If I’m honest, I’ve heard the statement “speak the truth in love” countless times. And if I’m even more honest, I have no problem speaking the truth; it is in the “in love” part that I do lack sometimes. Okay. I’m not perfect. I know my flaws.
This statement is found in Ephesians 4:15. If we look at the life of Jesus, He always spoke truth. Since He was perfect, it was always spoken in love. He wasn’t worried about offending anyone. He was concerned with pleasing His Father. May we do the same.
Truth is truth. For instance, my son wants the grass to be blue. He has a tiny obsession with blue, to say the least. He can state his case all day long. And while God can choose to make the grass whatever color He so desires, right now the grass is green. So all the cases and claims and arguments he makes, at the end of the day the truth still stands that grass is green.
In Matthew we see several instances where Jesus shut up the self-righteous Pharisees by speaking truth. One instance in particular is when the Pharisees approach Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar in Matthew 22. And actually the leaders of the Pharisees did not have enough courage to come in-person. They had to send Herodians, those of King Herod, because they were part of the pro-Roman politics.
“What do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matt. 22:17)
They think they have Jesus in a trap by asking this question.
“Had He simply replied that it was lawful to pay tribute, they would have denounced Him to the people as one who dishonoured the privileges of Israel, and considered the children of Abraham no longer free, but subjects to a foreign power.
Had He, on the other hand, replied that it was not lawful to pay tribute, they would have denounced Him to the Romans as a mover of sedition, and a rebel against Caesar, who refused to pay his taxes.”- J.C. Ryle
The Pharisees thought this was a simple yes or no question. But then Jesus responds. “Show me the tax money.” (v. 18). He asked why they were testing Him and actually calls them hypocrites (an actor under an assumed character, stage player, a dissembler; Strong’s). He asks whose image is on the coin. It was Caesar’s image.
Jesus just reversed the entire situation on them. Rather answering a fool according to his folly, he tells them to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and render to God the things that are God’s. God’s Kingdom is not of this world.
“But God governs history, and temporal authority exists only because he has willed it thus. Sovereign and final authority remains that of God. The State can require only our money and our services, never our souls-that is to say, the obedience which we owe only to God.” (Layman’s Bible Commentary)
Jesus’ response left the Pharisees speechless. “When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.” (Matt. 22:22) This word marveled means to wonder. Jesus left them thinking about what He just said.
The Pharisees did not receive the truth in love because their motive was not pure in their questioning. Does that mean the truth was not spoken to them in love? No! It just wasn’t received in love. The Pharisees came after Jesus in this situation in order to trap him with their question. Verse 15 says the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Jesus in His talk. And instead Jesus spoke right to the heart of the Pharisees because he perceived their wickedness (v. 18).
We need to be yielded to the Holy Spirit. When I hear the word yield I think of a Yield sign. What do you do when you yield? You slow down and let the other car take the lead. Just like in our walk with the Lord, we need to slow down and let Him lead. This is yielding to the Holy Spirit. I would rather be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit than concerned with pleasing others.
We have to look at the reverse of this original statement, what about receiving the truth in love? If a person is yielded to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is leading. The truth may have been spoken in love (I’m not saying that it always is), just not received in love. What is the true motive of the heart?
Look at Proverbs 25:12. “Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.”
“A rebuke given in love and received with intent to obey at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way is more valuable than gold.” -Study Bible Notes
Matthew Henry states, “…very graceful and well becoming both the reprover and the reproved; both will have their praise, the reprover for giving it so prudently and the reproved for taking it so patiently and making a good use of it.”
The verse right before this is, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Beautiful.
May we have the discernment when to speak the truth…and in love. May we pray for the receiver to have discernment as well to receive the truth…and in love.