Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lying: Right or Wrong?

Another unusual subject that I was somehow wrangled into posting by my lovely friends.  They seem to have no qualms in prodding me, do they?  Good thing I love them so much.

Now, this post is likely to be controversial, which may come as no shock given the title...  I will be looking at lying from a lot of different angles, some of which have been uncomfortable to people I have discussed this with.  However, I think it is an important topic, one often not fully explored.

First though, I want to clarify something.  People use the 9th commandment as their reason for not lying.  However, the 9th commandment does not say you shall not lie.  It says you shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.  There is a difference, I believe.

*pulls out Daddy’s commentary * Mathew Henry is a much smarter man— or rather I should say person, since I am not a man— then I, so I think I shall include his words on this commandment.

The ninth commandment concerns our own and our neighbor’s good name. This forbids speaking falsely on any matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising or designing to deceive our neighbor.  Speaking unjustly against our neighbor, to hurt his reputation. Bearing false witness against him, or in common conversation slandering, backbiting, and tale-bearing; making what is done amiss, worse than it is, and in any way endeavoring to raise our reputation upon the ruin of our neighbor’s. How much this command is every day broken among persons of all ranks!

 See, the 9th commandment deals with a very specific type of lying, not lying in general.  Which bring me to the point I want to make.  I believe, like so many other things spoken of in the Bible, that this comes down to a matter of the heart.  The heart is the root of sin. Our sin nature fuels our heart.  Often our actions themselves are not sin, but rather, the intent of our hearts. 
Think of it like alcohol. Drinking alcohol is not a sin, no matter what people tell you (totally other topic I am not entering at the moment).  Now, do I think it is wise?  No, not really, this is why I abstain from alcohol completely.  I don’t even want to know if I have a propensity to it.  However, drinking alcohol is not a sin.  The sin is when we let our flesh take over and become drunk.

Is our heart right with God? That to me is the real question. Are we lying for personal gain, or are we lying to protect and preserve life?  Does it really matter?  I think it does.  Don’t just take my word for it, though.  Let’s look at scripture and see what it has to say about this topic.  What is lying, according to the Bible?

First, let’s look at some of the examples in scripture where people lied.  The first one I want to bring to your attention is in Exodus. The scriptures say:

15Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16"When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birth stool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live." 17But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?" 19Themidwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them." 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.

 Interesting… so, what this passage tells us is that the midwives feared God.  As a result of that the midwives chose to directly oppose Pharaoh by not killing the Hebrew boys.  Not only that, they went a step further and lied to him about what they were doing.  And God dealt well with them.

 Now, you might be saying “Okay, but they were humans.  They are not our standard.”  Agreed. However, before I give you my next example, I want to make sure we define lying accurately.  According to Webster, to lie is 

1.) to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive;
2.) to create a false or misleading impression.

Remember that as we continue to discuss this topic.

In 1st Samuel 16, Samuel the prophet is instructed by God to go to Bethlehem for the express purpose of anointing another king over Israel. Understandably, Samuel is concerned about King Saul learning of his mission. He’s afraid Saul will kill him if this becomes known. Knowing something about the character of Saul, we have every reason to believe that Samuel was not just being overly cautious—Saul was certainly the kind of man who would kill to protect his throne. But, in order to allow Samuel's primary purpose to go undetected, God devised a stratagem (i.e., a cleverly contrived scheme to outwit the enemy and gain an end). The Lord told Samuel to take a heifer with him and say: "I have come to sacrifice to the Lord". And then what does the Bible tell us? It says that Samuel went and did as the Lord instructed him. So… Samuel lied? Depends on who you ask.  Some would say no, he intentionally misled. He told the truth, sort of. He was sacrificing, but he left out the fact that his main objective was to anoint a new king over Israel.

So, according to the above definition on lying, not only did Samuel lie, but God actually instructed him to do so! Who can believe it? Now, you can take this one of two ways.  Either there are different types of lies, or the above definition of lying is false because the Lord wouldn’t encourage someone to sin. If you take that stance, though, that means that, from a Scriptural point of view, the creating of a false or misleading impression is not necessarily a lie.
Again, I propose this is a heart issue.  After all, I strongly believe that in some instances intentionally misleading is a sin. If we intentionally mislead people because it will make our lives easier on us, that is wrong.  However, if you intentionally mislead someone as an act of kindness to them, or to protect something, is that wrong?

Let me ask you this. What is the difference between murder and killing someone is self-defense (refer back to my post on this subject, ifyou need)?  In both situations you end up taking a life, so why is one sanctioned by scripture and the other condemned?  Is it not the heart of the person that the Lord judges?  Is that not what dictates whether you were sinning or not? Think on that one, we’ll come back to it.
 Let's try another Scripture verse that deals with the Lord on this subject, since He is who we look to, not man.  In Joshua 8, God, who “cannot lie" (Titus 1:2), instructed Joshua to "lay an ambush for the city of Ai". Now, let’s be honest, who’s going to deny that an ambush is deceptive? Now, before you say this doesn’t count, let’s actually read the Scripture.

Now the LORD said to Joshua: "Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2"And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its cattle you shall take as booty for yourselves. Lay an ambush for the city behind it." 3 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai; and Joshua chose thirty thousand mighty men of valor and sent them away by night. 4 And he commanded them, saying: "Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind the city. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5 "Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city; and it will come about, when they come out against us as at the first, that we shall flee before them. 6 "For they will come out after us till we have drawn them from the city, for they will say, 'They are fleeing before us as at the first.' Therefore we will flee before them. 7 "Then you shall rise from the ambush and seize the city, for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 "And it will be, when you have taken the city, that you shall set the city on fire. According to the commandment of the LORD you shall do. See, I have commanded you.

Therefore, if all deception is a lie, then the God who cannot lie commanded Joshua and the Israelites to lie.  Again, who can believe it?

So, since it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18), neither the stratagem at Ai nor the subterfuge at Bethlehem could be inherently evil, although both clearly involve what most would identify as deception.

Another example is found in Joshua 2. Joshua sends two men to spy out Jericho and the king of Jericho finds out. They go to Rehab, a prostitute, and she hides them. When the king’s messengers come looking for them, she says: 

“The men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them” (Joshua 2:4–5).

The rest of the chapter tells how she believes in God and is delivered when Jericho is attacked. So the Biblical interpretation of her action is that it was done from a heart of faith—even though she lied.  And interesting side note is that this woman is prominently featured in the lineage of Christ…

Now, before we get carried away, let me state that I firmly believe lying is a sin.  So, you may ask inquisitively (and if you are suffering from a lack of inquisitiveness then just pretend for me), why are you saying that lying is not a sin?  Well, I’m not.  I’m saying that the blanket statement “lying is a sin” is, in essence, a sin.  Because in order to say that, you condemn a whole lot of people much more righteous than any of us reading this post.  

 Now, you all know I am very fond of making the rubber hit the road, so I am going to use a real life example.  Let’s not sit in our ivory towers and debate this, let’s get dirty.  Let’s get realistic. 

An example of just such a person is Corrie Ten Boom.  Don’t recognize the name?  Think about the true story told in the book The Hiding Place.  Yep, that was her. 

You know what I love about The Hiding Place? It is a perfect example of the Lord honoring the heart of the person.  See, in The Hiding Place, there are three sisters.  Two of them believe that they are called to lie in order to protect the lives of the Jews they are harboring.  The other sister believes it is a sin to lie.  Period.  Now, all three sisters are hiding Jews in their homes.  When asked if there are Jews in the house, Corrie lies and says there are none.  Contrast that with her sister Nollie who, when asked, tells the truth.  "Yes, this woman is a Jew".

Here is what I find beautiful, though.  The Lord honored both women’s desires to protect His people.  Corrie’s Jews all got away safely; so did the Jewish girl Nollie had been harboring.  The girl miraculously escaped the Nazi’s. 

Now, not being God, I can only theorize about this, but here are the conclusions I have come to on this topic.  The Lord knew the heart of both women. Nollie wanted to protect the Jews, but not above serving the Lord faithfully. She was not willing to sin, as she felt it to be, in order to save the Jew. The Lord didn't punish her for this. Instead, he saved the Jew. I believe He saved the Jew because of Nollie's unwillingness to compromise, rather than in spite of it.  For Nollie to have lied would have been sinful, and would show a lack of trust in God, but for Corrie to not have lied would have been sinful for her. Both women did what they felt called to do.  Both were honored by the Lord.

