NEITHER WAS GUILE FOUND
IN HIS MOUTH
- Read I Peter 2:21–25.
- One of the most important subjects for the Christian:
- To be truthful with God, fellow man, and self.
- Necessary to peace, hope, happiness, and assurance; an absolute requisite.
- Lying general and universal:
- Quotation from David (Psalm 116:11).
- Quotations from Paul (Romans 3:4; Titus 1:12).
- Quotations from Time magazine.
- Truth is sacred:
- God is truth.
- Jesus compliments Nathanael (John 1:47).
- How do we consider truth and telling the truth?
- Of supreme importance (Proverbs 30:8; Malachi 2:5–6; Psalm 15:2–3; John 14:6; 16:7; 1:14).
- Truth is priceless:
- “Buy the truth and do not sell it (Proverbs 23:23).
- The instruction of an apostle (Ephesians 4:24).
- Even the courts of our different countries.
- Deceit is dangerous.
- The different kinds of lies:
- Deceit (I Timothy 2:11–14; II Samuel 11:8).
- Perfidy (I Kings 13; Genesis 37).
- Silent (Matthew 21:25–27).
- Inaccuracy (I Samuel 15; Matthew 19).
- Treachery (Judges 16).
- Dishonesty (Acts 5).
- Disguise (Matthew 26:47–50).
- Fragmentary, Abraham (Genesis 12; 20).
- In our world, how can you be guiltless?
- Are you justified in telling lies?
- Is situation ethics permissible?
- How can I be tactful and truthful at the same time?
- How important are the other person's feelings?
- How can a Christian handle these matters?
- “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
- Be frank and candid, but kind.
- Do not withhold what needs to be said, if otherwise the person would be deceived.
- Decline to speak at all if truth is not advanced.
- To whom can we lie?
- To God.
- To our fellow men.
- To ourselves.
- God requires Christians to be open and honest:
- Think, speak, act, live the truth always.
- God cannot be fooled. We cannot hide things from God.
- God will not forget, nor will He count lying an unimportant matter.
- He will bring liars into judgment (II Peter 2:4, 9; 3:7; Jude 6; Revelation 14:10).
- What about believing a lie?
- The Bible is replete with information on what happens to the one who tells lies.
- What does it have to say about those who believe lies (II Thessalonians 2:10ff).
- The answer:
- Repentance on the part of man.
- Forgiveness on the part of God.
NEITHER WAS GUILE FOUND
IN HIS MOUTH
“Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth” (I Peter 2:22). Any Bible subject that has to do with Christian living is important. Of course, any other topic upon which God has spoken is also important, whether spoken once or one hundred times. Generally, it seems to us, Bible subjects which have to do with practical everyday living are more important to us.
There is no subject that is of greater significance to the Christian or that is more major in the daily walk of the child of God than that of being truthful—with God, with his fellow man, and with himself. Jesus told His disciples that if they would hold to His teaching, they would know the truth and the truth would make them free. Later on, He prayed to the Father to set them apart from the world, using the truth as a means to do so. Then, He affirmed: “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). For the Christian to enjoy any measure of happiness, hope, peace, and assurance, this is an absolute requisite.
Lying is Commonplace
It does not take one very long, in his associations with people, to discover that lying is both general and universal. David once said, “I said in my haste, all men are liars” (Psalm 116:11).
In his letter to the Roman church, Paul urged the Christians there: “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). He quoted a Cretan poet when he wrote to Titus: “Cretans are always liars” (Titus 1:12).
Time magazine reported some time ago that the average American tells 200 lies a day! I wonder if the comment concerning people of other nations would parallel our practice in this country? If that is so, we may conclude that the world is filled with liars, and that David was not far wrong.
The Old Testament has a number of words for liars and lying. One of them primarily means failing. Another word means deceitful. Still another means to feign or make believe. In some passages vanity is the word.
In the New Testament, the word is pseudos, or a cognate, of the same family, of it. In English, this word, taken from the Greek, is pseudo and means “false, counterfeit, spurious, sham, pretended, unreal, denoting a deceptive resemblance.” It means very much the same in the Greek New Testament: “falsehood, deceit, corruption of truth, perversion of religious truth, practice of false religion, delinquency.”
