TRENT WRITES: Is lying okay if telling the truth would result in a terrible consequence?
When I ask this question, I do not mean “If I stole the cookie and don’t want to be punished, can I lie?”
I am referring to things like incidents in Nazi Germany, where a Nazi soldier would ask “Are you hiding any Jews?”
If you said “No” and you were hiding Jewish people, then you are lying to the Nazi.
Yet, if you said, “Yes”, then you would be condemning innocent people to torture and death.
This is a great moral dilemma for me, because, if lying is okay sometimes, then when does it become a sin? And if it is never okay, then does that mean that we cannot lie to protect someone from being wrongfully hurt?
What do you guys think?
Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!
There are currently 5 Comment(s)
There are currently 5 Comment(s)
Have something else you’d like to discuss? Just submit your question or topic (and any elaboration you’d like to provide) using our Submit Content Page. We look forward to hearing from you.
It’s an interesting moral dilemma indeed. I personally think lying is bad, and I try to be honest. That has gotten me into trouble for being too honest. But I don’t know. The early Christians that lived during the Roman Empire probably had to lie to the soldiers to make sure they don’t find the places they were meeting at. This proves that even the early Christians were renowned for their faith, they were still sinful human beings. No one except Jesus Christ is perfect, so we as humans will always lie, steal, kill, and hate, and we’ll always have problems with thinking if it’s right or not. Only God’s the judge, not us.
Thanks for the response, Alana. God bless!
Rahab lied….. Just to add a fragmented thought
Yes, Rachel. That’s another example I had in mind. Thank you.
This is a question that has been stumping me for ages. When I hear this question, I think specifically of Corrie ten Boom and her family during World War II. She was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp for hiding Jews. However, except for 1, every single one of the Jews hidden in her bedroom escaped without being captured. How would this have happened if she had not lied and then told the Nazis where those Jews were? Obviously, if this had happened it would have been God’s will, but it makes you think. She lied to save those people.
And as Rachel pointed out Rahab lied…and was later praised for her actions in James.
“And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” – James 2:25
She was justified by works,…those works were lying to save the spies.
I don’t know. I’m still working through all of this. It’s a lot to try to understand.
Agreed, Melinda. It sure is a tough subject.
Remember the Egyptian midwives? They lied about the Hebrew baby boys that were being born to save those lives. Some people are talking about Rahab and the Christians in Nazi Germany, but these people were also praised for what they did. It’s a hard subject, and one that’s not likely to come up in our everyday lives. It’s not worth it to lie to, say, keep your friend from getting in trouble. That’s as bad as doing it to keep yourself out of trouble. But if many lives are in danger, it would probably not be a bad thing. The Bible should always be your first source in a moral dilemma, and if one was ever in such a situation, any general guidelines we could come up with probably wouldn’t help. I guess I’m just trying to say that if you ever are involved in something like this, be careful how you decide.
I think it would be okay to lie to people like the Nazis, as long as your motives are pure and the Holy Spirit is leading you to do this. Remember Corrie ten Boom? “The Hiding Place”? She and her family deceived the Nazis, and she is praised today as a heroine on behalf of many Jews.
I think most of the time, you have to ask yourself if your actions will glorify God? If I tell the truth about cheating on a test, I’ll glorify God through my honesty. If I tell the truth about hiding Jews to the Nazis, will you be glorifying God?
So, there would be no clear cut line, just ask God on a case by case basis?
There is no clear cut line in this case. It’s a little bit like the line in government authority–God tells us to listen to our authorities, but not if they tell us to go against Him. It’s also like the line in justice versus mercy–depending on the situation and how God is convicting you, act accordingly.
And it isn’t to say that we always make the right choices. Sometimes what I want to do is different from what God wants me to do. But if you’re struggling with this, it’s also good to talk to a fellow believer in Christ.
Actually, I’m pretty sure Corrie Ten Boom (or at least, her sister Betsy) was opposed to lying for that purpose. In fact, in one instance Betsy (or Corrie) actually told the Nazis that the Jews were under the table (which was true, because they were under a trapdoor beneath the table). But the Nazis looked and thought they were tricking them and didn’t find the Jews.
Of course, this is all from my memory of books I read as a kid, so I might be mis-remembering. Anyone else know for sure?
