Choosing Truth Over Talent

Wednesday is for Prayer

 

There is something very wrong about this image.
There is something very wrong about this image.

For the last two weeks the blogosphere has been saturated with a controversy concerning plagiarism among some of the most well known pastors in America. There have been accusations about a whole culture of ghost-writing, plagiarism and fraud authors among the “celebrity pastor class” of the nation. I’m not sure all the criticism is fair or balanced. But I am sure of this, it has all been sad.

It has also caused me to think of the part that friends and associates have played in helping or allowing such behavior to continue. In 2012, my book Picking a President: Or Any Other Elected Official was published by CrossBooks. Excerpted below are portions from chapter twelve that deal with my own culpability in a situation of cheating. May God give all of us grace to see that when others fall, we may have been the ones that enabled or helped them into corruption. And may God give all of us grace to forgive and be better friends and representatives of Christ in the future.

Proverbs 12   Choose Truth over Talent.

No one is established by wickedness,
    but the root of the righteous will never be moved.
Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit.

Truthful lips endure forever,
    but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
The hand of the diligent will rule,
    while the slothful will be put to forced labor.

 Proverbs 12:3, 17, 19, 24

_____________________________   

Picking a President Book CoverAlmost two decades ago I uncovered evidence that a classmate had plagiarized a number of sources and used them without attribution in a major paper at seminary the year before. The classmate had graduated and was leading a successful ministry. I struggled with what I should do. Should I expose the student to the school—that would bring shame to them and to our school at the cost of my friendship with them; should I go to the former student privately and challenge them to make it right; or should I just keep silent?

I choose the third option and kept quiet. I said nothing to either the student or the school. I justified (rationalized) my silence with thoughts about the pressure the student had been under in their last semester of seminary; perhaps they hadn’t meant to plagiarize; maybe they didn’t know how to give proper citation; maybe they had already talked to the professor and made it right; maybe …

My gut told me that the student cheated but I made a decision to look the other way. A decade passed. My former classmate became quite successful. In the back of my mind, I wondered about his integrity. Had he dealt with the deceit in his heart and confessed his sin to God and the institution? Had he agonized over his stealing other men’s thoughts and calling them his own? Had he determined in his heart that he would never again allow his integrity to be sold for something as low as a grade on a paper?

One day I heard he had been dismissed from another ministry for evidence of, you guessed it—plagiarism. Then I knew—I had failed my friend. I let him establish a ministry on lies and the result was an eventual public scandal on a very talented and effective minister of the gospel. Solomon’s words ring true (v. 3 and 19):

3 No one is established by wickedness,
        but the root of the righteous will never be moved.
19 Truthful lips endure forever,
        but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

Truthfulness in a leader is the foundation for all that they might accomplish. And a lack of truthfulness could mean that the policies of the leader might be built on sand. Lies, deceit, and wickedness are sure to be found out eventually bringing shame and scandal to those who traffic in them.

Don’t allow yourself to be seduced into thinking that a lack of integrity in either yourself or your potential candidate is a small thing. A forest fire starts with a relatively small flame but its devastation can be catastrophic. So too, a lack of integrity can be the start of a long slide away from sound judgment and wisdom.

Are you a person of integrity? Are you cultivating a life of faithfulness and truth? Solomon has both great warning and encouragement for you. “Be sure of this,” he might say, “no one can establish a solid future on the basis of dishonesty and wickedness. But if you will heed my words, your life will endure forever.” Can you trust the words of your potential candidate? Is there evidence that they have struggles with telling the truth? Be diligent in your own pursuit of integrity. And make sure that the person seeking your vote is a lover of truth. Look for talent; pray for talent in your candidates. Look also for truthfulness. Look for faithfulness, honesty, and integrity as well. Pray that these things are being built into the fabric and character of the men and women for whom you vote.

And when it is time for decision, always choose truth over talent, character over flash.

Prayer:

“Lord and Lover of Truth, make me a lover of truth. Help me to cultivate integrity in the inner most part of my being. Help me to love truth and to establish my life on honesty. Lord, I know that I have failed in this area … but help me to have the courage to speak the truth even when it means personal discomfort. Help me to pursue honesty in the deepest recesses of my being.” 

Questions:

  1. Are you cultivating truthfulness in your life?
  2. Are you praying for the courage to live according to the truth wherever it takes you?

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