I would say, if God convicts you that lying to save a life is wrong, then you should stand by Nollie. I do not admire Nollie for telling the Nazis she was harboring a Jew.  Rather, I admire her because she did not go against her convictions, something I think God rewarded her for.
However, I am just as strongly convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that God would not chastise me for saving a life as Corrie did. Corrie's heart was pure, and I can’t even imagine myself in her place. Every part of me would say to tell them the truth— to protect my own flesh.  It takes more denial of the flesh to lie in this situation, than it does to tell the truth, because the flesh wants to put itself first. It wants to say yes, there are Jews, because then they would pardon you (we know this because many people who did turn in Jews were pardoned for the offence because they showed their true loyalties).  To tell the truth, under these circumstances it would not only be cowardly, but I believe that is as great a sin as it would have been for Nollie to lie.  

Let’s say my neighbor is a Jew. I am asked, point blank, if he is, on pain of death. I tell the truth. “Yes, he is a Jew.” I may be spared, but the neighbor is drug away to a concentration camp and killed.  Which is the sin? The fleshly desire to give in or the act of selflessness to hide the Jew?

For Corrie to lie took so much faith and trust in her Heavenly Father.  I trust that God would give me the same strength, were I in that position, to deny my flesh, my sin nature, and to say no, I was not harboring a Jew.  The sin of the heart, or the purity of the heart, I believe, affects the outcome.

Now, I think it is important to note that I do not believe that lying is relative.  I think the scriptures are very clear on that subject. However, I also believe the scriptures show us specifically what God deems sinful when it comes to lies.  Look at these verses in scripture:

 Psalms 24:4-5: He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
  Psalms 52:2-4: "Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah. Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue."
 Psalms 62:3-4: How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? Ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence. They only consult to cast him down from his Excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly.
Proverbs 6:16-19: "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." 
 Proverbs 10:18: "He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool."
 Proverbs 21:6: "The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death."
 Isaiah 59:12-13: "For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood."

 The interesting thing to note about these verses is that the type of lying that the Bible is condemning cannot be compared to what Corrie Ten Boom did.  None of these verses match up with her lie of “No, there are no Jews here”.  

Many people rely upon a man-made, rather than a Biblical, definition of lying. In doing so, they all too frequently end up condemning the guiltless, those with pure hearts and intentions. It’s easy to sit in glass boxes and say “x,y,and z”, it’s another thing to apply what we are saying to real life.  So, I’m going to put my views, and Scripture verses, in practical terms.

Some people, who feel led to the mission field, give up the call because they fail to obtain visas. Why? They feel they are under obligation to tell the whole truth when filling out visa applications. If you put that you are going to a country to bring the gospel, you are frequently denied access to the country. So, should they not go bring the Good News of the Gospel to unreached people groups for this reason? We should ignore the call of God because we can’t “lie” about why we are going?

Is it really true that the Biblical prohibition against lying requires us to tell the whole truth in every circumstance? When a foreign country will not grant a gospel preacher a visa, is it a lie for that preacher to list his occupation as "teacher", like someone I know who has recently gone to give the gospel to another nation?

Furthermore, when asked by a government hostile to the preaching of the gospel the purpose of one's visit, is it wrong for a preacher, who during the course of his visit plans to visit different areas of the country in order to preach the gospel, to say, "to visit and travel about in your country"?
Blanket statements are dangerous, guys. 

Now, here is something else that could be brought up, due to all of the above things I have mentioned. Aren't we, when we lie to protect ourselves or others, putting God in a box? Can't we trust His protection and will enough to do what He asks us to do, even when it may look absolutely ridiculous to others? Will He not honor our dependence on Him?  Are we denying God’s sovereignty by lying to protect someone else?
It’s a legitimate question. God is sovereign, and I would be the first to say that we should not place Him in a box.  However, I believe the Lord gives us a certain sense of responsibility to act as He would have us. He gave us a brain for a reason. We should use it.

Here's an example. What if someone is stuck in a house fire?  Should they sit down in the middle of the room and say "Lord, I know you are sovereign. If you don't want me to die, then let the firemen get here before I am killed." I’m sorry, but that person is a fool!  Or let’s make this example even harder.  Let’s put a child in that fire.  Not just a child, your child. If my precious little sister, who would be incapable of escaping a fire,  were trapped in a bedroom of the house and was going to burn to death, should I try to save her, if it were in my power, or should I trust that the Lord will get the firemen there in time?
We have a responsibility to act.  We are the tools the Lord uses. It is an honor, a privilege.

