Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbor. Proverbs 25, verse 18.
On the plane home from San Francisco last night I watched a movie: “Basic Instinct.” I hadn’t seen it in years. You’ve heard of it, I’m sure. Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas; you know, the really lurid movie about the cop and the killer writer. It was basic instinct that drove the woman to kill her victims and manipulate her prey to her alibi. I’ll admit it: I watched some of the really raw parts on the plane; the most sexual scenes, well, I skipped through those, a prudish, embarrassed Lutheran who figured the people in the seats next to me didn’t need to see it anymore than I did.
It’s our basic instinct to lie, isn’t it? Just like in the movie and just like in the proverb, we give false testimony about our neighbors every day. We use people to get what we want, and we put on false faces to serve our own advantages. Some of us are Sharon Stone, extremely adept at the art of misinformation while stalking our next victim as part of a game of fiction. Some of us are Michael Douglas, trying to catch the killer but wrapped up in our own lies that seem to be interwoven into and all through the lives of others. Some of us are the victims, and some of us are the strangers just watching.
Pretty sad story, isn’t it? Sure, it made a provocative and entertaining movie, but as a life story it’s really pretty sad. I think it’s sad because it points back to the idea that our basic instinct may just be falsehood and deception, to hurt each other and to betray the neighbors around us. Maybe your neighbor is your friend and maybe your neighbor is just a stranger. We give false testimony in ways large and small. Strip everything down to brass tacks and it’s an-us-or-them kind of game. I have lied. You have. We all do it. After all, it’s our basic instinct.
And that’s the biggest lie of all. We weren’t made for the lies; we weren’t made to give false testimony against our neighbors. It’s no coincidence that the proverb uses language that describes lies as weapons of pain and war. They are. They truly are. False testimony, deception, even incomplete truths which we selectively release are all weapons we use against each other. isn’t just lies: it’s talk, it’s gossip, it’s false living, it’s not keeping our word, it’s inconsistency in our words and actions whether it’s deliberate or not. If we bear those things against each other, it’s like we’re attacking each other on the common grass between our houses. We’re making war against each other.
We weren’t made for that. Long ago in the Garden, we were made for perfection. We were made to reflect the ultimate love-truth of God, to be His most magnificent creation and the one into which he poured his inerrant and honest love. The human soul was made for eternity because eternity matters most. It was made for an eternity of love, to be shared with the infinite originator of love and reflected with other souls made for perfection. When that soul was joined with human flesh, we took on the nature of our ancestors, who believed the original lie of deception told by the prince of lies himself. It was a supernatural manifestation of untruth brought into our natural world of honest harmony.
Our basic instinct is to love, not to deceive, and especially not with an ice pick, slick soft-core pornography, or the cat and mouse game of manipulative deception.
I’m not going to advertise movies here, but there’s another movie I want to see. “Seven Days in Utopia” comes out today, and I read the book several weeks ago. It’s the story of a golfer who loses his way, believes the lie of “you can have it all,” and then finds his way home by getting back to the basics. Yes, I enjoyed the story acted out by the naked Ms. Stone, but to tell you the truth I’m more looking forward to the second movie. Each of us loses our way now and then, and I believe that when we do, when we make war with the weapons of dishonesty, it takes love and God’s kindness to get us back into natural harmony. Me, I’m tired of all the lies, tired of looking in the face in the mirror and even on the days when I think I’m happy, seeing a face staring back at me that is wrinkled and gray-haired by all the dishonesty of the past. I could use seven days in Utopia in which to reform my basic instincts. I’m anxious to get started on living a new life, walking thankfully in the grace of the Almighty and laying down yesterday’s lies at the feet of Jesus. The time to start is now.