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
Want to read more?
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one
Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward
Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife
Start the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted