Statue of 3 Lies

Statue of 3 Lies


Intro:  During a visit to Boston, MA, you might be inclined to visit one of the most prestigious colleges in the Land.  Harvard University is located there.  If you visited the famous Harvard Yard, on the campus of the university, you might do what thousands do every year. Have your picture taken in front  of the statue of John Harvard, the founder of Harvard University, At least you might think that is what you were doing.   After all, the statue has the name “John Harvard” engraved upon it, along with the information that he founded Harvard College in 1638. But, as it turns out, none of these “facts” is true. That’s why students in the know refer to this monument to Mr. Harvard as “The Statue of the Three Lies.”

All of the information on the statue is false:

It says it is a likeness of John Harvard, but in fact, there were no photos of John Harvard available, so the sculptor got a student to model for him.

It says that John Harvard founded the school, but again this is not true. It was named after him at his dearth in 1638, because he donated his library to the school.

Thirdly, the school did not begin in 1938, It was founded by the general court of Massachusetts in 1936!

Considering that John Harvard was known as Reverend Harvard, and gave his library to a school dedicated at the time to training ministers, his “statue of lies” is rather ironic.

Does the truth matter?  What about all the people who have come and been deceived by this bit of misinformation?

We live in a culture of untruth. Not only do we constantly lie to each other in our personal relationships, but we have so devalued the truth, that it is difficult to know what to believe. You might think you could believe the inscription on a university statue! Every piece of information is susceptible to being spun to convey a very different message, sometimes the very opposite meaning.  This does not alarm us anymore.

If the truth seems too hard to accept, we simply spin in a different way, and accommodate it to our more comfortable way of thinking.

What can we do?  Two things I can do to make a difference:

1)  First, we can be steadfast in seeking the truth. Whether that truth is political, religious, historical, relational, or whatever, we need to invest our efforts to go beneath the façade and spin in order to find the truthful bedrock.

2)  Second, we can strive in our own lives to be people who speak and live the truth.


  1. I.  The narrow dimension of the truth:  What we might immediately recognize is that the misinformation on the statue  did not miss it by much.  The sculptor gave the statue thin legs like John (had tuberculosis), and he did contribute much to the school at its beginning, and the school was only two years old when John died and his name was attached to the school.  How close do we have to get to be OK? I emailed a phone number to George Edwards on Friday, but left off the last digit. Did that five matter? It was the right number, except for that one digit.
    1. A.   In Deut 18 , the Lord promises to bring up a prophet like Moses, speaking the words he was givien. Immediately following this important Messianic prophecy, God provides a principle of determining truth among the prophets. Deut 18:20-22 – But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ —  22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
    2. B.  Galatians 1:8 – 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! Paul repeats this warning twice in this text, to make it clear that any departure from what was originally delivered would condemn them eternally.  Even the angels in the presence of God were not qualified to mess with the content of God’s message spoken by the apostles.  Truth can be narrowly interpreted because the source of truth is narrow.  The Psalmist describes God as He “who keeps truth forever” (Ps 146:6) and states unequivocally that  “The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”  (Ps 119:160)
      1. God is absolutely committed to the truth. He sent His Spirit to the apostles to guide them (and those who would follow their teaching) into all the truth (John 16:13)
      2. Titus 1:2 tells us that God cannot lie. That impossibility is an expression of both His nature and will. It presents God as the only true source of absolute truth.


II.  The Christian’s Commitment to Truth:   The Christian’s whole life is defined by the presence of truth. The truth is so connected to our spiritual relationship to God that the apostles describes those who belong to God as being “of the truth” (1 John 3:19), and those who reject God as those who “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25) and Satan as the Father of lies (John 8)

A.  “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37)Jesus’ words characterize true Christians as those who gladly welcome and accept the words of Jesus.  They not only hear the voice of Jesus, but desire to follow Him wherever He leads. (John 10 – Good Shepherd and his sheep)

1.  God’s people hunger and thirst for righteousness. They treasure the truth and will pay the price to find it and will not sell it. It is not easy.  2 Timothy 2:1515 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

B.  The Responsibility to Seek the Truth is Personal.   The word Of God is directed to each individual, in interpretation & practice.  

1.  1 Peter 4:11- 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  “if any man speak” How can I obey this unless I know what the oracles of God say?

2. Not all who claim to believe in the inspiration of scripture accept the right & responsibility of the individual to interpret the Bible for himself. (Roman Catholic Hierarchy- The church alone has the right of Interpretation)  Eph 3:1-5  For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—2 If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:   Paul expected all the Ephesians to be able to understand the mystery of the Gospel. But that was not to lead to the church as the authority or voice of interpretation!  Read James Tolle .. “Too often we allow “our practice” or “our doctrine” to be the determining factor as to what we accept as religiously and spiritually valid rather than our own, personal, individual study of the Bible. Oftentimes we are asked by our friends and neighbors what the church of Christ teaches about a particular subject. If we truly recognize infallibility being in the divine word rather than in the church, our response will be, “Let us examine the Bible to find out what it has to say, if anything, on this subject.”

3.   We might be surprised if we took a good, honest look at ourselves to find out how much of our religious thinking is the result of “what we have been taught all of our lives,” or “what most of us believe,” or “what we are supposed to believe,” rather than an essentially unpre­judiced, candid answer to the question; what saith the scriptures?   We should encourage open study & discussion of Bible topics, and the investigation of other ideas about the scriptures.

C.  The Responsibility to apply the truth to life is also an individual responsibility.  Although some activities are joint activities, they ultimately rely on my individual participation –  teaching, saving the lost, exhorting the fallen, lifting the weak, helping the needy, …whose job is this?  Can another do it for us?

  1. Jesus said, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). The truth is not illusive or mystic. If one desires to know the truth, he can know.  In fact, Jesus says if one desire to know, “he shall know”.   Spiritual truth is discernable only to a pure heart, not to a keen intellect. It is not a question of profundity of intellect, but of purity of heart.. – Oswald Chambers

a.  So from the standpoint of the pure-hearted man, the truth is not hard to seek and find. The pure heart is one that seeks to do, not just know.  We may congratulate ourselves on our thirst to know, but how much yearning do we have to do?

2.  The truth may impact our will, and thus our ability to discern the truth in at least two ways:

  1. It may condemn us for what we are doing that is wrong: John 3:19-21 – And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

b. It may compel us to do what we are not doingMatt 19:20-22 – The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

  • Luke 10 – The Jewish lawyer was aware of the importance of the second of the great commandments – love your neighbor as yourself. He just wasn’t interested in doing it, so he simply focused on that proverbial question, well, who is my neighbor? Jesus’ parable brought him face to face with a Samaritan who knew the truth fo the commandment more clearly than the scribe or the priest, who willing passed by, and had no interest in putting it into practice.

Conclusion:   Commitment to personal freedom in the search for divine truth is commitment to the freedom all Christians enjoy in Christ John 8:32, 36  32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”… 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.   When any Christian exercises his freedom in Christ to freely inquire after truth, he recognizes that his basic loyalty is to Christ rather than to man, and that any loyalty to man enjoined on him by the scriptures must always be in accord with his loyalty to Christ.  Acts 5:29  – But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.

  • Don’t believe everything you hear or read. (even on a statue) Seek diligently for the truth. Look to the One who cannot lie.  When you find it, do be afraid to live by it, for that is the true avenue to more knowing more truth.
Scroll to Top