Is Lying Ever Justified for Servants of God?

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THE CREATION DAYS OF GENESIS gift of prophecy
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 140 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

What Does the Bible Say?

The Bible completely condemns all sorts of lies. Psalm 5:6 tells us that God will “destroy those who speak lies.” God tells the readers of Revelation “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” (Rev. 22:15) God also said that he detests “a lying tongue, a false witness who breathes out lies.” (Prov. 6:6-19) The lying tongue belongs to one who continuously deceives others with his misleading utterly false information, which causes others to arrive at a mistaken belief. This is a person that could care less about the destruction of his lies in the wake of his deception. The distortion of the truth is this one’s means of making the world mold to his perception of things. He could never accept the moral values of right and wrong set out in Scripture because he has distorted the truth so much that his moral compass is unable to point toward truth.

We can get just how seriously God views lying by looking at what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. They knowingly and purposely lied to the apostles in an obvious effort to seem more generous than they actually were. So, the apostle Peter proclaimed: “You have not lied to man but to God.” For this, both of them were executed by God himself. – Acts 5:1-10.

Some years later the apostle Paul warned Christians: “Do not lie to one another.” (Colossians 3:9) This advice is especially essential in the Church. Jesus said that moral, ethical, virtuous, good, righteous love would be the mark that would identify a person as one of his true followers. (John 13:34-35) Love such as this can only develop and thrive in an atmosphere of total honesty and trust. It is hard to love anyone that is not fully trustworthy, knowing that they will always tell the truth.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

Some forms of lying are actually wicked. However, like all things, some lies are more serious than others. For example, a friend may lie because he is ashamed or embarrassed or out of fear of looking bad or hurting someone’s feelings. Yet others may wickedly lie all day, every day having no concern over the harm or injury the lies may cause. The willful liar has malicious motivations, this makes him a dangerous person who has no remorse. Not every lie is motivated by maliciousness. Therefore, as Christians, we need to take care in condemning a person who may have lied until we know all the facts.  The intent of the person, the motives, and extenuating circumstances should be considered. – James 2:13.

The standard of God is that there is no lying, which Exodus 20:16 makes all too clear, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” However, When Abram was forced to go down to Egypt, because of a famine, he “said to Sarai his wife, ‘I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.’” (12:12-13) In Genesis chapter 20, we find Abraham repeating this behavior, even though it did not bode well for him the first time. Did Abraham lie these two times, and if so, why does the entire account of Abraham present him as righteously walking with God, the epitome of faith?

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First, it should be mentioned that Sarah was the half-sister and wife of Abraham. Therefore, in essence, he did not lie about their relationship; he simply withheld information that would have been used by the enemy, resulting in Abraham being possibly killed. It is true malicious lying is unquestionably prohibited in the Bible, which is to say something that is not true in a conscious effort to deceive or hurt somebody that is deserving of the truth. However, the Bible has examples of cases where a person has withheld information from an enemy, who would have used that information to hurt or cause harm to the person or another. The Bible seems to suggest that we are not under obligation to divulge information to the enemy, as that would cause oneself harm. The American legal system allows something like this as well. It is called The Fifth Amendment (Amendment V), which guarantees you do not have to testify against yourself.

BIBLE DIFFICULTIES

Jesus Christ counseled, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Matt 7:6) Even Jesus himself, who is incapable of malicious lying, on occasion, withheld information from those who were not worthy of it and would have only used it to hurt him. (Matt. 15:1-6; 21:23-27; John 7:3-10) Still, even on these occasions, he did not lie. Rather, he chose either to say nothing at all or to redirect the discussion in another direction. We see this same principle underway with Abraham, Isaac, Rehab, and Elisha, as all pointed in the wrong direction or withheld all the facts from the enemies or non-worshipers. (Genesis 12:10-19; chap 20; 26:1-10; Joshua 2:1-6; James 2:25; 2Ki 6:11-23) The Bible labels such men and women above and others as faithful worshipers who lived obediently. Therefore, they are worthy examples that we can imitate. – Romans 15:4; Hebrews 11:8-10, 20, 31, 32-39.

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

What have we learned?

  • Malicious lying is clearly condemned in the Bible
  • We are not obligated to disclose truthful information to those who are not entitled to it
  • We are not obligated to give complete information or direct answers if it will bring about unnecessary harm to ourselves or others
  • There may be occasions when we have to misdirect or withhold complete information
  • We have to be shrewd and careful when we are dealing with possible enemies

In Closing

In the life of a Christian, there will be times when telling a lie may seem to provide an easy way out of a difficult situation. However, true followers of Jesus Christ will imitate Jesus’ life and follow their conscience that should be biblically grounded in an accurate understanding of Scripture when they face especially difficult situations. – Hebrews 5:14.

The Bible urges us to tell the truth and be honest. Straightforward, lying is wrong, and we should live by Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor.” (Ephesians 4:25) If we do this, we will retain a conscience that is clean and pure, and we avoid discord and promote peace and love in the church, and continue to honor the “God of truth.” – Psalm 31:5; Hebrews 13:18.

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