Several years ago in a blog post author, Rick Warren, in David Letterman style identified Ten Great American Lies:
#10 Your table will be ready in a minute.
#9 One size fits all.
#8 This will hurt me more than it hurts you.
#7 I’m sorry I’m late. I got stuck in traffic.
#6 The check is in the mail.
#5 This offer is limited to the first 50 people who call in.
#4 It’s not the money. It’s the principle of the thing.
#3 I just need five minutes of your time.
#2 I’ll start my diet tomorrow.
#1 I’m from the IRS and I’m here to help you.
Warren called this problem “truth decay,” a term coined by Eonni Efroim of the Rand Corporation, and the 2018 title of a book by Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael D. Rich. The book addresses “the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life.”
Another way to say this is the diminishing quality of credibility in our culture. Too often we value image over substance. Charisma over character. And appearance over virtue. Peter Kuzmic, the Croatian theologian, put it this way: “A credible message needs a credible messenger because charisma without character is a catastrophe.”
Christians have a credible message in the gospel of Christ. Yet, if we are not careful, we can undermine the message with words and deeds that lack credibility.
In 1991 James Patterson and Peter Kim wrote a book entitled “The Day America Told the Truth.” In it they reveal some startling statics.
a. Of those surveyed, 91% said that they lie on a regular basis.
b. 86% said they lie to their parents regularly,
c. 75% said they lie to their friends,
d. 69% said they lie to their spouses.
e. 50% said they regularly called in to work sick when they weren’t.
Sadly, comparable studies, like the one by Doug Sherman and William Hendricks, reveal the ethics of those claiming to be Christians, does not vary much from non-Christians. People identified as religious are guilty of stealing from work, falsifying income on their taxes, and committing plagiarism. In fact, a friend recently shared that a preacher had been fired when the elders discovered he was guilty of plagiarism in his sermons. What irony!
Credibility calls for us “put off falsehood and speak truthfully with his neighbor” (Eph 4:25). To be honest in our business dealings (Prov. 16:11). And to keep our promises to others (Ps 89:34).
The wise man expressed it bluntly and succinctly when he said, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal truthfully are His delight” (Prov. 12:22).
Our credibility is compromised when we exaggerate, mislead, cheat, fail to admit our mistakes, or falsely flatter others for personal advantage. Furthermore, may I offer this warning. Be careful what you post on facebook and social media. Be cautious what you forward in emails. Just because a friend posted it or you saw it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s accurate.
Credible people are trustworthy. Reliable. Believable. Authentic. Dependable. And careful with the truth.
How do you build a reputation of credibility? Gary Henry in his wonderful book Enthusiastic Ideas, offers this simple, but effective answer. “Several things are involved in building credibility, but the most important factor is also the most obvious: if we want to be perceived as being credible, we need to be credible.”
What a concept! To actually be what we claim to believe and who we say we are.
Finally, in the words of Edward R. Morrow, “To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman