Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Is It Okay to Lie?

Last week’s sermon sparked a church discussion about lying. Scripture says that God detests liars. When describing those who will ultimately be judged in the lake of fire, Jesus includes:

“… the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur…” (Rev. 21:8)

But could it be permissible—even right—for us to sometimes not tell the truth?

Corrie Ten Boom’s family helped many Jews escape the WWII Nazi Holocaust. Their home was eventually raided and her entire family imprisoned. Corrie was miraculously released shortly after her sister died at Ravensbruck. She is an inspiration of courage… but what about the fact that she lied over and over to the Nazis when asked if she knew where Jews were hiding?

Absolute ideology has fallen on hard times. Transforming lying from vice to virtue is representative of a national cultural shift. To the modern American, wrong is not always wrong, and right is not always right. Therefore, lying is not always wrong, and telling the truth is not always right. It’s called moral relativism.

Trust and integrity are compromised in every relationship where lies are injected:

  • Family and spouses - We must be able to depend on our family members, especially our spouses.

  • Political process - Our government becomes suspect.

  • Media - Without non-biased reporting, “the news” is viewed with skepticism.

  • Business relationships - There used to be a time when a handshake closed the deal.  

In an instance such as the Nazis where lying may be the only possible way to prevent a horrible evil, the circumstances would be somewhat similar to the lie of Rahab in the Book of Joshua.  Proponents of lying often point to her in their debate.

A prostitute, Rahab hid Israelite spies in her room. When asked if she’d seen them, Rahab said,  

“They left the town at dusk, as the gates were about to close. I don’t know where they went. If you hurry, you can probably catch up with them.” (Joshua 2:4-5)

The Bible commends her faith, but God never condones the lie. Despite a “positive” outcome, I can’t find anywhere in scripture where it says sometimes lying is the right thing to do. But in an evil world, and a desperate situation, could it be right to commit a lesser evil by lying, in order to prevent a much greater evil?

Such instances are extremely rare. It is unlikely that the vast majority of people in human history will ever face a situation of such extreme action. The contemplation of such a situation can be a slippery slope on its own. If we can justify lying to the Nazis, can we justify lying in other situations?

Defending dishonesty always makes it easier to be dishonest.

The biblical prohibitions against lying are absolute. And if it’s okay to lie in some situations, don’t you think God would have said so?

Rahab’s lie precluded God’s opportunity to supernaturally intervene as He has done so many times. Assuming that it would have been “bad” for the spies to have been found, is a shallow assumption. God often uses what seems tragic to us to work great good. Therefore, Rehab’s lie does not prove that lying is acceptable to God.

However, we are still left to wonder what would have resulted in truthful responses from the German, Dutch, and French who bravely tried to save the Jews from extermination.

“In darkness God’s truth shines most clear.” Corrie Ten Boom