Seek Truth or Self-Interest?

In his great play, “Hamlet,” Shakespeare put some noble words in the mouth of a character named Polonius:  “To thine own self be true . . . thou canst not then be false to any man.”

That seems like sound advice. How indeed can one be true to others if he is not true to himself? Being true to oneself seems like the least one can do. And if one is not true to himself, he is his own worst enemy.

The irony is that Polonius, who spoke this noble sentiment, miserably failed to live up to it. He was a hypocritical, selfish old weasel. Yet he knew enough about the truth to give these words of advice to his son.

“All truth is God’s truth.” But not everyone adheres to the truth. Among these are three types of person:

1. Those who DON’T KNOW the truth. Some people do wrong out of sheer ignorance. Many primitive tribes were headhunters or cannibals before Christianity and civilization showed them a better way. The Greeks ignorantly worshipped idols until Paul the Apostle preached salvation by Jesus Christ, at which time they became responsible for the truth (Acts 17:22-31, Ephesians 4:17-19).

2. Those who DON’T CARE about the truth. Any policeman will flatly tell you, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” While honest ignorance is forgivable, one becomes responsible for the truth which is within his grasp. The truth of God is freely available to most of the world through the Bible, and is preached regularly in Christian churches. Paul says that the very order of Creation testifies of God and his goodness, so that they are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

We live in a materialistic world where many people care for nothing except pleasure and personal gain. Sadly, even many professed Christians pray only for themselves and their own desires, “that you may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3).

3. Those who are ENEMIES of the truth. Continued apathy for truth breeds enmity for truth. We see this in a world full of theft, murder, deception, and greed, where people use and abuse others for their own ends. Some people who molest children claim that sex is an appropriate way to show them love.

They deny the truth because they don’t like it. They “call evil good and good evil.” But “Truth is just truth; you can’t have opinions about truth” (Peter Schickele).

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Now, that verse was not recorded so that shady journalists could put God’s stamp on their version of the truth; nor the disseminators of filth and slander could use it against censorship. It speaks of just one specific truth:  salvation is through Jesus Christ. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

From my article in the Polk County Enterprise, August 4, 1991, p. 5B.

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