Speaking the Truth in Love

Discreet or Deceptive?

What does an honest man say when his overweight wife asks, “Do I look fat in this dress?” If he’s rude and blunt, he says, “Yes, you look fat in that dress. You look fat in all your clothes.” But if an honest man is tenderhearted and loving, he says, “You look gorgeous in that dress! To me, you look beautiful in everything you wear.” Is the discreet husband deceptive? Or is he just kind?

What does an honest man do when he walks into the Ford dealership to buy a truck? If he has budgeted $40,000 for the purchase, does he volunteer that information to the salesman? Or does he keep that to himself and try to get the truck he wants for only $35,000? Is a discreet shopper deceptive? Or is he just smart?

What does an honest evangelist say to his unbelieving next-door neighbor? Does he say, “Joe, the Bible says you’re going to hell. You need to study with me and learn the truth”? Does he jot down a prayer request for Joe (written in this same tone) and ask the elders to read it to the church? Sadly, some Christians have tried such things. And in the process they have closed doors and given the church a black eye.

Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe it isn’t fairly called “deception.” Maybe it’s properly called “discretion,” speaking in such a way as to avoid unnecessarily giving offense or revealing private information. Jesus himself was the perfect evangelist. He came into this world “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). But he refused to make a public declaration of his identity until under oath at his trial before the Jewish supreme court. And so he often answered questions with questions and used other strategies to avoid committing himself. Announcing his intentions and identity prematurely would have undermined the very soul-winning work he came to do. Was Jesus deceptive? Or was he just effective?

Share This