persian throne they write a letter to him saying, “Be it known to the king that the Jews … are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city … if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished they will not pay tribute, custom or toll and the royal revenue will be impaired …” [v.12,13]
This is a total distortion of the facts, really a lie. It is astonishing how often money is made an issue – the most important factor in human decision making.
In the New Testament we read of the arrest of Paul in Jerusalem. After Paul’s arrest by the Romans, the outcome of a riot the Jews provoked, they allege before the Roman Governor that Paul is “one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world … he even tried to profane the Temple, but we seized him.” [Acts 24 v.5,6] Testimonies as to the true cause of a situation are so often biased through the prejudices of the one making the testimony. Paul refuted these claims (v.12,13) and says, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” [v.16].
Do we always take pains to have a clear conscience? God knows whether we bend the truth. Do we have a clear conscience in the way we teach what God’s word says? If we followed the current U.S. Presidential election at all, we may have noticed how much the candidates bent the truth – in their statements!
Paul tells Timothy, in the last letter he wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” [2 Tim. 2 v.15] It is a particularly dangerous thing to bend God’s “word of truth.”