The Way of Lying

Lying, speaking that which is untrue with intent to mislead and/or deceive, is forbidden. (Ep 4:25) Truth and honesty are the basis of any functional relationship, key to any thriving civilization. It’s so basic and so simple; where’s the debate?

The challenge comes when speaking truth appears to violate the law of love. (Ro 13:10)

Wielding truth to cause harm certainly is evil (Pr 12:18): just because it’s true doesn’t mean we should say it. We’re only to speak truth in love (Ep 4:15), seeking what’s ultimately beneficial for all. (Ep 4:29)

Holding our tongues, or choosing words carefully to avoid strife (Ja 1:19), this is wisdom (Ja 3:17) – and it’s quite different from intentionally speaking falsehood. Can it ever be right to tell an outright lie? even if we perceive the alternative to be harmful?

Another way to explore this: Would God ever be displeased by us speaking the truth in love when pressed to do so? when silence or evasion would be self-incriminating and/or dangerous? Would He be more pleased if we lied instead?

For example, should the Hebrew midwives have lied to Pharaoh about sparing the Israeli baby boys? (Ex 1:18-19) God blessed these brave women for their actions (20), yet He didn’t actually commend their deceit; He may well have blessed them in spite of it. Would telling the truth have been even more glorifying to God?

Or what of Jacob, lying to Isaac about being firstborn in order to secure his father’s blessing? (Ge 27:19) He succeeded, but was this the best way? Couldn’t God have blessed Jacob, as was His intent, without deceit? Perhaps such unholy grasping at God’s gifts is what made Jacob’s life so difficult and painful. (Ge 47:9)

And what of Rahab the harlot, when she lied to protect the Israeli spies? (Jos 2:4-6) James tells us her actions prove her justification by faith. (Ja 2:25) God doesn’t formally approve of her lying, yet she isn’t reprimanded either: she’s honored as a hero. Was her deceit appropriate? Would God have given her over to abuse and suffering had she told the truth?

As perhaps an indication of God’s heart here, one dear woman did choose the truth in dire straits: Abigail, Nabal’s wife. (1Sa 25:37) God intervened supernaturally and protected her, rather than letting her foolish husband retaliate and abuse her (38), and made her the bride of the king of Israel. (39)

And what of Christ’s example? Did He ever lie or deceive anyone? At times, He spoke things He knew would be misunderstood (Jn 2:18-21), but this isn’t quite the same as speaking what’s untrue. Based on His example, we evidently aren’t responsible to clarify the ambiguous for those who aren’t seeking truth. But to testify falsely – to put our name on outright, deliberate deception, to profess it and stand behind it, this is altogether different. We don’t learn this in Christ. (Ep 4:20)

Christ is the Truth (Jn 14:6): God cannot lie. (Tit 1:2), so it’s inconceivable that He’d ever utter any blatant falsehood, or encourage anyone to do so.

The consequences of telling the truth may be unpleasant, but the consequences of lying are arguably worse, at least in the long run. Lying isn’t love (Pr 26:28a); it victimizes, disrespects and dishonors, and tempts further into darkness on the merit of our character.

The way of lying is choosing the lie as a manner of life, to set our hearts on it with intention; it’s committing to lying under some condition, being premeditated about it, rather than simply lying in the moment under stress or caught off guard, almost instinctively to protect one’s self.

Choosing the lie under any circumstance may corrupt our own ability to walk in the light, obscuring our way (Pr 4:19), blinding us and hindering our growth in holiness. (Ep 4:17-18) Since Satan is the father of lies (Jn 8:44), when we commit to a lie of any kind it’s hard to understand how we’re not aligning with Satan, agreeing with him, inviting him into our hearts and participating with him, giving him space to work his way within us. (Ep 4:27)

If it’s ever appropriate to lie, to be aligned with Satan in the slightest way, then where are the boundaries … exactly? Once we voluntarily give him ground, a foothold, how do we contain him and manage him? how do we keep him from taking over our lives?

The very basis of spiritual warfare is dealing with the lie: every sin springs from a lie, from being deceived about reality. (Jn 8:32) Voluntarily engaging the lie to achieve any end at all is thus to play with Hell fire; this is a dangerous, slippery slope into spiritual bondage if there ever was one.

Once a captive of Satan through the lie, there’s only one way to escape: God must give us repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. (2Ti 2:25-26) However, if godly behavior embraces the lie, choosing the way of lying, then the ungodly behavior is to embrace the way of truth. How then do we repent of this ungodly behavior — of embracing the way of truth? Repentance requires acknowledging and aligning with the lie and rejecting the way of truth, yet this can’t be the gift of God; we’re children of light, and this is darkness. (1Th 5:5)

God hates the lying tongue (Pr 6:17), and His life in us does the same. (Ps 119:163) It’s our love of truth that marks us as His children (2Th 2:10); anyone who loves and lives in lies is not a child of God. (Re 22:15) We’re not only to believe the truth (2Th 2:13), we’re to walk in it (Ps 86:11) and cling to it as priceless. (Pr 23:23)

Though circumstances may be tempting, and the devil lure us into believing that deliberately deceiving others will be for the best, the Spirit of Truth (Jn 16:13) calls us to higher ground, if we’re willing to trust Him, away from lying, to choose the way of truth. (Ps 119:29-30)

The days may soon be upon us when speaking the truth may cost us and/or our loved ones dearly. Let us believe that lying will dishonor our Heavenly Father, and eventually cost us more. May God have mercy on us, as He evidently did with the Hebrew midwives, Jacob and Rahab. May He give us wisdom and grace, and help us withstand in the evil day (Ep 6:13), girded with the armor of truth. (14a)

articles    blog

Set a Watch

When we speak, we have a reason for doing so, a goal, a motive. We’ll be judged by what we say, and for why we say it, so we should be careful whenever our mouth is open, and set up a kind of gate keeper, a watch, a guard, to check every syllable coming out. (Ps 141:3) What should we be checking for?

