1. The best lies are mostly true. If we think that a small deviation from the truth is a small matter, we fail to understand that a one dollar bill with even a minor deviation is a counterfeit. Consider the following sentence:
“The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
All three statements, spoken by Adam in the Genesis narrative, are true: God did put Eve with Adam; Eve did give him fruit; Adam did eat it. This is truth, but it is hijacked truth, perverted in order shift blame. Jesus doesn’t say, “Let your yes be yes and your no, no; and anything beyond this is less than the best.” Rather, “anything beyond this is from the Evil One.” Further, Jesus does not call the Evil One of the Father of Lust or the Father of Anger, etc., but the Father of Lies, a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth. Finally, in Rev. 13 the mark of the beast is not 111 (i.e., the polar opposite of 777), but 666–i.e., that which is almost 777 (a threefold–triune?–perfection).
This has been sobering and convicting to me. When I exaggerate, when I minimize, when I tweak the truth, I am in the service of the Evil One.
2. Truth without hope is a lie. In a sense, this is a corollary of the previous thought. When we articulate another’s sins in a way that is (1) true yet (2) without hope, we have lied by not speaking “the whole truth”—i.e., the truth of what Christ has done to decisively address sin. To speak the truth of God’s decisive actions against sin in the person of Jesus is to deal despair and cynicism a mortal blow.
In Luke 15 the three parables all conclude with an unavoidable eruption of joy. The despair and cynicism (the “grumbling” of the Pharisees and scribes) are simply not an option. The climax of the third parable drives this home, when the Father says: “But we had to celebrate and rejoice” (NIV/NAS; the ESV’s “It was fitting” doesn’t quite communicate the force of the Greek verb dei).
Both condemnation and warning contain truth, but only the latter contains hope (we wouldn’t warn if it were too late!). And only the latter brings about confession. If so, condemnation is not only wrong (it lies by not telling the whole truth), it is also stupid/foolish: it never “works”—i.e., it never produces change in the offending party.