He Said What?!?

Jun 18 2017


This morning, we start with an interesting perception of what it means when God says something, and we don’t like or believe what we hear. Actually, that happens a lot with us if we really think about it. The picture we have is of Sarah hiding behind a crack in the tent entrance while God is visiting Abraham. In the process of their dialogue, God tells Abraham: “Your wife Sarah shall have a son.”

We know that Hagar, the slave-girl, and Abraham had a son together named Ishmael. That so enraged Sarah that Abraham had to send Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness. Now, Sarah hears God tell Abraham that she will have a son.

We know also that Sarah is well beyond her childbearing years. In fact, both of them are around 100 years old. When Sarah overhears the comment of God, she laughs, thinking that no one will hear her. But God hears her and asks her, “Why did you laugh? Sarah’s reaction – “I did not laugh.” And God says, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

Imagine the situation. You hear God tell you something that seems impossible. The first thought that occurs to you is “He said what? You have got to be kidding me!” Then you laugh. God knows you laughed, and asks you why you laughed. You have now been caught red-handed.

What a child normally does in this type of situation is exactly what Sarah did – lies. Now, that person has just made the decision to lie to God. Not good, because we know that God just seems to have a way of figuring things out. And God replies: “Oh yes, you did laugh.” Now the palms really start to sweat, the knees start to knock, and fear just grips us through and through, just like that feeling we had when we did something wrong and a parent caught us and we lied about it to protect ourselves. And we were afraid, just like Sarah was, because God caught us doing something wrong. And if we were brought up in a fairly rigid faith, we probably thought that God would get us for lying.

Now the normal response of a parent is to punish us more. But God simply says, “Oh yes. You did laugh. But I will return and I will fulfill my promise.” Incredulous? Maybe. But Sarah did bear a son.

I have a hunch that a father, today, would not quite react the same way that God did. Let’s say that there are a few children playing pick-up baseball and a ball goes through the window. I’m fairly certain that the answer would not be something like this: “Oh yes. You did lie. But you will come back and the window will be fixed.” I think the conversation might go something like this: “Do you like your allowance?” “Yes.” “Good. Because guess what we are going to use to fix the window. And by the way, you’re grounded for lying.” And that is a mild reply!

Why do people lie? In an article in the June, 2017 National Geographic (pp. 30-51,) we find that a psychologist at the University of Toronto is experimenting to try to determine how children develop into sophisticated liars. Further in the article, it posits that people lie to commit fraud – con artists, to remain in power - Nixon, to inflate their image - Trump, or to cover up for bad behavior – Ryan Lochte.

Another researcher, Tim Levine, says, “We lie if honesty won’t work.” And still a third expert at Harvard says, “It’s much easier to lie in order to get somebody’s money or wealth than it is to hit them over the head or rob a bank.” All agree that lying is an acquired human trait. But most of us place limits on how much we are willing to lie because we have internalized honesty as a value taught to us by our parents, by society, and by our faith.

Lies work and people are good at cons because “most of the time people are not expecting lies, people are not searching for lies, and a lot of the time people want to hear what they are hearing,” says Robert Feldman.

Can we tell when people are lying to us? If we are good at reading what are called micro-expressions on the face, or bigger tells – sweating, averted eyes, nose twitches. Detectives are good at tells as are people in Special Ops.

In a faith setting, in our families, we expect the truth, and most of the lies people tell are what we call little white lies – lies we tell so we do not hurt someone else’s feelings.

Which brings me back to fathers. Fathers, in fact, both parents, have a responsibility to teach good values to their children. But the fact is that most children learn by imitation. If adults lie, children will lie. If adults present an image to their children and the church teaches positive values to children, then they will learn that honesty really is the best policy 

We can lie by what we do, by what we say, and by how we live. On this Father’s Day, I would like to believe that fathers who are brought up in a faith atmosphere have a little easier time at teaching their children about the positive values in life. We love our children, we take care of our children, and we want them to grow up to be responsible adults. The best way we can do that is by living responsible lives 

Having conducted some 600 expulsion hearings, I can tell you that kids and adults can really tell some whoppers. But in the final analysis, people get caught in their lies because it’s really hard to lie and then have to remember what we said. Sarah laughed at the truth and then lied to cover it up. I like to think that while we may laugh at a lie, the truth, though it can be a whole lot more serious, will always win out. Amen.