First, is what we’re saying true? Is it aligned with reality, as best we know? If it isn’t, we shouldn’t say it; only speak truth. (Pr 8:7) Lying isn’t an option. (Ps 119:163)

Yet even if something’s true, that doesn’t mean we should say it. (Jn 16:12) We need to be thinking about our audience, and considering how our words will impact them. Speaking truth is insufficient in itself; we must speak the truth in love. (Ep 4:15)

We should speak to heal and build up (Ro 14:19), and this requires discernment. (Pr 15:28) Pushing truth on those who aren’t willing to obey deepens their condemnation (2Pe 2:21), and there are deeper truths that only the mature can digest. (1Co 3:2)

How often am I trying to impress someone, showing off? or just thinking out loud, sorting through my own confusion, and simply filling the air with my words? or trying to manipulate someone into doing what I want, focused inward, on myself? Am I ever actually trying to harm someone? (Pr 12:18)

Do I listen to others, trying to understand where they’re coming from? How can I edify you if I don’t know you, without any sense of what you’re struggling with, where you’ve been wounded, how you’ve been lied to?

We’re doctors in a pandemic, amid the sick and dying. We have a cure, a balm, a surgical knife, but most folk don’t want to be well, only to be at ease in their diseases. (Jn 3:19) We can only help those who sense their need and want to be whole (Mk 2:17), and even these we cannot rightly help unless we understand their need. We must ask and listen, observe and ponder, diagnosing our patient first. (Php 2:4) What does the Great Physician in us see? What do we we see Him doing?

Pray before speaking (Ja 1:19); let God Himself be the watchman of our lips. (Ps 19:14)

writings    posts

Speak Truth

Being able to take someone at their word is the foundation of every healthy relationship; believing we’re each speaking the truth enables us to understand and trust each other. Without this, no working relationship is even possible. Lying thus strikes at the very heart of friendship, and even of civilization itself.

Jordan Peterson challenges us to try to stop lying for 30 days, just to see what happens. Perhaps it’s striking … that we’re so accustomed to lying we need to be dared to stop; but it shouldn’t be a surprise – this is the default human condition. (Jn 3:19) But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; God can help us choose truthful speech as a pattern of life. (Ps 119:29)

Lying doesn’t just harm friendships and society, it rewires our own brains, distorting our very own nervous systems such that we can no longer properly orient ourselves in the world and recognize reality as it is. (Pr 1:28)

Deception is aligning our very own behavior contrary to the way we ourselves perceive reality, which signals our brains and bodies that reality isn’t what our senses are telling us; this actually corrupts and fractures our own ability to accurately perceive reality. (Pr 5:22) We deceive ourselves when we don’t act out the truth we already know (Ja 1:22), and self-imposed deception is the most dreadful kind of deception. (Mt 6:23)

Yet just because something’s true doesn’t necessarily mean we should volunteer it in conversation with others (Ep 4:15); there are dimensions of truth that others are not ready to hear. (Jn 16:12) Spewing truth with the wrong motive can be very destructive (Pr 12:18a); we must carefully consider whether our speech will tend to the general health and well-being of both ourselves and others (18b), and only speak in love. (Ep 4:15)

The real challenge comes when we feel pressed to speak truth that’s harmful or destructive. We might think we have no choice but to lie or let the truth do its harm, yet violating the law of Love isn’t an option (Ep 5:2); if our words won’t edify and help the overall situation, they’re forbidden. (Ep 4:29) Rather than letting others dictate our choices, we’re obligated in such cases to wisely re-focus the conversation on what’s truly edifying.

Consider the example of Christ, when those He’d miraculously fed were trying to forcibly make Him king. (Jn 6:15) After He evaded them by walking across a lake at night (18-19), they sought after Him and caught up with Him (24), asking how He’d managed to slip away. (25) Rather than telling them about the miracle, or offering them a little white lie in its place, Christ turned the attention on their true need. (26-27)

We’re made in the image of God as co-creators in eternity, and it’s primarily through our speech that we create. Whenever we open our mouths to speak, we fashion metaphysical reality from the void before us, bringing an eternal work into being which shall ultimately be on display before the entire universe for inspection and evaluation (Lk 12:3): we’ll give an account to God for every idle word we utter. (Mt 12:36) Let all the reality we create be true and right and good, for it’s by our words that we’ll either be justified or condemned. (37)

Speak truth to everyone, all the time (Ep 4:25), yet only speak prayerfully, as Christ Himself would speak (Col 3:17), seeking God for the ability to glorify Him and edify others. (Col 4:6) It’s wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep quiet (Ec 3:7), and as a rule, less is better. (Pr 10:19) As we speak, let’s remember the power of words (Pr 18:21), and speak appropriately. (Pr 15:23) While some truth cannot be spoken in love (1Co 3:2), there’s never a good time to lie. (Ps 119:163)

writings    posts