1045) “I’d Rather Starve”

  As this folktale from Greece points out, the virtuous soul not only loves truth for its own sake, but it also loathes the actions of falsehood.  Deceit is far more painful for that soul than bearing the hardships that sometimes accompany honesty.  (From The Book of Virtues, ed. by William Bennett, 1993, pages 636-7).


     Once upon a time Truth and Falsehood met each other on the road.

     “Good afternoon,” said Truth.

     “Good afternoon,” returned Falsehood.  “And how are you doing these days?”

     “Not very well at all, I’m afraid,” sighed Truth.  “The times are tough for a fellow like me, you know.”

     “Yes, I can see that,” said Falsehood, glancing up and down at Truth’s ragged clothes.  “You look like you haven’t had a bite to eat in quite some time.”

     “To be honest, I haven’t,” admitted Truth.  “No one seems to want to employ me nowadays.  Wherever I go, most people ignore me or mock me.  It’s getting discouraging, I can tell you.  I’m beginning to ask myself why I put up with it.”

     “And why the devil do you?  Come with me, and I’ll show you how to get along.  There’s no reason in the world why you can’t stuff yourself with as much as you want to eat, like me, and dress in the finest clothes, like me.  But you must promise not to say a word against me while we’re together.”

     So Truth promised and agreed to go along with Falsehood for a while, not because he liked his company so much, but because he was so hungry he thought he’d faint soon if he didn’t get something into his stomach.  They walked down the road until they came to a city, and Falsehood at once led the way to the very best table at the very best restaurant.

     “Waiter, bring us your choicest meats, your sweetest sweets, your finest wine!” he called, and they ate and drank all afternoon.  At last, when they could hold no more, Falsehood began banging his fist on the table and calling for the manager, who came running at once.

     “What the devil kind of place is this?” Falsehood snapped.  “I gave that waiter a gold piece nearly an hour ago, and he still hasn’t brought our change.”

     The manager summoned the waiter, who said he’d never even seen a penny out of the gentleman. 

     “What?” Falsehood shouted, so that everyone in the place turned and looked.  “I can’t believe this place!  Innocent, law-abiding citizens come in to eat, and you rob them of their hard-earned money!  You’re a pack of thieves and liars!  You may have fooled me once, but you’ll never see me again!  Here!”  He threw a gold piece at the manager.  “Now this time bring me my change!”

     But the manager, fearing his restaurant’s reputation would suffer, refused to take the gold piece, and instead brought Falsehood change for the first gold piece he claimed to have spent.  Then he took the waiter aside and called him a scoundrel, and said he had a mind to fire him.  And as much as the waiter protested that he’d never collected a cent from the man, the manager refused to believe him.

     “Oh Truth, where have you hidden yourself?” the waiter sighed.  “Have you now deserted even us hard-working souls?”

     “No, I’m here,” Truth groaned to himself, “but my judgment gave way to my hunger, and now I can’t speak up without breaking my promise to Falsehood.”

     As soon as they were on the street, Falsehood gave a hearty laugh and slapped Truth on the back.  “You see how the world works?” he cried.  “I managed it all quite well, don’t you think?”

     But Truth slipped from his side.

     “I’d rather starve than live as you do,” he said.

     And so Truth and Falsehood went their separate ways, and never traveled together again.


Exodus 20:16  —   You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Psalm 120:2  —  Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.

Proverbs 12:22  —  Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

Ephesians 4:25  —  So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.


Almighty God, have mercy upon us, forgive us all our sins, and deliver us from all evil; confirm and strengthen us in all goodness, and bring us to life everlasting.  Amen.

–Book of Common Prayer