There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
[A caveat before I begin: I’m not claiming is this post that lying is never okay. For instance, if, during the Holocaust, you were hiding a Jewish family in your home and lied to Nazis about it, you wouldn’t be doing anything wrong (as far as I understand the Bible and God). But those instances are pretty rare, and they don’t do anything to undermine the general rule against lying. If you’re put in a position where you have to choose between lying and causing an innocent person to be killed, your duty is probably going to be to protect that person, even if it means lying. But this is hardly the setting of most of our lies. Far more often, we lie to keep ourselves out of trouble or to make ourselves look better than we are, etc. So while I fully accept that there are times when lying is the best way to serve God (as in the Holocaust example), such cases are clearly the exception – and our typical self-serving lies clearly don’t serve Him.]
A Lying Tongue
Out of seven things listed as detestable to God in this portion of Scripture, two of them involve lying. Over 25% of them. Let that sink in for a moment.
Below are some questions that might help you take stock of where you stand on this “detestable” practice. As I said in the previous post, allow yourself to answer honestly. This is between you and God (unless He tells you to involve someone else) and He already knows the truth. Don’t lie to God about lying.
1. Do I lie?
2. Do I omit things from the truth in an attempt to deceive?
3. Do I stay quiet in order to allow people to assume things that aren’t true? In what situations am I most likely to do this?
4. Do I lie to avoid getting into trouble or facing a conflict with someone?
5. Do I avoid situations where I might have to own up to something?
6. Do I try to hide things from others? Why? What are my motives for such deception?
7. Do I try to hide things from God? Why? What are my motives for such deception?
8. Before I take an action or make a decision, do I take time to review my plans and decisions (and motives) to make sure they’re honest?
9. Has lying become so engrained in my character that I don’t even notice when I do it?
I’d like to say a little about number 9 before addressing the list as a whole: This one might be difficult to answer, since, if it’s true, you probably don’t notice it. But you likely know if you’re at risk of this. So, here’s what I’d encourage you to do: Pay careful attention this week to your level of honesty. Commit to asking yourself if you’re telling the whole truth each time you speak. If you find a pattern of lying (or “fibbing” or “fudging” or whatever you want to call it) that you didn’t realize existed, please start working hard on correcting this issue. I can tell you from experience that life becomes much simpler and much sweeter and much less stressful when you correct this problem. I know that it seems like things might become more complicated or difficult or stressful – and they may, at first – but God rewards repentance (a true turning from sin). And one of the rewards of honesty that I’ve observed is peace. I pray you’ll be similarly blessed.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that once you break the habit of lying, it actually becomes more difficult and painful to lie. You become much more attuned to your level of honesty and more aware of your motives. I don’t worry too much now about telling the truth (even if there are consequences). When I do find myself in a position where I’m tempted to tell a half-truth (which, if we’re honest, is a lie, no matter what we call it), I’m typically very aware of the choice I’m making when I choose to lie. And I spend far more time worrying about the consequences of the lie than I would have spent worrying about the consequences of the truth. All that is to say: If you find yourself in a pattern of lying, while getting out can be hard, one of the rewards of getting out is that staying out gets easier and easier.
Okay, so, looking back at questions 1-8 above, most of us can answer “yes” to at least part of one of the questions. This is a bigger deal than we like to think (God doesn’t hate this for no reason), and next week we’ll take a look at why.
Click here for the previous post in this series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6 — Haughty Eyes
Click here for the beginning of the series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
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