Truth is Sacred
Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). He not only spoke the truth and lived the truth, this passage says that He is the truth. For us to be most like God, we, too, must think the truth, tell the truth, and live the truth. One of the greatest compliments Jesus ever paid anyone was to Nathanael when He said concerning him: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). He used a rather uncommon word here, dolos, which means “ a bait, a contrivance for entrapping: fraud, deceit, a decoy; an insidious artifice, guilt.” Why would Jesus say that? Most people around Him in that day must have had guile. From the context, one would deduce that truth, and telling the truth, was an uncommon quality.
How do we consider truth? Do we think of it as sacred and desirable? Do we count it important? Necessary? In our world and in our time, do we believe that honesty is the best policy? I believe it is, but I also believe it is much more than policy. There is a much higher motive.
The truth is of supreme importance. I like the words of Agur in Proverbs 30:8: “Remove falsehood and lies far from me.” Malachi had this to say about the man who had reverence for God and His name: “... The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity” (Malachi 2:6).
Who is able to abide in the tent of the Lord and dwell in His holy hill? The one who “speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue” (Psalm 15:2–3).
“For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips” (Proverbs 8:7). We need to go back and remember always that Jesus said, “I am the truth.” He said, “I tell you the truth” (John 16:7). John records that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). But more than all of this, Jesus is the truth. This makes Him worthy of our emulation and also of our admiration and worship.
Truth is Priceless
“Buy the truth and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23). I have often contemplated what this world would be if men everywhere and at all times would tell the truth. What discourages people in all countries today is to discover that those who lead them do not speak the truth. Men in high position in government, who legislate laws for us and then administrate them, cannot be trusted to communicate the truth. Those who stand out front in the religious world suppress the truth, distort it, diminish it, and substitute for it until the average person listening or reading or watching is so confused, he does not know what to believe and accept.
Some men in these places of leadership are so determined to advance their own interests, fill their own coffers, and embellish their own reputations, they obscure the truth, withhold it, add to it, subtract from it, corrupt it, debauch it, pollute it, and whatever else they can do to violate and pervert it for filthy lucre's, money's, sake. It is recorded in Titus 1:11 that there are those “teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest [filthy lucre's] gain.” Read these passages also: I Peter 5:2; I Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7; and you will discover the eminent, lofty position money holds in the ambitions of men—the avarice of power, the struggle with destiny, the frenzy of profit, the excessive greediness for position and the insatiable desire for comfort and independence.
Men will seek renown, power, security, popularity, pleasure, and prestige at the cost of truth. They will sell it for a few measly, contemptible dollars or whatever the exchange is. Solomon said, “Buy the truth and do not sell it.” I am not sure that his statement was entirely correct. Most of the time you do not have to buy the truth. You can have it free of charge. God did not want men to make merchandise of His word. But on the
other hand, there is a price to pay for truth. It comes in terms of self–sacrifice and self–denial. You get it by paying a much larger price than silver and gold or stocks and bonds. It costs self–resignation—and the total, unreserved giving of one's self. Jesus said, “For they loved the praise of men more that the praise of God” (John 12:43).
Different Species of Lies
You likely know already the definitions of a lie. Our dictionaries define it as “a falsehood, an untruth, told or acted to deceive; a false statement made with the deliberate intent to deceive; something intended or serving to convey a false impression.”
There are many different kinds of lies; hence Christians need to be careful lest they be guilty of lying one way or another inadvertently, because God hates a liar: “A worthless person, a wicked man, Walks with a perverse mouth; He winks with his eyes, He shuffles his feet, He points with his fingers; Perversity is in his heart, He devises evil continually, He sows discord. ... These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:12–19).
Observe, if you will, what this brief reading contains in the way of lying: (1) a lying tongue, (2) a false witness that speaks lies, (3) a heart that devises wicked imaginations. I have reason to believe that the last sin he mentions is fraught with lies. (4) He that sows discord among the brethren.
To help us in the understanding of this Bible subject and to prevent our being overtaken by this many–faceted sin, let us observe some of the common lies which were told and acted in those times and which are repeated in our day.
1. Deceit: This word, exapatao, is very strong, and means “to deceive thoroughly, to delude or beguile.” “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (I Timothy 2:14). Perhaps a better translation would have been, “the woman was thoroughly deceived.” It also carries the idea of “tricking, fooling, and cheating” someone.
