Truthfulness  and  Lying

Paul Wong


There are two verses in the New Testament that show the truthfulness of God.  They are: “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4) and “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18).  God embodies all truth just as Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (Jn. 14:6)  In contrast with God’s character and attribute of absolute truthfulness the devil is a liar.  Jesus spoke to the unbelievers, You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.” (Jn. 8:44-46)


When we learn that the devil is the father of lies it does not relieve us of the responsibility for our own deceptions, but it does give us insight into where lies came from. We cannot use the devil as an excuse to be dishonest.  People lie for many different reasons. They lie for convenience sake. Sometimes it seems that it is just easier to lie than tell the truth. They lie to protect their interests, jobs, homes, families and even their religions. They lie because they want others to think they are something they are not. They lie because they are sinful people. None of these reasons to lie excuse their actions.  If Christians are to be called the children of the Truth, then they must live in truthfulness at all times.


Two  Forms  of  Lying


Broadly speaking there are two forms of lying: deception and denial.


Deception is something that we see in all kinds of human activity, speech and thought.  It can be found anywhere from the home to the school, workplace and even in churches. A deceiver is someone who wants to look or act like another person with the motive of personal gain. When it comes to lying, deception is making oneself and others believe what one is not. This involves tactics like falsifying facts.  The Biblical story of Rebekah who had planned for Jacob to disguise as his brother Esau in order to gain Isaac’s paternal blessings is a strong case of deception (Gen. 27).  Deception brought hatred in Esau’s heart who planned to kill Jacob after Isaac’s death.  The result was that both sons left home and made Rebekah a very lonely widow, plus the retribution of Jacob by his uncle Laban’s deception (Gen. 29).  Sin has a way of coming back to the sinner.


To a lesser degree exaggeration is also another form of deception.  When we "stretch the truth" in order to make ourselves appear to be something that we are not, we are guilty of lying. In the early Apostolic Church Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) illustrates God's view of such exaggerations. When asked by Peter if they had sold their land for the amount of money that they were giving to the church, they affirmed that they had. They had indeed sold their land. They were indeed presenting a sizeable gift to the church. However, they were exaggerating the amount of their gift by stating they were giving the entire price of the land. The consequence of their deceit was death.


The second type of lying is denial, which is to think, speak and act as someone we are not. The Biblical account of Abraham and Sarah illustrates an attempt at denying who we are. Abraham brought his wife Sarah to Egypt.  Abraham knew that the Egyptians would desire, due to her beauty, to take Sarah by killing Abraham. So Abraham told them she was his sister. In fact, she was his wife. He attempted to be her brother, when in reality he was her husband. The consequences occurred when the Egyptians discovered the truth and forced Abraham and Sarah to flee Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20). 


History repeats itself.  It appears like either Abraham did not teach his son Isaac his past wrongful denial as a husband or Isaac did not want to learn from his father’s mistakes.  Isaac feared that Abimelech would kill him for the same reason that his father Abraham had when he was in Egypt, so he denied Rebekah was his wife and lied she was his sister. (Gen. 26:1-11). 


What traits of character did Abraham and Isaac display when they lied to their hosts by denying who they were.  Definitely they were not of faith at that time.  They did not trust in God’s protection.  They were cowards and weaklings.  They did not show chivalry in protecting their own wives.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  For our comfort, that was a phase in the lives of Abraham and Isaac when they were learning to walk as believers.  Both Abraham and Isaac grew and developed into giants and heroes of faith.


The most infamous biblical case of lying by denial is of the apostle Peter.  He denied he was with Jesus, not just once, not twice but three times (Mt. 26:69-75).  Peter’s three denials of Jesus was recorded and well documented in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The best part of the story is that Jesus not only forgave him but also restored his faith and filled him with the Holy Spirit who guided him to become one of pillars of the New Testament Church.


Honesty is a virtue not only extolled by Scriptures, but it also encourages us to be truthful in our Christian living.


How  do  people  in  Christianity  tell  lies?


Before our Lord Jesus Christ went to the Cross He was greatly concerned about the truthfulness of His Church.  He prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (Jn. 17:17-19)  To achieve sanctification we not only need the word of God which is the truth, but also truthfulness which is the character and integrity of faithful Christian ministers.  It is possible for dishonest ministers to “exchange the truth of God for the lie” or twist Scriptures to their own destruction (Rom. 1:25; 2 Pet. 3:16).  “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.  Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar.” (Pro. 30:5-6)


People in Christianity tell lies by insinuation when they allow an untruth to go unchallenged.  If we know something being said or taught in our assemblies or churches are not true, we have a moral obligation to bring it out into the open.  If we allow lies to remain lies, we are participating in the lie.  One of the most common lies within Christianity is an assembly, church, congregation or ministry claiming to be the only one in the world that can bring salvation to mankind.  If this is true God would have stated it very clearly in the Holy Bible with the words: “It is written . . .” or “Thus says the LORD . . ..   Our Lord Jesus Christ would also have said it during His earthly ministry and the apostles would certainly have stated it in the New Testament.


