THE COMMAND AGAINST UNTRUTHFULNESS
God is truth itself; consequently He forbids every kind of falsehood, especially lying, hypocrisy, and flattery.
God is true (John iii. 33). It is impossible for God to lie (Heb. vi. 18). Our Lord says: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John xiv. 6). Hence God commands: “You shall not lie” (Lev. xix. 11). “Putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man to his neighbor” (Eph. iv. 25). Let your conversation be upright and truthful, if you would show yourselves to be the children of Him Who is the Father of truth and truth itself.
1. He is guilty of lying who says what is not true with the intention of deceiving others.
Lying is a misuse of speech. Speech was not given to man in order that he might deceive others, but as a means whereby he might communicate to them his thoughts. The conditions under which lies are commonly told are these: Under stress of circumstances, to avert some evil from one’s self or from others, as when St. Peter in the outer court of the high priest’s palace said: “I know not the man” (Matt. xxvi. 72); in jest, to amuse others; or for the sake of injuring some one, as Jacob did when he deceived his father in order to obtain his paternal benediction (Gen. xxvii.). But to relate a fictitious narrative, or make use of a fable for the instruction of others is no untruth, for it is done without an intention to deceive. Our Lord Himself employed parables in teaching. A liar is like counterfeit coin, which appears to be what it is not.
2. Hypocrisy or dissimulation is acting a lie; we commit this sin when we speak or act differently to what we think and feel.
Judas kissed Our Lord in the Garden of Olives, as if he were His greatest friend, but he only did so to betray Him (Matt. xxvi. 49). King Herod said to the three kings: “When you have found the Child bring me word again, that I also may come and adore Him” (Matt. ii. 8). But he thought in his heart that when he knew where the Child was, he would have Him put to death. Those are hypocrites who make an outward profession of piety while in reality their lives are far from irreproachable. They are like Satan, who can assume the form of an angel of light. To feign sanctity in this manner is worse than to sin openly. Some appear very devout in church, they cross themselves and smite their breasts, but all the while their thoughts are far away; they are dissemblers. The hypocrite is like a dunghill covered with snow, which hides what it really is. Our Lord compared such men to whited sepulchres, outwardly beautiful, but within full of foulness and dead men’s bones (Matt. xxiii. 27); also to wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. vii. 15).
3. Flattery consists in praising another immoderately to his face, against one’s own conviction for the sake of advantage.
King Herod Agrippa was highly gratified by the flattery of the Tyrians and Sidonians, when they exclaimed, on hearing his oration: “It is the voice of a god and not of a man.” But the angel of the Lord forthwith struck him, and he was eaten by worms (Acts xii. 22, 23). Flatterers speak contrary to their conviction; they deride a man behind his back while they praise him to his face. The flatterer only seeks his own advantage. He is like the cat which purrs, and the dog which fawns on his master to get a piece of meat. Crafty people cringe to others if they think anything can be gained. Flatterers frequent the presence of the rich, for from the poor they get nothing; they are like the locusts which do not come in the winter, or where the land is barren, but they alight in cultivated places, where there is plenty for them to devour. Flatterers praise immoderately, i.e., they ascribe excellences to a man which he does not possess, or they exaggerate his good qualities and palliate his misdeeds. They are dangerous acquaintances, because they hide a man’s faults, instead of endeavoring, as a true friend would, to correct them. It is a matter of indifference to them whether they do harm or good, if they only get themselves into favor; they are like a cook who cares not whether the dishes he prepares are wholesome or the contrary, so long as they are tasty and please the palate. Flattery feeds sin as oil feeds a flame; it is a nursery, of vice. Isaias exclaims, addressing flatterers: “Woe to you that call evil good and good evil” (Is. v. 20). Let us therefore be on our guard, if any one appears unusually com plaisant and begins to praise us. Our Blessed Lady was troubled at the salutation of the angel.