Lying

Myth.

Only compounds problems:

As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you. – Genesis 12:11-13

Abram, acting out of fear, asked Sarai to tell a half-truth by saying she was his sister. She was his half sister, but she was also his wife (see 20:12).

Abram’s intent was to deceive the Egyptians. He feared that if they knew the truth, they would kill him to get Sarai. She would have been a desirable addition to Pharaoh’s harem because of her wealth, beauty, and potential for political alliance. As Sarai’s brother, Abram would have been given a place of honour. As her husband, however, his life would be in danger because Sarai could not enter Pharaoh’ harem unless Abram was dead. So Abram lost faith in God’s protection, even after all God had promised him, and told a half-truth. This shows how lying compounds the effects of sin. When he lied, Abram’s problems multiplied.

 

Fear causes:

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” – Genesis 18:15

Sarai lied because she was afraid of being discovered. Fear is the most common motive for lying. We are afraid that our inner thoughts and emotions will be exposed or our wrongdoings discovered. But lying causes greater complications than telling the truth and brings even more problems. If God can’t be trusted with our innermost thoughts and fears, we are in greater trouble than we first imagined.

 

Why did God bless midwives for lying to Pharaoh?

The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and because even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. – Exodus 1:19-21 *

Did God bless the Hebrew midwives for lying to Pharaoh? God blessed them not because they lied, but because they saved the lives of innocent children. This doesn’t mean that a lie was necessarily the best way to answer Pharaoh. The midwives were blessed, however, for not violating the higher law of God that forbids the senseless slaughter of innocent lives.

 

A conscious attempt to deceive:

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. – Exodus 20:16

Giving false testimony means lying in court. God knew that Israel could not survive unless its system of justice was incorruptible. We should be honest in our private dealings as well as in our public statements. In either situation, we “give false testimony” by leaving something out of a story, telling a half-truth, twisting the facts, or inventing a falsehood. God warns us against deception. Even though deception is a way of life for many people, God’s people must not give in to it!

 

Was Rahab’s lie justified?

But the woman had taken two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” – Joshua 2:4-5

Was Rahab justified in lying to save the lives of the spies? Although the Bible does not speak negatively about her lie, it is clear that lying is sin. In Hebrews 11:31, however, Rahab is commended for her faith in God. Her lie is not mentioned. Several explanations have been offered: (1) God forgave Rahab’s lie because of her faith; (2) Rahab was simply deceiving the enemy, a normal and acceptable practice in wartime; (3)because Rahab was not a Jew, she could not be held responsible for keeping the moral standards set forth in God’s law; (4) Rahab broke a lesser principle – telling the truth – to uphold a higher principle – protecting God’s people.

There may have been another way to save the lives of the Israelite spies. But under the pressure of the moment, Rahab had to make a choice. Most of us will face dilemmas at one time or another. We may feel that there is no perfect solution to our problem. Fortunately, God does not demand that our judgment be perfect in all situations. He simply asks us to put our trust in him and to do the best we know how. Rahab did that and was commended for her faith.

 

When you start believing your own lies:

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’S instructions.”

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.” – 1 Samuel 15:13-14

Saul thought he had won a great victory over the Amalekites, but God saw it as a great failure because Saul had disobeyed him and then lied to Samuel about the results of the battle. Saul may have thought his lie wouldn’t be detected, or that what he did was not wrong. Saul was deceiving himself.

Dishonest people soon begin to believe the lies they construct around themselves. Then they lose the ability to tell the difference between truth and lies. By believing your own lies you deceive yourself, you will alienate yourself from God, and you will lose credibility in all your relationships. In the long run, honesty wins out.

 

Should David have lied to protect himself?

David answered Ahimelech the priest, “The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, ‘No-one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. – 1 Samuel 21:2

David lied to protect himself from Saul (21:10). Some excuse this lie because a war was going on, and it is the duty of a good soldier to deceive the enemy. But nowhere is David’s lie condoned. In fact, the opposite is true because his lie led to the death of 85 priests (22:9-19). David’s lie seemed harmless enough, but it led to tragedy. The Bible makes it very clear that lying is wrong (Leviticus 19:11). Lying, like every other sin, is serious in God’s sight and may lead to all sorts of harmful consequences. Don’t minimise or categorise sin. All sin must be avoided whether or not we can foresee their potential consequences.

 

Lying to make yourself look good:

So the king of Israel brought together the prophets – four hundred men – and asked them, “Shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”

“Go,” they answered, “for God will give it into the king’s hand.”

But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can enquire of?”

The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man through whom we can enquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

“The king should not say that,” Jehoshaphat replied.

So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.”

Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing-floor by the entrance to the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns, and he declared, “This is what the LORD says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’ “

All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.”

The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favourably.”

But Micaiah said, “As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what my God says.”

When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”

“Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for they will be given into your hand.”

The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”

Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel SCATTERED on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’ “ – 2 Chronicles 18:5-16

When you want to please or impress someone, it is tempting to lie to make yourself look good. Ahab’s 400 prophets did just that, telling Ahab only what he wanted to hear. They were then rewarded for making Ahab happy. Micaiah, however, told the truth and got arrested (18:25, 26). Obeying God doesn’t always protect us from evil consequences. Obedience may, in fact, provoke them. But it is better to suffer from man’s displeasure than from God’s wrath (Matthew 10:28). If you are ridiculed for being honest, remember that this can be a sign that you are indeed doing what is right in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:17, 35-39).

 

Why it is dangerous to unity:

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. – Ephesians 4:25

Lying to each other disrupts unity by creating conflicts and destroying trust. It tears down relationships and leads to open warfare in a church.

 

©Dodgsons, KingsWay, 1971.

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