Just the same, we are the tools to reach the unsaved for Christ. He could reveal Himself to them on His own, if He wanted, but you know what He chooses to do? He chooses to bless us and allow us to minister for Him.  We are the tools He uses.  Amen, what a blessing!
God blessed Corrie Ten Boom. He allowed her to suffer horribly, to be a tool ministering for Him in a dark place. It all started with her stand, though. Her stand to value a human life above her own. She lied to save someone. She trusted the Lord would take care of those Jews who were hiding, and she trusted Him to protect her as she was carted away from her home. And you know what? Our faithful Lord honored her stand and her willingness to serve as His tool. He let every one of those Jews she lied to protect- gave her life to protect-escape. The Nazis did not find them.  The clocks were safe, as the secret message said.
I don't think lying to protect another is boxing God in.  I think it is following His clear call to preserve life. 

So, I will reiterate that I would not only hide a Jew, but I would do it under the very strong conviction that my God knows my heart, and that He will bless me for placing myself in harm's way to save one of His precious children.
Honestly, guys, there is nothing selfish in a lie to save a life. You are saying that that other person is worth more to you than your own comfort and safety. How can that lie be ungodly? I am willing to be killed for another human being. To endure unbelievable torture. I see nowhere in Scripture that God punishes a person for such an act.  I also don’t see a scripture that condemns this type of “lying”.  As we’ve already established, the 9th commandment isn’t applicable to lying.  It deals with a very specific heart motive.

Now, I understand that I am bringing up some very hard topics.  The Nazi treatment of the Jews is an extreme situation, but it is a very real situation that men and women of the faith had to face, once upon a time. I have said countless times before, it is easy to debate topics without real life application, but reality is very different.  That’s why I bring up the hard, real life questions.  How do you apply what you believe to real life?  

 I have always been strongly pro-life.  Many other people reading this are too, I am sure.  But being pro-life takes on a whole different meaning when you have to take a stand and make other people see the value in life- when you have to be willing to do whatever it takes, no matter the cost, to defend that life- that’s when things become very different.

That’s why I think we have to use these situations when we talk about these kinds of subjects. We have to think in real life terms. Because those days of Nazism will come again, as much as we hate to believe it.  Either we will have to deal with them or our children/ grandchildren/future descendant will have to. And if we are not ready, we will fall.

Feel free to make comments and discuss this, guys.  That's what the comments section is for. :D  


  1. I'm estimating we'll face something similar to Corrie Ten Boom's(without God changing the hearts of society) within the next 75 years, except I think Christians (And possibly other religions) as the target, rather than Jews.

    1. Hopefully by then my prepping quest will be complete by the time it happens.

  2. Very intriguing and thought-provoking post, Kaitlyn. It has given me plenty to ponder. :)

    1. I'm glad I could get the gears turning. It's certainly not a cut and dry topic, is it? :)

      You know my e-mail is always available for discussions, Aussie, if you would like. :D

  3. Thank you for this post Kaitlyn!

    The days of Nazism were here long ago, but it is only a number to many people, the actual killing is off screen. America has legally killed far more innocent people than Nazism, and we still sing America the beautiful.

    I had not thought of thou shalt not lie as the same case as thou shalt not kill. I had thought that it was not lying (in the cases when it was right), but a falsehood.

    In the Websters 1828 Dictionary lying was a criminal falsehood, falsehood with a criminal intent, thus a falsehood without a criminal intent would not be a lie. (And none of the examples of right falsehoods were called lies in the Bible.)

    However it also has the definition an intentional violation of truth, so I think what you said is another valid explanation.

    One of my favorite examples is this:

    Matthew 12
    3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
    4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?

    This may not seem to have anything to do with lying, except that in the passage Jesus is talking about, David also told a complete falsehood to a righteous priest:

    1 Samuel 21
    1 Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?
    2 And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place.

    This effectively equates those who say that to tell a falsehood is wrong with pharisees who, Jesus said, condemned the innocent. It is no light thing to condemn the innocent.

    1. I am so glad you posted, Patrick! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and adding more scripture verses for people to look at! Wonderful, wonderful. :D I completely forgot about this incident in 1st Samuel.

      Yes, millions of children have been murdered around the world and, unfortunately, like Nazism, it is just a number.

      [Quoting Patrick]This effectively equates those who say that to tell a falsehood is wrong with pharisees who, Jesus said, condemned the innocent. It is no light thing to condemn the innocent.[End Patrick Quote]

      Amen! I can't tell you how strongly I agree with that statement! It isn't a light thing to condemn the innocent. Thank you so much for summing that up perfectly, Patrick!


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