All lies have this element of deceit, and usually the lie is told or acted to mislead. It is always premeditated and designed to do just that.
Rebekah, the wife of Isaac and the mother of Esau and Jacob, contrived a lie for Jacob to act and tell his father in order that he might receive the inheritance of the eldest son (Genesis 27:5–29). He seemed a little reluctant to be a party in this affair, but his mother urged him and he carried out the scheme successfully. His father asked him, “Are you really my son Esau? And he said, ‘I am’ ” (Genesis 27:24). They had been very subtle in disguising this fraud and the mother was willing to take the blame: “Let your curse be on me, my son, only obey my voice” (Genesis 27:13). I would not have you lose sight of the fact that this lie perpetrated to deceive the blind father was acted as well as told.
Once implicated in the sin of adultery with another man's wife, David began to scheme and chart out the course he would take to conceal his wickedness (II Samuel 11:1–12:24). The first arrangement he made in this stratagem was to call Uriah home from the front lines of battle and send him down to his house that he may know his wife. When this plot failed, he drafted another—to have Uriah dine with the king, get him drunk and call upon him again to be on his way to his house to sleep with his wife, leaving the impression that after days and weeks of battle and fatigue in the conflict with the Philistines, he deserved a few days respite and regeneration.
This scenario, likewise, was a failure which led him to the next step—murder! Have you observed how progressive sin is? This whole lie, sketched out and blueprinted, so to speak, did not stop just with lying. It increased to more ungodliness. From the beginning to the end it was deceit!
2. Perfidy: This word means “a deliberate breach of faith or trust, violating faith, false to trust, an act or instance of faithlessness or treachery.” In I Kings 13, the story is told of the prophet from Judah being deceived by the old prophet in Samaria. God had sent the younger prophet to Bethel to cry against the altar of idolatry and wickedness there. He told him not to return the way he came, and not to eat bread or drink water in that place. When the offer came from the king to “refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward” his response was very strong: “I you were to
give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place.” The reason for his strong refusal “was commanded me by the word of the Lord” not to so. He was a very admirable prophet with great respect for the word of God and for his commission to Him.
Later, the old prophet in Bethel heard about the prophet from Judah. He admired him greatly for his courage, even in the presence of the king. He though how nice it would be to meet this young fellow. I presume that he was young in contrast with the other prophet because he is called old. He rode an ass to overtake him and to fetch him back to his home. He found him on the road and said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” The prophet from Judah at first refused because he said, as before, that God forbade him to do so. This was the old prophet's reply: “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’ ” But the writer of I Kings immediately noted, “But he lied to him.”
This is what is called a lie of perfidy—a perfidious lie. Think of the trust the prophet from Judah had in the prophet from Bethel. He thought, no doubt, that here is a man of God, as I am. He is older, wiser, and has been serving the Lord longer, and, no doubt, has received instruction more often than I have. He is engaged in the same work for God that I am doing. I have no reason to doubt or contradict him. But the old prophet violated the young man's trust, for he lied to him.
One of the sad stories to me in the Old Testament is the trust Jacob had in his sons being so wickedly violated by heartless, cruel boys whose jealousy and hatred led them to lie to the old man to get even with their younger brother. It was not only a lie of perfidy, but it also belongs in the category of silent lies.
3. Silent Lies: May I digress long enough here to tell you that to be a lie, it is not necessary for it to be spoken from the lips. You can act it out and not utter a word. This is what these sons did to their poor father. They sold Jacob into slavery, killed an animal, dipped his coat of many colors into its blood, and presented it to their father, Jacob. Their failure to speak when to do so would have revealed the truth, was a blatant lie and they were under condemnation.
The Pharisees lied about the baptism of John. Jesus had asked them. “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men” (Matthew 21:25)? They could not answer without telling the truth. It was a dilemma. Either answer would be fatal to them. If they said John's baptism was from heaven, then Jesus would ask them why they had not accepted it. If, on the other hand, they said his baptism was of men, they feared the people because they counted John a prophet and would, in all likelihood, stone them. So they kept silent. They did not say anything, but they lied, as men so frequently do, by keeping silent.
