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David Heddle has a thought provoking question on his blog, HeLives. He writes:

 Today I want to talk about lying. Is it:
  1. always a sin and never acceptable
  2. always a sin, but sometimes acceptable
  3. sometimes not a sin, and therefore sometimes acceptable

Hmm. Option 2 seems out of the question, to me-- how can a sin be acceptable? That leaves option 1 or option 3. I choose 3.


Good question. So I did some research on the matter.

Definition of lying:
- A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
- Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.

Definition of deceit:
- The act or practice of deceiving; deception.
- A stratagem; a trick.
- The quality of being deceitful; falseness.

Some examples of lying/deception in the Bible:
The devil
Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

Cain
Genesis 4:9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where [is] Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: [Am] I my brother's keeper?

Abraham
Genesis 12:11-13 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
Genesis 20:1-3 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.

Sarah
Genesis 18:15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

Jacob
Genesis 27:19 And Jacob said unto his father, I [am] Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.

Joseph's brothers
Genesis 37:32 And they sent the coat of [many] colours, and they brought [it] to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it [be] thy son's coat or no.

Potiphar's wife
Genesis 39:17-18 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.

Hebrew Midwives
Exodus 1:16-19 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.

Rahab
Joshua 2:1-6 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.

Sampson
Judges 16:10 And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound.

Saul
I Samuel 15:13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed [be] thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.

David
I Samuel 21:10-15 And David arose and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?

Gahazi
II Kings 5:22 And he said, All [is] well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments.

Peter
Matthew 26:72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.

Ananias and Sapphira
Acts 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?


Verses on lying/deceit:
Exodus 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Prov 6:16-19 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Prov 17:7 Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool; much less are lying lips to a prince.

Proverbs 19:9 A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.

Proverbs 19:22 The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.

Proverbs 20:17 Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.

Proverbs 30:8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:

Isaiah 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

1 Thessalonians 2:2-4
But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

Romans 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Revelation 21:8
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Conclusion
The Bible overwhelmingly says that lying and deception is wrong. But there are three notable exceptions where lying seemed to be acceptable: the Hebrew midwives lying about the Hebrew woman, Rahab lying about the location of the spies, and King David pretending to be a madman in front of King Achish.

John Piper says that lying is only acceptable in extreme, life-threatening situations. Charles Seet says that lying is acceptable under war time, avoiding crime(e.g. use light timers when on vacation), and under certain social situations (e.g. wearing makeup).

I want to add that even under life-threatening circumstances, not all lying is acceptable. Peter tried to save his life by denying Jesus when He was arrested. Or another example is recanting our faith under pressure of death. Is it better to lie about our faith and ask God for forgiveness later or to die for our faith?

Perhaps lying is acceptable only when it's the only option to fulfill God's will. But even that logic can get tricky since we can start justifying lying by saying it's in God's will.

My conclusion would be that lying is acceptable based on the intentions of the heart. Since we do not even know our own heart, only God knows our heart, it is ultimately only God who can judge. The Holy Spirit will convict if our intentions are/were wrong.

Our part is to be truthful and honest in all that we do. And our greatest example is Jesus, in which no deception was ever uttered by Him.

Isaiah 53:9b he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.


Sermons/Messages
Speak Truth to Your Neighbor - John Piper
Ten Commandments - Rev Charles Seet
The Truth about Lying
People who've lied
Sin of Lying
When Leaders Lie
Lying vs Deception
Sevenfold abomination
What is Truth?


Posted: 2002-06-18 11:10:48



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