Proverbs 12:17

Speaking Truth


1. This passage speaks about “righteousness” or “justice.”

2. The verse has a legal ring to it… almost like a courtroom… where two men give testimony.

3. One man testifies truly and the other man lies.

4. In a courtroom scene… or in a school… or at the workplace… or even in church—these are the two types of testimony: truth or deception.

17a He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness

1. In this first section of the verse, Solomon equates speaking the truth with righteousness.

2. Truth: firmness; fidelity; faithfulness; truth; steadfastness.

a. Truth is viewed as that report which is faithful…

b. A true report is faithful to reality…fidelity to the facts… it is an accurate account of what actually occurred… nothing added… nothing subtracted.

c. If it is a true report, then it is firm and steadfast—for truth does not change. One testifying does not change his report if his report is true.

d. A man reporting on a true account doesn’t change the details for any reason (make self look better; embellish; help out a friend; to hide something; to support an ideology; to bolster a personal agenda; etc.)

e. A true report is firm… unchangeable—even if pressure is applied. Lawyers try to cross examine a witness with rapid fire, blistering questions—hoping to get the witness to change a detail of his story and thus cause him to lose credibility.

f. A true report is steadfast over time. The gospel was true 2000 years ago, and it is just as true today. When a man speaks truth, his words (taken in their context) will be true when he spoke them—and years later too.

3. Speaking truth…

a. Solomon does not have THE truth in mind… but truth in general.

b. Solomon is not speaking about doctrine or the faith… but rather speaking that is accurate…correct… factual…honest… free from lies or deception.

c. This ought to characterize OUR speech. We should speak truth.

d. James 5:12 – Hence, the believer has no need for making oaths…lest ye fall into condemnation (lit = hypocrisy)

e. When we speak, others should have confidence that they are hearing an accurate account of the facts.

f. When some folks talk, you KNOW that you are getting some facts and lots of embellishment… their speech is to be taken with a grain of salt…

g. James’ point is that our speech should be simple… just the facts… the truth…
• Yea should mean yea. Nay means nay.
• This is a call for straightforward speech. Don’t speak like so many politicians do!

4. Righteousness: justice; right-ness. The term is used of kings; judges; civil or judicial.

a. Justice is an important theme in the book of Proverbs.
• Understandably so. These are the writings of a King—who also functioned as a Judge.
• One of Solomon’s first acts as a king was his work as a judge—in determining who was the true mother of the infant.
• An important duty of a king in those days was to act as a judge in important matters, which were not able to be resolved in the judicial system.
• Hence, Solomon wrote a lot about justice. It is an important element in any society…
• If people believe they are not being treated with justice, there can be no peace. No justice, no peace!
• The concept of justice and fairness crops up often in both Testaments. God demands it of us.

b. Truth and righteousness are parallel in this proverb.
• The one who speaks truth is at the same time speaking righteousness—justice.
• Truth and justice go hand in hand.
• If people feel they are being treated fairly and justly, they will normally submit to the king’s reign… or the teacher’s classroom… or the family rules… or the local church leadership.
• But if people feel that they are being treated UNFAIRLY… unjustly… they will often rebel… stir up controversy…
• This leads to disruption in the classroom… rebellion in the home… division in the local church… and even a civil war in a nation.

5. Sheweth forth: to tell; declare; announce; report; make known; to inform of; proclaim.

a. The man who speaks truth is an announcer… a reporter…

b. He speaks truth and in doing so he proclaims righteousness… justice.

c. In other words, Solomon tells us here HOW to make justice known: speak TRUTH!

d. When two sides are in a controversy go head to head…
• Whether it is fighting between siblings; feuding tribes; political battles; racial conflicts; religious arguments; moral conflicts like abortion; or management in-fighting…
• Solomon has a solution: speak truth.

