A woman and her 12-year-old son were riding in a taxi in Detroit. It was raining and all the prostitutes were standing under awnings. “Mom,” said the boy, “what are all those women doing?” “They’re waiting for their husbands to get off work,” she replied.
The taxi driver turns around and says, “Geez lady, why don’t you tell him the truth? They’re hookers, boy! They have sex with men for money.”
The little boy’s eyes get wide and he says, “Is that true Mom?” His mother, glaring hard at the driver, answers “Yes.”
After a few minutes, the kid asks, “Mom, if those women have babies, what happens to them?” She said, “Most of them become taxi drivers.”
The truth doesn’t always seem desirable.
Sometimes the truth doesn’t seem all that appropriate…certainly not desirable. The woman in question here was obviously protecting her son from the truth. Occasionally, that seems like the best policy. In her case, telling a second fabrication was her way of getting back at the cabbie. Untruthful, but certainly humorous…
Periodically, we all find ourselves in such situations. We endeavor to protect others from the truth despite the fact that we hate to lie. I suspect that’s what gave rise to the old saying, “The truth hurts.” There’s no question it can be painful at times.
The eighth or ninth commandment (depending on how you number them), tells us not to bear false witness. (Exodus 20:1-17) In other words, don’t lie. It almost seems twisted that the taxi driver was in the right while the mother was doubly wrong. Go figure.
On the other hand, Scripture also warns us “there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) Maybe the cab driver should have thought about that one before he opened his mouth. These things can certainly get complicated.
“The truth will set you free.”
Truth has always been a knotty subject, however. Even Pilate, when face to face with Messiah, asked the age-old question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) He didn’t bother waiting for a reply. Maybe he should have. I, for one, would like to have heard Jesus’ answer.
Maybe the most famous statement concerning truth was averred by Jesus himself when he said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) It can easily be argued he was referring to the truth of the Gospel, but we are quick to use it in almost any other situation as well. In many of those situations, it merely becomes bad theology.
Still, it’s a very convincing argument—even when it’s taken out of context. And we love to use it, don’t we? Even folks who don’t give a whit about Scripture quote that one to their advantage.
I’m pretty sure the mother in our little story didn’t think the truth about the prostitutes was going to set her little boy free. On the other hand, I’m not so sure her statement about bastard taxi drivers was all that helpful either. It WAS funny, though.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]