Where would you attach such a device? To someone’s brain, tongue, heart? I am going to contend that you would attach it to someone’s eyes, because a truth-telling machine would have to alter what we see in order to change what we say.
In order to “see” (sorry, couldn’t help myself) where I am going with this, consider 2 Peter 1:9.
“For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”
A lack of a growing character results in moral blindness. The best liars have to be convinced of their lies before they can ever be convincing liars. They “see” their world in such a way that makes their deception seem (at least) reasonable.
Ask someone who struggles with substance abuse, “Are you an addict?” and they will say, “No!”
Ask someone who struggles with intense guilt, “Does God accept your repentance?” and they will say, “No!”
Ask someone who works 50 hours a week and spends another 20 hours on hobbies and friends, “Are you a good parent?” and they will say, “Yes!”
Ask someone who cannot explain the Gospel but believes they are a good person, “Are you going to heaven when you die?” and they will say, “Yes!”
In almost every case the person would be speaking a lie, yet a polygraph would not beep and a truth serum would not change their answer. Why? Their answer fits the way they see their world. Until they see their world differently, they would not know they were lying. Yet their sincerity would not make their statement any more valid.
In light of this consider Jeremiah 17:9-10 and Matthew 13:13-17 (quoting Isaiah 6:9-10).
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
I think this should change the way that we pray (for ourselves and others). We often pray to “know” the truth, as if truth were merely information. We would be better served to pray to “see” the truth, recognizing that truth is the reality in which we live created/designed by God.
I think this could often change the way we minister. Often we assume that people reject Christ because they have the wrong “information” about Jesus. It is more likely that people reject Christ because they do not “see” themselves as needing a Savior.
This is hard, because it makes the Gospel both offensive and relevant. However, when we “see” and admit our constant need for the Gospel, then our lives can be used by the Holy Spirit (the only true “truth-telling machine”) to open blind eyes and free tongues/lives to speak truth.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Character” post which address other facets of this subject.