As some of you know, I have written a book about corruption. One of the fundamental truths is that corruption destroys trust, and whenever trust is low, corruption is likely to be high. An even more fundamental truth is that lying destroys trust.
When the early church was confronted with evidence that Ananias and Sapphira had lied about their property sale, God had to show that lying was immensely destructive, and so He ended their lives. Had they managed to carry off their subterfuge, it would have been eventually discovered, and lying, a lack of trust, and corruption would have been normalized in the church from the very beginning.
By exhorting us this morning not lie to one another, as Paul warns us in Colossians 3:9, I am by no means suggesting that I think we do so now. But, were we tempted to do so, it would be a kind of captivity. The immense freedom that now comes with being able to trust each other’s word would be replaced with a kind of cage that restricts our freedom. The thought “Can I trust them?” would feel, if not like a cage restricting our freedom, a chain that restrains our confidence. Paul warns against believing false philosophies and empty lies in Colossians 2:8 because they ultimately make us feel like we have to live caged and chained lives in order to protect ourselves from those very lies after they have been exposed.
If we could not trust each other’s word, it would also feel like someone was stealing what was most valuable to us. You see this all the time among married couples when one spouse cheats on the other: The storehouse of freely shared love is suddenly upturned and what once flowed so freely is now held tightly because love is a treasure chest whose cover slams shut when we can no longer trust the word of our spouse. In warning us against being taken in by plausible-sounding arguments, that is cleverly-packaged lies, the Apostle Paul reminds us in Colossians 2:3 that Jesus’ treasure chest of wisdom and knowledge is being stolen by those who traffic in false worldviews and philosophies.
Not only does lying to one another create the sense that we are trapped in cages or leashed to chains that restrict our freedom to trust, but, as we have also seen, when a brother or sister lies to us it feels like we have to suddenly start guarding our treasures lest they be stolen from us. Thirdly, when a brother lies to us, it feels like we are regressing to the bad old days before God was doing something wonderful in our lives. In fact, when Paul writes the words in Colossians 3:9, “Do not lie to one another,” he has this exactly in mind when he adds these words: “seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
You see, when we lie, our very humanity is at stake, since our humanity is tied directly to the fact that we are made in God’s image. Sin destroys, distorts, and diminishes our humanity---that’s the old self---whereas being alive in Christ is a complete renewal of our capacity to be God’s full image-bearers. Lying is a regression to a state of being completely alien to what makes us human.
I close with this. In Colossians 1:5, Paul calls the Gospel “the word of truth.” The Gospel is not sanctified religious nonsense for weak-minded souls; it is, rather, the truth about reality as it really is. If you want to experience reality as it really is, and not get burned by it, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the place for you. But that’s why lying to one another is so bad: It upends the life-giving promise of the Gospel and ends up singeing you with the fires of Hell.