e. What often happens is that:
• The two sides speak loudly against each other.
• They use inflammatory rhetoric.
• They employ name-calling.
• They embellish their arguments.
• They speak half-truths to make their side look good and the other side look foolish.
• They conveniently leave out facts not favorable to their side… and over-emphasize facts that put them in a good light.
• They make their opponents’ faults look like mountains and make their own faults look like molehills…

f. When the goal is to win the argument… or come out on top… or to promote your agenda… too often justice is not obtained—even if you DO win the argument…
• Solomon’s advice here is to put all that energy into seeking and then speaking the TRUTH.
• Truth carries great weight. When truth is clearly demonstrated, there IS no arguing with it.
• Show the evidence and put an end to the argument.

g. Truth promotes justice…
• If Tommy and Billy are arguing over who got the biggest piece of cake—stop and measure the cake—present the evidence—and that will end the argument. Once the cake is measured, you can speak the truth… and the truth will carry great weight.
• When two sides are arguing… it is wise to stop… take the emotion out of the argument… remove the inflammatory language… strip the argument down to the bare facts. Let the facts speak for themselves.
• This is a helpful tool for conflicts in the home too… or the office… or the church.
• When the truth is arrived at—speak it… cling to it… to whatever position it leads… and that will promote justice.
• People will no longer feel they are being cheated… wronged… violated… if they can see the truth clearly.
• Nothing promotes justice, equity, fairness, and righteousness like speaking forth truth.
• If someone is being treated unfairly—speak the truth. The truth will expose it.
• If someone is embellishing the facts or stretching things a bit—speak the truth. Error is exposed by truth.
• In so many of these types of conflicts—truth resolves the conflict… if it can be clearly demonstrated.
• Speak forth the truth—and SHOW justice…

6. Truth and Justice.

a. Solomon also seems to imply that there should be a relationship between truth and justice: truth should be spoken in order to get at JUSTICE.

b. It is possible to testify and not lie… but avoid justice.
• A witness in a courtroom may have witnessed a murder. Perhaps he saw his friend Tom kill his wife… but nobody knew that he knew.
• Everything he said was true… he never lied on stand… he did not commit perjury.
• However, he kept his mouth shut when he should have spoken truth. Fred got convicted UNFAIRLY… wrongly… a travesty of justice… and our witness did nothing to promote justice.

c. Solomon implies that the PURPOSE of speaking truth is to promote righteousness… equity… justice!
• Speak truth AND show forth righteousness! Don’t stop short of justice.
• Truth is good—but use it properly. Use it to promote that which is right… fair… and just.
• It’s not enough to speak truth. We must also show forth righteousness… justice… speak truth with a purpose… the RIGHT purpose.

17b But a false witness deceit

1. The false witness = the liar!

a. He distorts the truth… stretches the truth… covers up the truth… embellishes the truth… omits the truth… changes the truth…

b. He is not fair; not honest; not faithful; not reliable; not trustworthy;

2. No verb is inserted here—but implied is “shows forth.”

a. The true witness shows forth righteousness.

b. The false witness shows forth deception.

3. Deception.

a. Translated: “false” twice; “guile” twice; “feigned” once; “craft” once; “subtlety” once; and “treachery”.

b. This term does not necessarily imply an outright, boldfaced lie. It speaks of subtlety… craftiness… deception…

c. It is possible to speak true facts and present them in such a way so as to deceive… to lead astray… to give people the wrong impression…

d. This can be accomplished by lying. It can also be accomplished by telling half-truths… by omitting important details… by speaking true facts but in the wrong order. There are all kinds of ways to deceive…

4. Solomon says here that the false witness promotes deception…

a. Perhaps to make himself look good—or to make an enemy look bad.

b. Perhaps to promote his cause or agenda… or to damage the cause of the opposition…

c. Politicians might call this “spin.”

d. Some might call it “personal perspective.”

e. Some might call it “the official party line.”

f. If it is a deception of any sort, God calls it a “lie.”

g. God sees the heart—the motive—the intent of the heart.