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What does the Bible say about lying? Is lying a sin?

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LesBrewer

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A minister told his congregation, "Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying. To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark 17."

The following Sunday, as he prepared to deliver his sermon, the minister asked for a show of hands. He wanted to know how many had read Mark 17. Every hand went up.

The minister smiled and said, "Mark has only sixteen chapters. I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying."


So what does the Bible say about lying? Is lying a sin?

The Bible is clear that lying is a sin and is displeasing to God. The first sin in this world involved a lie told to Eve. The Ten Commandments given to Moses includes “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

In the early church, Ananias and Sapphira lied regarding a donation in order to make themselves look more generous than they really were. Peter’s rebuke is stern: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” God’s judgment was sterner: the couple died as a result of their sin of lying.

Colossians 3:9 says, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.” Lying is listed in 1 Timothy 1:9-11 as something practiced by the lawless. Furthermore, liars will be among those judged in the end (Revelation 21:8). In contrast, God never lies (Titus 1:2). He is the source of truth. “It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).

Jesus called Himself the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and He expects those who follow Him to be people of truth. The truth is to be expressed in love (Ephesians 4:15), offering hope to those seeking redemption from the lies of the world.


Is it ever right to lie?


The Bible nowhere presents an instance where lying is considered to be the right thing to do. The ninth commandment prohibits bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16). Proverbs 6:16-19 lists “a lying tongue” and “a false witness who pours out lies” as two of the seven abominations to the Lord. Love “rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). For other Scriptures that speak negatively of lying, see Psalm 119:29, 163; 120:2; Proverbs 12:22; 13:5; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9; and Revelation 21:8. There are many examples of liars in Scripture, from Jacob’s deceit in Genesis 27 to the pretense of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Time after time, we see that falsehood leads to misery, loss, and judgment.

There are at least two instances in the Bible where lying produced a favorable result. For example, the lie the Hebrew midwives tell Pharaoh seems to result in the Lord’s blessing on them (Exodus 1:15-21), and it probably saved the lives of many Hebrew babies. Another example is Rahab’s lie to protect the Israelite spies in Joshua 2:5. It is important to note, however, that God never condones these lies. Despite the “positive” outcome of these lies, the Bible nowhere praises the lies themselves. The Bible nowhere states that there are instances where lying is the right thing to do. At the same time, the Bible does not declare that there is no possible instance in which lying is an acceptable option.

The question then remains: is there ever a time when lying is the right thing to do? The most common illustration of this dilemma comes from the life of Corrie ten Boom in Nazi-occupied Holland. Essentially, the story is this: Corrie ten Boom is hiding Jews in her home to protect them from the Nazis. Nazi soldiers come to her home and ask her if she knows where any Jews are hiding. What is she to do? Should she tell the truth and allow the Nazis to capture the Jews she was trying to protect? Or, should she lie and deny that she knows anything about them?

In an instance such as this, where lying may be the only possible way to prevent a horrible evil, perhaps lying would be an acceptable thing to do. Such an instance would be somewhat similar to the lies of the Hebrew midwives and Rahab. In an evil world, and in a desperate situation, it may be the right thing to commit a lesser evil, lying, in order to prevent a much greater evil. However, it must be noted that such instances are extremely rare. It is highly likely that the vast majority of people in human history have never faced a situation in which lying was the right thing to do.


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