In many discussions, someone fully familiar with the facts may keep silent, leave the wrong impression, and, thereby, be guilty of lying. One may take the silent route for several reasons: (1) he does not wish to be implicated in any unpleasantness; (2) he refuses to brand someone as being guilty; or (3) it is against his better judgment to divide a worthy cause. You ask, “How can he be true to God and himself under such circumstances?” It may be necessary for him to speak plainly in such terms: “This matter is not any of your business, and I am not at liberty to divulge the content of the story.” This may not be the most pleasant avenue to take, but it is vital that the Christian tell the truth, whatever the circumstances.
4. Inaccuracy: This word, as applied to lying, simply means “incorrect, exaggeration, overemphasis, highly colored.” Many are enmeshed in this label of lies; the most innocent class, they believe, of all. One becomes so absorbed in what he is telling and in his desire to favorably impress others, that he resorts to an exaggeration that completely distorts the facts and leads those listening to be deceived. Repeated practice of this course does not run the risk of his losing the confidence of his friends, he believes, and he feels that he does not incur the displeasure of God.
Saul, the first king of Israel, was guilty of this lie. God had commanded him, through Samuel, to utterly destroy the Amalekites—to leave nothing (I Samuel 15). He almost accomplished that, but he saved Agag the king alive, and the best of the cattle and the sheep. When Samuel approached him, Saul's first words were, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (I Samuel 15:13). He had not done so, of course. It was a lie. A lie of inaccuracy and of exaggeration.
One has the feeling that he knew he was lying when he said it. That approach is often a front to hide the true situation. God is able to see through such deceit. The rich, young ruler makes the same mistake. Jesus told him to keep the commandments under which they were living. They were still under the Ten Commandment law. The young man replied: “All these I have kept from my youth.” He hadn't, of course. He had not even kept the first one in its true meaning: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” His money and his possessions constituted a god and he placed it before following Jesus.
I have little doubt that he would have followed Jesus if he could have put Him second on his list, but God always said to put Him first! Neither had he kept the commandment to love his neighbor as he loved himself. Had that been true, he would have known what he could do and how he could use his possessions to a beautiful and successful advantage that would have received the approbation of the Lord. When he said, “All these things I have kept ...,” he greatly exaggerated.
It is difficult to keep from giving too much emphasis and color to some things that we relate. We want to make a good impression: we want the story to be interesting, and we also wish people to think highly of us. So, it is tempting to add a few unnecessary adjectives to convey our message successfully and to overstate what really happened to intrigue our audience and thus be guilty of putting things in a false light. Maybe that is not strong enough language to describe our guilt.
In reality, we thus wrench the truth, twist the meaning, disguise what is actual, and slant things to our advantage, if such mishandling of the truth can be called an advantage. It becomes a caricature of the truth—an imitation of truth so inferior as to be ludicrous. A character on the American stage once said, “I never tell any white lies; all of mine are in Technicolor!” And so it is with many of us. A story, repeated several times, often does not resemble the original. How careful the Christian ought to be!
5.  Treachery: This word indicates “an appearance that belies; treason; having in mind to do wrong while appearing to do right.” This is certainly a common genus of lies which marks and permeates a very large section of society. In the lifetime of
those reading these words, there comes to mind innumerable instances where men and women have been untrue to the country in which they were born and reared.
Espionage and sabotage have been a the top of the list. One can scarcely read a newspaper today, listen to a radio news program, or watch a television summary of world news without coming across a happening in which some citizen of a country has been unfaithful to that place he has always called home. He poses as giving allegiance to the country of his birth, but for money, sex, position, or renown he betrays his country, violates his allegiance, and becomes guilty of treason. One poses to be loyal to his country, but endeavors to destroy and an undermine it.
this can also be done in our relationships with one another. How many millions of homes have been destroyed throughout the world by this treacherous telling and living of a lie? Judges chapter 16 is a graphic description of this lesson I am endeavoring to convey to you. Samson, an Israelite, loved a beautiful woman of Sorek by the name of Delilah. The lords of the Philistines persuaded her to entice Samson, feigning a great love to him, and bring him into bondage that they may afflict him.
They promised to give her, everyone of them, eleven hundred pieces of silver. Such treachery was motivated by the attractiveness and magnetic pull of money, the patriotism she felt for her people and country, the affiliation with those of the same ethnic background, and, perhaps, an exclusiveness of racial superiority. Who know what all of her motives were.
