The Wrong of Being Right

The Podcast this week is called: “My Three Dumbest Decisions” It’s at the bottom of the page.

I have a theory ( “Oh, no!” you say to yourself, “Here comes another one.”) I think a good percentage of all the problems in the church—in the whole world even—are caused by people who are RIGHT! Not just “right” mind you, but “RIGHT!”

I’ve been wanting to preach a message for a long time called, “When It’s Not Right To Tell the Truth.” I see the hackles rise on the back of some of your necks, (You could use a haircut old buddy. Get those hackles trimmed). But just hang on. I didn’t say it’s right to tell a lie, just that sometimes the truth is not in order. You can be RIGHT! and still be wrong. Think not?

Suppose you see someone whose body has been deformed by a terrible illness and you say to him, “You’re about the ugliest thing I ever saw.” That may be the truth but is it in order? You’re right but are you right?

Or suppose you’re in a group that starts to gossip about someone who is not present. The worst is that you know something that outdoes everything anyone has said to this point. What pure, unmitigated joy to be able to ladle a big helping of juicy truth onto the garbage pile of the conversation.

Only, you think, “Does what I know really need to be revealed? Or is it just piling on in the pigsty?” What you know is true and it would be so much fun to tell it, but the problem is that the Lord is listening. You might do better to buckle up your lips and mumble, “Hey guys, gotta go. See you!”

Some can’t resist giving their opinion, whether it’s needed or not. An outspoken lady told me many years ago, “I’m just a country girl. I say what I think.” That’s all right when what you think is worth saying, but if not, you’re better off quietly ruminating in your corner.

Either Abraham Lincoln, or Mark Twain, or George Elliot, or Confucius, or someone else said it (they’ve all been blamed, but it’s true, whoever thought of it): “It’s better to remain silent and be thought stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” The inspiration was probably Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” (NIV)

Sometimes I blow up and want to give someone a piece of my mind (Be careful. If you gave away too many pieces by the time you get into your 50’s you won’t have much mind left to give). But then I read, “for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20, NIV)

So I calm down, pray, and reflect. I try not to avoid confrontation if it’s really needed but if I go to correct someone or to get things right between us, I must make sure that my heart is right before God. I can be right on the issue but if I’m not speaking in love, the truth I’m speaking can hurt, divide, and destroy.

You’re probably thinking, “David, where are you going with this? Get to the point and quit rambling.” Actually that’s what I’m thinking too but I figure if I ramble long enough I’ll be stricken by a powerful spiritual application, so hang on.

Oh, oh, here it comes. Get ready for it. Truth by itself can injure and kill. It must always be accompanied by something even more powerful—God’s love. The Spirit instructs us pointedly,

“…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ..” (Eph. 4:15, NIV)

I remember hearing a tough message preached by someone I admired when I was a young pastor. Stirred, I prepared to whack my own people with the same truth the following Sunday morning. I was sitting at my desk, engines turning, eyes glowing, when suddenly the Lord instructed me, “Speaking the truth in love…”

Ouch! I realized that it wasn’t enough to speak the truth but that I had to have God’s motivations in doing it.

I’ve often seen the truth used as a bludgeon, inside and outside the church. It must be a comfort to know that if someone whacks you, they were RIGHT!

But if I’m motivated by God’s love the truth I speak will set people free. Does that make sense? Truth motivated by God’s love is always in order.


“O God, please give me three wounds: the wound of contrition and the wound of compassion and the wound of longing after God. This I ask without condition.” Lady Julian of Norwich.

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