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, or even ourselves, 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)