Studying the Bible has left me convinced that the truth is always important in the face of an untruth, Ball says. (Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
1 Kings 10:1-13 tells the story of the queen of Sheba.
The queen was clearly a wise, rich and important figure. She went to the considerable trouble of loading up her entourage and a fortune in rare spices, precious jewels and other costly gifts for a trip to Solomon's court in Jerusalem.
Why? Although we can reasonably speculate that she wanted to work out a trade deal or an alliance with Israel, the only reason the biblical story actually gives us for her trip is that she heard rumors about King Solomon and wanted to see for herself if they were true.
The end of the story reports that the queen received "everything she wanted and all that she had asked for, in addition to what [Solomon] had already given her from his own personal funds" (1 Kings 10:13).
That vague reference to Solomon's funds notwithstanding, the only thing we know for sure is that what she got was the truth.
Although our world is very different from the queen's and Solomon's, one part of human culture that never changes is that rumors will get around.
The story of the queen of Sheba's visit to Jerusalem reminds us that seeking out the truth is worth the effort.
As I reflect on the queen of Sheba's quest for the truth, I find myself challenged by three ideas about the information that I take in and give out.
First, is the information I'm seeing and hearing true, and am I willing to do the work of finding out?
Here in the Information Age, we are constantly bombarded with messages purporting to be true - but often aren't.
Sometimes these untruths are accidental, but many are classic cases of what Ephesians 4:14 calls "deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others."
Although it usually doesn't take more than a few mouse clicks to reveal false information for what it is, do I really put in that effort as often as I could?
Second, is the information I'm sharing true, and what do I do when I recognize an untruth?
Most of the time, I do my best not to pass on false information, and when I do, I try to correct it. I admit that what I do when I realize someone else has shared an untruth is a bit stickier.
These "deceitful schemes and tricks" are marvelously good at promoting discord rather than unity. I know if I expose a falsehood, there's a chance I will experience a backlash.
But studying the Bible has left me convinced that the truth is always important in the face of an untruth. The truth is vital for building up the body of Christ.
Third, is the information I'm sharing truly important?
Not that there's anything wrong with trivia, but if I'm really going to make a difference in my community, I've got to do more than pass on trivial information. I ask myself: Am I sharing anything that will make a lasting impact?
Julie Ball is minister of discipleship and administration at Heritage Baptist Fellowship in Canton, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared on Heritage's blog and is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @gottabejulie.