Have you ever told a ‘white lie’? Have you ever wondered if there are times when it’s okay to lie or withhold the truth? Is it wise to always speak only the truth? Consider the movie Liar, Liar. Proverbs 10:32 says, “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.” Frowardness is basically twistedness, a turning from good to evil.
I may lose some readers on this one, but I hope you’ll hear me out. It is not my intention to harm or change anyone’s convictions, but to answer a valid question and to give understanding. I don’t believe this subject is as black and white as some make it out to be, and this post is certainly not exhaustive.
The Bible clearly teaches that God hates wicked deceitfulness, but contrary to popular belief, the nineth commandment does not say, “Thou shalt not lie,” it says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor (Exodus 20:16). There are a few instances in which lying or withholding the truth appears to be permissible. The midwives disobeyed and lied to Pharaoh because they feared God (Exodus 1). Rahab lied to the soldiers to protect the Israelite spies (Joshua 2). Jonathan lied to his father, King Saul, about David’s whereabouts, because his father wanted to murder David (1 Samuel 20). People who believe we should never, ever lie will admit those three examples were, indeed, permitted, but those same people would also say, “They should have trusted the Lord, and the fact that they lied, reveals a lack of trust in Him.” But permit me to give another example. Samuel withheld the truth from King Saul about going to anoint a new king and was instructed by the LORD Himself to give an alternate or secondary reason for going to Bethlehem to prevent Saul from seeking to kill him (1 Samuel 16). Why did the LORD not tell Samuel, “Just trust me. I’ve got you covered”? In each of the examples given, murder— an evil was being prevented.
The Bible also clearly teaches that the devil is a liar and is the father of lies (John 8:44). His intent is to deceive and destroy. A Danish proverb says, “If lies are to find credence, they must be patched with truth.” Satan has no problem stating enough of the truth to get us to believe a lie, but as a Yiddish proverb says, “A half truth is a whole lie.”
So, what’s the answer? Perhaps the first place to start is to consider the purpose or reason we sometimes lie. We lie to protect ourselves and/or others either from unpleasantness, chastisement, hurt or real danger, like when we’ve done something wrong and want to cover it up, when we want to be kind and not hurt someone’s feelings, or when someone is in physical danger. We lie or withhold the truth to deceive others in order to gain an advantage over them, like when we give false information about ourselves on a job application or seek to cheat someone out of something so that we might benefit regardless of how it affects anyone else.
“A lie prevails until truth arrives.” —Mexican proverb
“If you lie and then tell the truth, the truth will be considered a lie.” —Ancient Sumerian proverb
“Honesty is the best policy.” —American proverb
Proverbs 12:22 says, “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” God hates when we seek to deceive someone else for our own gain and with evil intent, but He loves when we deal with others with integrity. Bottom line— consider the two greatest commandments— “Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)