Years ago I invited a Messianic Jewish lady to attend Sabbath Services in our home.  She asked some difficult questions.  One of her questions was whether or not our denomination has members all over the world consisting of all the nations, tribes, peoples and tongues.  I asked her why she asked that question.  She replied, “The Messiah came to redeem mankind by His blood “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” and the apostle John saw the vision in Heaven “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues.” (Rev. 5:9; 7:9)  The sister said she had been seeking and studying various denominations for many years and she could not find one that has a membership that consists “of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues” on this earth as described in the book of Revelation.  I told her we may not have the qualification she was seeking but we certainly try our best to preach the truth and the full Gospel of salvation.  On the next Sabbath Service she not only came but also brought her Chinese friend who later joined our small congregation.  This has encouraged me to always tell the truth and not make false claims about our congregation.


We also lie when we engage in vain flattery in the church. When we tell someone a lie in order to gain favor in the person’s eyes somehow this is a lie. That doesn't mean we must be rude to people. If a church sister asked you if you liked her dress you needn't tell her it is ugly even though you may actually think so. But, at the same time, you shouldn't tell the sister her dress is beautiful just because you want some favor from her.


How  do  people  in  the  secular  world  tell  lies?


There are numerous other ways in which people in the secular world lies, and each and every lie they tell is devastating.


A study of some University of Virginia college students unveiled that when those students talked to their mothers they "lie about once in every two conversations" (Ritter, 1995). The study reports that the students lied in 28% of their conversations with both a best friend or a regular friend; in 34% of their conversations with someone they were romantically involved with; in 46% of their conversations with their mothers; in 48% of their conversations with an acquaintance; and in 77% of their conversations with strangers. Some examples of the lies were:


·             "Saying a required book costs $50 to $60 when it really cost about half that 'so they'd pity me and send me money'"

·             "Saying they were staying in to study for a test.

·             "Getting out of baby-sitting some 'brats' by claiming a prior commitment.

·             "A woman telling an interesting man she's not dating someone else regularly so he'll ask her out."


This article demonstrates the eroding of the value of honesty and truthfulness in today's society. Yet the Bible places great emphasis on this Godly virtue.


The most obvious way we lie is blatant deception. It becomes even more serious when viewed in the context of the 9th Commandment that deals with a malicious lie intended to cause harm to another person. This commandment specifically deals with lying in a legal context. Lying is wrong, but to commit perjury compounds the lie because we are harming other persons.  Committing perjury is an extremely serious offense against God, and against our fellow man.


There are lies by omission. If we are selling our automobile, and we list on the advertisement that it is in excellent condition we better be telling the truth. If we know that the car was partially under water during the recent flood in Houston, and we neglect to tell the buyer this we have lied. We have misrepresented the truth to them, and have ruined our Christian witness because we have lacked integrity.


We lie when we spread rumors. This is perhaps one of the most insidious lies. Sometimes we don't even realize we are lying when we do it.  Just because we do not know it is a lie however, doesn't make it any less dishonest. We must check the facts before we tell someone something we heard.  Not only that, we must really decide whether we need to be sharing it anyway.


White  Lies


During a recent Bible Study on this subject we touched on the subject of white lies.  They are lies that are supposedly helpful and not harmful to others.  We studied the case of Rahab the prostitute who concealed the two spies that were sent out to spy on Jericho.  (Josh. 2)  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.  Rahab was a Gentile at that time and was ignorant of the Ten Commandments.

2.  God forgave Rahab’s lie after she became a believer in Him.

3.  Rahab was simply deceiving the enemy, a normal and acceptable practice in wartime.

4.  Rahab broke a lesser principle – telling the truth – to uphold a higher principle – protecting the lives of God’s principle.


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. 


During the Second World War Corrie Ten Boom’s home in Haalem, Holland became a refuge, “a hiding place” for Jews and fugitives who were hunted by the Nazis. By protecting these people the family risked their lives.  Through these activities, the Ten Boom family and their many friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews, and protected many Dutch underground workers.


During our Bible Study and Discussion on white lies we also touched on the issue of how much truth we have to tell terminally ill patients.  In my Christian ministry I have developed a guideline of what to tell patients that are terminally ill.  Regardless of their health condition I would always begin by sharing with them the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and also His healing power (Mt. 9:35). I would encourage them to place complete faith and trust in the One True God in Jesus Christ, and learn to accept whatever condition God wants to place them.  If I know their medical prognosis is not good I would prepare the truth-seekers hearts to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and to be baptized into Him and pray for the Holy Spirit.  I would also study the Holy Bible with them concerning the afterlife in Heaven.  If the terminally ill patients have already been baptized I would encourage them to have a good relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and to pray earnest and confess all their sins before Him. I have not found any occasion to tell white lies to any of them. 


The  apostle  Paul's  plea  for  Honesty


In writing to the Church at Ephesus, Paul admonishes the saints: "Therefore putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another" (Eph. 4:25).  Lying to each other disrupts unity by creating conflicts and destroying trust.  It tears down relationships and leads to open warfare in the church.


A lie does at least three things. First, it misrepresents the truth. The person who is lied to does not know the truth; therefore, he has to act or live upon a lie.


Secondly, lying deceives a person. Deception leads to misunderstandings that can destroy relationships.


Third, a lie builds wrong relationships. A person who enters into a relationship with another person based upon a lie cannot develop a proper relationship due to deception and dishonesty created by the lie.


Lying is specifically condemned in the Bible.  ". . . and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8)  “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.  But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever and practices a lie.” (Rev. 22:14-15)   If you want to go to Heaven don’t lie.  Always tell the truth!  Amen! 


May God bless you



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Paul Wong is a Christian minister and the President of ARK International.
His ministry also serves as an architectural service company in Houston.
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