She was both persistent and subtle in her approach to Samson and her effort to elicit from him the secret of his strength. She made him believe that she truly loved him, but that he must not love her, else he would divulge the means of his strength. But she had in mind to do him wrong with appearing to do right by him. She destroyed him. The Philistines captured him, put out his eyes, bound him with fetters of brass, and caused him to grind in the prison house. Lying caused misery of every conceivable kind!
6. Dishonesty: This kind of lying is characterized by fraud. One who is guilty of this class of lies is wanting in integrity. Such people are base and bad deep down. They are hateful and insidious.
I do not like dealing with people who are dishonest. It is far better for me to stand fearfully aloof from them. How disappointed I have been at various times in my life by people, sometimes brethren, who are not honest in their dealings with others. They promise, but they do not fulfill. They lead you to believe that all is well, when it isn't. They would have you think this is the best course, and you discover it to be an irreparable mistake.
Ananias and Sapphira, members of the early Jerusalem church, were present when an economic emergency arose among it's members. Christians, not settled in homes and jobs, but having come from distant lands, needed to be fed and clothed. Their only hope for survival was the care of their brothers and sisters in Christ. The response, once the problem was proclaimed, was overwhelming. Christians came to their rescue. They gave generously that the needs of every person may be met.
Some were sincere in their motives for giving. This couple about whom we read in Acts 5, wanted the glory that crowned such generosity they had seen evidenced by others, so they promised to the church the full receipt from the sale of a piece of property they owned. But they were dishonest. They held back a part of that money they had been paid by the purchaser of their piece of land. Peter said they had lied to God and the Holy Spirit; but they had lied to others as well.
I truly wonder if we are not guilty of their sin of dishonesty when we shortchange God. We are able to give more; we promise Him our life and our best; but when it comes to a demonstration of that love and care for Him and for His needy saints, we dishonestly hold back what belongs to Him and selfishly keep it for our own use and pleasure.
7. Disguise: This word denoted hypocrisy. It is used of one who feigns and makes believe. This is stage acting. One is out of character. What you see is not what is really there. He is hiding behind another face. He poses as one thing when, in reality, he is something entirely different.
Do you remember the story of Ahab, the king of Israel? Refresh your memory by reading I kings 22. Ahab wanted Ramoth Gilead, now held by the Syrians, to be returned to him and his people. He
requested the assistance of his fellow king in Judah, Jehoshaphat. They counseled with the prophets who told them to go up and take it. God would give it into their hand.
However, there was one prophet, Micaiah, who predicted catastrophe if they made the attempt to recapture it and take it back. Thinking that he, Ahab, could nullify the prediction of Micaiah, he proposed to disguise himself: “I will disguise myself and go into battle ... So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle” (I Kings 22:30).
Isn't it remarkable that while you may fool men and misguide them with reference to who you are and what you intend to do, that you cannot fool God? The captains of the chariots perceived that he was not the king of Israel and they turned back from pursuing him. “Now a certain man [just a common soldier, I am sure] drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor ... so the king died” (I kings 22:34–37)
This and other stories like it tell us that we may fool, deceive, and hornswoggle, to use a strong expression, men all around us, and for an extended period of time; but there is no way we can lie and disguise ourselves so as to dupe and mislead God. We often make God in our image, as those people did to whom Paul spoke in Romans I, by thinking we can slip one over on Him, delude, and mock Him, but “God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7).
Judas Iscariot poised as the Lord's friend. He even came and kissed Him in the garden, which was ordinarily a mark of friendship, but he was a hypocrite of the deepest dye (Matthew 26:47–50).
No people did Jesus condemn more often or more severely than the Pharisees whom He branded as hypocrites. They even told people to keep the Law of Moses and their traditions, but they would not so much as lay a finger on the practice of them personally. Jesus said for the people of His day to listen to them, the religious leaders, but do not do as they do (Matthew 23:2–3). He called them hypocrites so many times that it would seem to be redundant and unnecessary, but it was a great truth. He was driving it home for them and all succeeding generations. It is important that we be genuine. He was saying, “I want you to
be the real thing; authentic, legitimate, true, and consistent. Not infallible, but faithful. Not sinless, but sound in the faith. Not perfect, but doing your best to walk in the light in all sincerity.”
