A serious moral issue that touches every aspect of a
Christian's life is the great need for honesty.
This affects us in every way - in school, at work, in the church, and in
2 Corinthians 8:21; 13:7
We have all heard the familiar phrase - "honesty is the
best policy." We want to notice
from the Bible that this adage is not so trite but divinely true. Admittedly,
honesty is not always the easiest road to take, but it's the right course in
the long run. Let's compare honest and dishonest
What is lying?
The original New Testament word for "lie" is
PSEUDOS in the noun form and PSEUDOMAI in the verb form. Thayer indicates that this means a
"conscious and intentional falsehood… in a broad sense, whatever is not
what it seems to be… of perverse, impious, deceitful precepts." The word for "liar" is PSEUSTES,
which Thayer defines as "one who breaks faith." A lie is when we know what is true yet speak
to the contrary for impure motives. It
therefore involves our will, as it is deliberate action.
Small children seem to instinctively learn to lie from
almost the time they know how to speak, even without the bad example of lying
parents. It's even worse with siblings
in the house: both brother and sister conveniently deny making the mess on the
floor. Nevertheless, they also
instinctively know it is wrong. Consider
these Bible passages that teach lying is sinful:
Know this: if lying is wrong and sinful, we can lose our
soul for doing it. Liars are listed
along with murderers as hell's inhabitants.
What lying is not
Lying is not simply saying that which is not true. We might be ignorant of a certain thing
unaware and say something false, though we sincerely believe it to be
true. This is not a lie. By definition, lying is a conscious stating
Lying is not joking or teasing. Sometimes we may say something that is untrue
in humor or in irony. For example,
untruths are often told in arranging surprise birthday parties, but the truth
is always revealed in the end. These are
not lies. By definition, lying involves
perverseness, and there are no evil intentions by these things.
Lying is not to be confused with covert tactics in military
espionage or protection against criminals.
Undercover law enforcement agents are required to conceal facts by
diversion and extract information by deception.
National or personal security often depends upon it. The untruth told by Rahab is an example (Josh
2:1-6), and she is commended in scripture for her faith (Heb 11:31). Likewise, if a burglar breaks in and asks if
there is money hidden in the house, a Christian does not need to answer
"yes." Such are not lies,
because they do nothing perverse or impious to break faith.
People who would use these examples to teach the situational
ethic that lying is sometimes acceptable depending on the circumstance do not
truly understand what lying is and what it is not. The world's standard of morality is clearly
different from God's.
Do People Lie?
Why do people lie, even sometimes when they know it's
wrong? Let's explore some possible
People lie to cover their sin.
This never works.
Lying is a trap; once you lie, you will have to lie again to conceal
your lie. Perhaps the reason we lie
again is because, oddly enough, since we know it's wrong, we want to hide that
we have done it. It's better to never
lie in the first place. If you do
something bad, don't lie to cover it up.
The punishment for the deed alone will be easier than the punishment for
both the deed and the lie.
So let's say you're lucky enough that you never have to lie
again to cover up a lie. You're still
not out of trouble. Once you tell a lie,
it does not go away on its own. The
people to whom you have lied can go on for the rest of their lives believing
it, and the fault remains upon you. God
doesn't just forget about it; the lie goes on unforgiven until you do something
Forgiveness requires repentance - Acts 3:19
Repentance involves correcting the wrong -
Correction calls for confessing to those you
offended - James 5:16
Do not deceive yourself into thinking this sin can be
forgiven without divulging it; you can't sin without consequence.
1 John 1:9
Besides, sooner or later, our unrepentant sins will
inevitably be found out, one way or another.
1 Timothy 5:24
People lie to obtain an advantage.
The heart of this problem is pride and selfishness. To do this, we sell ourselves over to Satan.
Taking the credit for something we to which we have no right
is the same as cheating, more on that later.
Acts 4:36 – 5:5
Saving money is one of the strongest motives for lying. It's especially tempting at tax time.
People lie because it's easy to do and often difficult
What a small part of the body the mouth is, and how easy it
is to open it and let words come out.
"Bridle" means to hold in check, restrain.
Ananias and Sapphira learned the hard way that, though you
may be able to fool men, God knows your true deeds.
People lie to avoid confrontation.
Whatever our circumstance, we can always find a way of
speaking truthfully without needlessly hurting someone. Remember, also, that telling the truth does
not necessarily require speaking everything that is on our mind.
fool brings out all his mind…"
Observe how Samuel in a delicate situation is instructed by
the Lord to be prepared to answer King Saul's question truthfully but avoid
divulging things that could anger him, which were none of his business anyway:
1 Samuel 16:1
Samuel's example teaches us we need to think before we
speak. Sometimes in a difficult
situation, the first thing we might think to say is a lie. Make the determination ahead of time that, no
matter what, lying is not an option.
People lie to stay out of trouble.
We discussed earlier that stating a falsehood to a criminal
attacker or as an undercover law enforcement agent does not fit the definition
of lying. We also noted that telling the
truth does not always require divulging the whole heart. Part of the reason for this is because it is
not the business of the people involved to need to know those things in the
first place. However, what if it
involves someone in authority whose right it is to know, such as a parent or a
boss? This would be the case if we were
testifying in civil court on the witness stand.
The judge is expecting to hear "the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth." Remember
that the definition of "lie" includes "…in a broad sense,
whatever is not what it seems to be."
Telling fragments of truth in order to leave the wrong impression in
these cases is equal to lying, and that means it is sin.
Furthermore, the faithful Christian ought never lie about
his faith in God to avoid persecution.
This would be disgraceful.
Honesty With God
Mark Twain once said, "You can't pray a lie." It's absurd to think that we could deceive
the all powerful, all knowing God who created all things. He knows what is in our heart before we begin
to put it into words.
Honesty With Others
Honesty begins with the attitude: we must "think
honest" to "be honest."
Dishonesty shows itself through deceit, hypocrisy, cheating and even stealing.
Deceit involves trickery and
craftiness. For example, a deceiver
might act sad or disappointed for the purpose of winning attention or favors
1 Peter 3:8-10
Hypocrisy is play acting,
pretending to be something you're not.
There are two ways to show hypocrisy:
trying to appear better than we really are and trying to appear worse
than we really are. The root of
hypocrisy is a lack of sincerity.
1 Peter 2:1-2
Cheating - Proverbs 11:1; 13:11
Cheaters on classroom tests only
hurt themselves because they sidestep learning.
We are effectively stealing when we cheat, and it's wrong.
Stealing - Romans 13:7, 8
For examples: accepting too much
change at a store and not paying your debts.
Honesty With Self
To be honest with others and with God, we must be honest
Self deception - Galatians 6:3-7
Hardness of heart - Luke 8:15
The word of God only produces results when it falls on an
Friendships are broken.
Reputations are ruined.
Families are destroyed.
Souls are lost.
A clear conscience
An honorable life - Hebrews 13:18
Thoughts And Questions For Discussion
exactly, does it mean to lie? Is any
untruth spoken a lie? Be prepared to
explain your answers.
some lies worse than others?
is a "half truth?"
you list some conditions under which it would be okay to lie?
effect does lying have on trust?
it possible to lie without saying anything?
various ways we can deceive ourselves.
"hypocrisy" in your own words.