Sermon Extra – Lingering Lies

August 1, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Last month, Scientific American published the results of a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Western Australia.  In this study, researchers asked college students to read an account of a bus accident involving some elderly passengers.  The students were subsequently told that, in reality, the passengers were not elderly but were part of a college hockey team.  Later, the psychologists told some of the students to be vigilant about getting this story straight when they were asked questions about it and were warned about what is called “the continued influence of misinformation,” which describes our propensity to remember and be influenced by information we first hear in a story, even if that information is later updated or corrected.   In spite of this warning, however, some students continued to stubbornly cling to the lie that the people in the bus accident were elderly.  For example, when the students were asked whether or not the passengers had a difficult time exiting the bus because they were frail, many students responded that they did, citing their advanced age.  Ullrich Ecker, one of the psychologists conducting the study, commented, “Even if you understand, remember, and believe the retractions, the misinformation will still affect your inferences.”[1]

Lies linger.  That is the upshot of this story.  This is why the words you use and the truth you tell is so important.  One of Jesus’ favorite sayings is, very simply, “I tell you the truth…” (e.g., Matthew 5:18, Mark 3:28, Luke 9:27, John 3:5).  Jesus wants no part in telling lingering lies.

This past weekend in worship, I spoke about the importance of choosing your words wisely.  In Proverbs 17 and 18, Solomon gives us four tips for choosing our words wisely.  First, we must choose our words slowly.  Words quickly spoken, especially in anger, later lead to regret.  Think before you speak!  Second, we must choose our words with counsel.  In other words, we need to be willing to receive guidance and even correction from others in our words so that we learn how to choose our words better with time.  Third, we must choose our words charitably.  Especially when a person is not around, we must be very careful how we speak about them so that we do not malign their character.  Finally, we must choose our words truthfully, for dishonestly leads only to disaster.

In a world that stretches, fudges, and hedges the truth, we are called to be truth tellers.  After all, we do not want our lies to linger in the lives and hearts of others.   The good news, however, is that the lies of this world, though they may linger, will not ultimately last.  Solomon says, “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment” (Proverbs 12:19).  Compared to the truth of God, lingering lies are only a flash in the pan.  The truth will finally carry the day.  And God’s truth will endure forever.  So align yourself with that which lasts!

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[1] Valerie Ross, “Lingering Lies: The Persistent Influence of Misinformation,” Scientific American (July 18, 2011).

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