8. Fragmentary Truth: There is probably no lie that manipulates people with more shrewdness and craft than the partial lie. It may be observed that there is likely no lie that is more ravaging and destructive than a fragmentary truth. I like what a witness is required to affirm in the courts of this country: “Will you swear [affirm] to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’ And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah” (Genesis 20:2). Abraham endangered the purity of his wife and placed his people in jeopardy by telling a half–truth. I am not sure there is a bigger lie than a half–truth. This was not the first time Abraham had told the lie. When there was a famine in the land, Abraham, with his family and servants, went down into Egypt. He knew that his wife was a beautiful woman and how she would attract the men of Egypt. So, he entreated his wife to tell the people who admired her that she was Abraham's sister. Her beauty was called to the attention of the Pharaoh and he took her. God plagued his house and evidently revealed to him through some avenue that Sarah was Abraham's wife and not his sister, as Abraham had affirmed. He lied by telling a half–truth, to save his own neck! “... that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you” (Genesis 12:13).
He did not seem to be too disturbed that his wife may be violated and her purity destroyed as long as he was removed from danger. He caused a great deal of trouble by telling just a fragment of truth (Genesis 12:10–19).
Someone wants to know how you can be guileless (truthful) and, at that same time, courteous, gentle, and good mannered. “If I am entirely truthful, 100 percent, so to speak, will I not be rude and insulting to those whose friendship I seek or cherish? Do I have a right to withhold a part of the truth to save feelings? To protect myself from the danger of bodily harm? For profit? To prevent embarrassment? To keep from being disgraced?” These are questions frequently asked. I believe the answer is a plain and Biblical one: “No, if in so doing you deceive someone!”
Mark Twain, a great writer and novelist, once said: “Every man is like a moon; he has a side he shows to no one.” That may be true, and there may be no need for a man to divulge everything about himself to others; but for him to withhold truth, or tell a half–truth to misled or deceive others, is wrong without any question. I like another statement better than Mark Twain wrote: “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”
A Christian wants to know: “How can I be tactful or diplomatic? How can I employ tact and conciliation to keep from hurting one's feelings and making an enemy? Do I have to tell how I feel? Must I disclose to that person what I know his fault to be? Do I reveal to him how unpleasant he is, and how undesirable a personality trait I think he has? In my effort to tell the truth, should I be critical or should I be negative and silent?”
Before I go further, let me make this comment. I believe you can tell the truth with kindness, always considering the feelings of the other fellow and keeping in mind that your main purpose is to save his soul. That is the most important thing in the world. Even then, truth is not always pleasant or easily accepted. But you can be sure your spirit and intention are right. Jesus told the rich young ruler the truth, even though it meant that he went away sorrowful never to be his disciple. The Lord weighed the importance and value of his soul above his personal feelings and sensitivity to His hard, but kind, response. The ethical question is constantly raised: “Is a lie ever justified? Is the doctrine of situation ethics true?” Are lies permissible by God on the grounds of circumstances? Can a young woman with three children to support, live in sin and her conduct be sanctioned by the Lord?
What is lawfully and legitimately allowable for one to say and do under adverse conditions? A man holds a gun on me and demands: “Tell me where your brother is.” Under that circumstance, does God permit me to lie? I have a friend in the islands whose home was broken into and demands were made. Was he entitled to lie about the $9,000 in cash he had stashed away or the whereabouts of the key to his $30,000 BMW automobile?
A doctor who knows a patient must die, either withholds that truth from him or tells him he will get well. Should he take such
a course? Does he circumvent the truth that might hasten his death? Am I licensed to lie if there is good enough reason to do so? But who judges as to the worthiness of the reason? May the lawyer lie, or withhold part of the truth, to save his client? On and on almost endlessly the questions go.
How Does a Christian Handle These Matters?
“Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). It is self–deception to think that we can lie in love. One may decline to speak at all (yes, you can lie by your silence), but you can, in love and warmth, allow one to know that you do not feel free to disclose to him the matter under discussion. You can do that without being rude or unkind by simply saying, “It is not your affair; I am not free to discuss this matter. No profit would come from it.”
Any profession or business that cannot be practiced or carried on without lying or dishonesty is not for the Christian, no matter what the profit to him might be.
