Tag Archives: Lie
As we discussed last week, breaking the habit of lying is very important. However, even for those of us who don’t consistently lie, this occasional sin can still be very damaging. [To see the list of questions from last week, click here: lying questions.]
First, I think it’s important to recognize the ramifications of lying. Many of us start out with small lies — lies designed to avoid some small conflict or to get our way in some petty matter or to present our side of some minor disagreement in a slightly better light. One problem with this is that once people know we lie, they know we’re liars.
If I know a person will lie about a minor event just to avoid facing a small consequence, I have no reason to believe that person will be honest with me about important issues. As Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). And while I still have a responsibility to love that person, I can’t really trust her, and we can only ever be so close. This is unfortunate when it happens between casual acquaintances, but it’s heartbreaking when it happens between close friends or family members. When you can’t trust your husband or wife — the person in the world you should be closest to — it’s often much more difficult to trust anyone. And when children can’t trust their parents, their ability to trust others is often distorted as well. The ramifications of lying aren’t small. Even when a lie seems small, the effects are big.
And lying doesn’t just erode trust; it can also corrupt the character of those around us. As Proverbs 29:12 reminds us: “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.” If parents (or others in positions of authority) listen to, believe, and even reward lies, those under their care will be much more likely to lie. If my students see a classmate lie to me, and see that lying gets him out of trouble, other students may be tempted to lie to me too. This is one reason why it’s so important for parents and others in positions of authority to be discerning. It also stands to reason that if those under our care see us lying, they will also be tempted to lie.
And this corrupting of others’ characters is problematic for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right” (Proverbs 20:11). When our lying or acceptance of lies corrupts the character of our children (or others under our authority), their reputations and relationships eventually suffer as well. This process backs up what we’re told in Proverbs 26:28a: “A lying tongue hates those it hurts.” When we properly understand “love” as in terms of selfless service, it’s easy to see the hatefulness of our lies – which are almost always told out of selfishness (for self-preservation, self-esteem, etc.).
In the end, lying is sin (selfishness) that puts our (often short-term) desires in front of the best interests of others (often others who have been placed in our care).
The consequences above focus on others. It’s important, too, to look at what lying does to the liar. For instance:
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. (Proverbs 11:3)
Our lies will eventually catch up to us. Even if no particular lie has catastrophic consequences, the erosion of trust in our relationships often does – consequences such as divorce, a choice that damages everyone involved in the process. And lying damages the most important relationship in our lives: our relationship with God. Sin separates us from God. With each lie we tell, we take a step away from God. [Consider how far away your lies have taken you from God.]
Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only for a moment. (Proverbs 12:19)
A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble. (Proverbs 17:20) –
It often doesn’t take too long (in the grand scheme of things) for a lie to be found out, even here on earth. But even lies that are taken to the grave have extreme eternal consequences – because even lies that fool those around us don’t fool God. Lies will ultimately cause us to “fall into trouble” with the one who has the power of life and death over us, our ultimate Judge.
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
As we discussed in the previous post, one fear liars often have to live with is the fear of being found out. God assures us in the verses above, we’ve already been found out. And one day, we’ll have to own up to each lie. There is no getting out of this, no moment when you’ve finally outrun your lie.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
When we fool those around us with our lies (at least temporarily), we often think we’ve gotten away with something. We haven’t. God cannot be fooled or mocked. Our concern for concealing our dishonesty is a mockery to God. Either we think we’ve gotten one over on God (we haven’t), or we’ve forgotten about His role in this entirely (bad idea).
There is, of course, good news! The end of the verse above reminds us that when we live in the Spirit (which will produce honesty, among other things), we reap eternal life. Nothing is better than that! There are, however, other advantages to telling the truth, even for our lives today. We’ll look at those next week!
Next Week: a lying tongue, continued again
Last Week: a lying tongue
Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
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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
Want to read more?
You know that annoying person you try to avoid? Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people
Can your marriage help the next generation? I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
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