In answer to some of the above questions, I believe the Bible teaches that there are circumstances where you, as a Christian, have every right to defend your family—wife and children or other members—against an enemy that would rape, despoil, and kill; for you have a higher responsibility to these loved ones than you do toward an enemy. But this is really not the question. The real question is:
The Danger of Deceit
We can lie to God, to our fellow man, and to ourselves, but it will destroy one's character—the fabric, the features, the qualities, the ethical traits, and moral excellence that make up the individual. Lying is damaging, destructive, and damning. It will impair our relationships with others, separate us from them by violating their trust, and leave them full of hurt and resentment.
Attorneys have a saying that is very applicable: “I cannot defend you unless you tell me the truth.” We can deceive ourselves by thinking we are something when we are nothing (Galatians 6:3). A parallel passage is found in Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to
think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” He does not intend for us to think we are better than we are. This is self–deceit (I John 1:8). If we fail to bridle our tongues, thinking we are religious, we deceive our own selves and our religion is useless (James 1:26).
Obadiah said, “The pride [arrogance] of your heart has deceived you” (Obadiah 3). One who says that he knows God but does not keep His commandments is a liar (I John 2:4). There are other reasons why one is branded a liar. John asks, “Who is a liar?” Then he answers: “He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (I John 2:22). In 4:20 of that same book, John continues: “If someone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar.” James says that a man who hears only and does not follow through by doing, deceives himself (James 1:22). That is, he lies to himself, and there is no more atrocious or extreme category of lying than this.
Men Treat Lying Lightly
God requires his people to be open and honest—honest with him and ourselves. Somehow, since we can lie to and deceive one another, we feel that we may be able to dupe the Lord with a little underhanded dealing or with a scheme He does not see or takes no note. We fool ourselves into believing that God does not count it to be important, or that he has forgotten it with the passing of time. “He will not hold it against us. His grace will take care of that!” We hoodwink ourselves into believing that God will take little note of what I say or do. We thus limit God's ability and treat His justice inconsequentially. Like people of other times, we “make God in our own image.”
When we say, “God does not see,” we forget that God is not a man. We have failed to learn the lesson that “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). When we assume that God will forget in time, another hard fact needs to be impressed upon us: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promises ...” (II Peter 3:9).
And still another: “For if ... every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:2–3)? These things are not to be
taken lightly. Listen to this strong, inspired language: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment ...” (II Peter 2:4). Read also these verses: II Peter 3:7; Jude 6; Romans 14:10; II Corinthians 5:10, and Revelation 21:8.
Not only does God take note of our lives, but so, also, do the people around us. “You are our epistles [letters] written in our hearts, known and read by all men” (II Corinthians 3:2). There is no escape from the close scrutiny of people with whom we are daily associated.
Believing a Lie vs Telling a Lie
As we close this study, there is another question of great importance: “What about those who believe a lie?” We have pretty well settled, by the Bible, the question of those who tell lies, but what happens to those who believe them? There are many lies, I am sure, told every day that, if one should believe, would not result in serious consequences. For instance, if the evening newscaster should announce that the price of gold today has soared from $454 an ounce to $625 and people believed that lie, I am quite certain that it would not damn their souls. It may, eventually, adversely affect their bank account, but such a development need not be of any spiritual significance.
If someone should rush into my office and announce that my house was on fire, I might get into an automobile, or run on foot until I was out of breath, only to find out that the whole story was fabricated. Although I believed it, I am certain that it would not affect my eternal destiny with God. But there are lies that one can believe that will damn his soul. The story I related of the prophet from Bethel and Judah was told to impress that very lesson. We know what becomes of liars. The Bible is unambiguous on that subject. But what about those who believe lies?
There are some lies, without doubt, if believed and accepted, that will render one guilty and condemn his soul to everlasting perdition. In the story to which we have made reference, it is said that the old prophet “lied to him.” Observe, if you will, that the censure in this narrative is not placed upon the one who told the lie, but he one who believed it.
Paul tells how God views this concern in his letter to the Thessalonians: “Those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion [an operation of error], that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thessalonians 2:10–12).
Simply because one is honest or ignorant, he is not thereby excused and exempt from responsibility or from ultimate punishment. Paul was both honest and ignorant before he became a Christian, but he was also guilty!
The answer for each one of us is: (1) repentance on our part and (2) forgiveness on the part God.