I’m not bringing this up to refute the idea of lying for an important cause. I’m just not sure that Corrie Ten Boom should be used as a support for that position.
Oh, okay! Thank you for pointing that out.
Then going back to Biblical times. Rahab lied about the spies and was redeemed for it because of her faith, but God wasn’t pleased with Abraham lying to the pharaoh of Egypt about Sarah being his sister because Abraham didn’t trust God.
It’s a matter of trusting in God to do the right thing.
Alright. Thanks, Rachel! I think you answered my question. God bless!
Yes, I do remember that. As I recall, from reading her biogrophy, Corie was okay with lying for that purpose, but her younger sister, Betsy, was all-out against it. Thanks, Brett!
Thanks for the insite, KC!
There are so many different opinions on this, it can drive you crazy. Personally, I think that if your lie isn’t demeaning God, and it is to the benefit of others (like how people lied to protect Jews) then I don’t think that it’s considered a sin. But that’s just my opinion, and like I said, there are many different opinions.
I will again add my two-cents in on this discussion.
I am glad people are mentioning the midwives in Exodus and Rahab lying. I want to reiterate that both the midwives and Rahab were blessed for their actions. We have established the fact that telling the truth is not always necessary. Now to answer the question people have been asking: When do I know it is okay to lie?
I heard a message by R.C. Sproul on this story. He said that his teacher, Dr. John Gerstner, made this comment: “We only need to tell the truth to whom we must tell the truth to. We don’t need to tell the truth in some cases, like in cases of war.” For every situation, we need to ask ourselves these questions: “Do I have to tell the truth to this person asking me this question? What is their intent? Do they intend harm, or are they wanting to help me?”
People we should NEVER lie to are 1) parents, 2) spouse, 3) bosses, and the like. More often than not, when they ask you a question, they want to edify you and help you grow in some way. However, when it comes to government officials and military officers, you have to question their intent. If they say, “Are you a Christian? If you answer yes, you will die. If you answer no, you will live.” Here we must answer “yes” because if we answer “no,” we will betray our Lord. We answer “yes” not because we need to make the headlines on the newspaper, but to glorify God.
When it comes to protecting lives, we must always do everything we can to protect lives, including lying. Keeping people alive so that they can carry out the Great Commission or you can help convert them to Christianity is more important than lying.
Some may disagree, but this is my viewpoint.
I’m sorry, but I disagree. I don’t want to try to change your mind, however I’d like to learn your mind. What passages of scripture do you use to backup your viewpoint? No harm intended, just curious.
Sure. Here is Exodus 1:15-21 (ESV)
15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
Remember also that Rahab lied to the officials to hide the Hebrew spies. In James 2:25, it says this about Rahab’s actions:
25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
Is that enough? Or should I explain a little more?
Thanks for the reply. If there is a greater moral that we have verses a lesser moral, we must preserve the greater moral. Sin complicates things like nothing else.
Thanks, but I’m kinda slow when it comes to big issues, if it’s ok could you explain more, the more info the better.
I’m not trying to sound legalistic here, but the commandments were written after the midwives lied to Pharaoh. So, they wouldn’t have know that God told them not to as of yet. I’m not sure it would change anything, just wondering.
I think it’s interesting that the ninth commandment doesn’t actually say “Thou shalt not lie.” It says “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Now I don’t mean to be splitting hairs, but that way of phrasing it (“false witness”) conveys the idea of courts and judgments and speaking to somebody’s disadvantage. And I think that is a really big part of what is at stake here…it is the purpose of the witness. If lying leads to justice, protection, peace, etc, then are we really bearing false witness to someone’s disadvantage? I think we need to look a little deeper into what the ninth commandment means, instead off turning it into a blanket, absolute statement on any form of lying.
I am gonna hop on here if that’s okay. 🙂
Here is another way of looking at this, Grant:
When God created man, He created them perfect with His perfect moral law already instilled into their hearts. They naturally obeyed it. But when Adam and Eve sinned, they broke God’s perfect law. And all through the ages we have broken it too, time and time again, because we just can’t keep it – we are sinners.
Because man broke His moral law, God gave us a list of don’ts – don’t worship anything else, don’t lie, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery – when before, while we were still able to obey His law, we naturally worshipped Him only, preserved truth and justice, preserved the sanctity of human life, and were faithful in all our relationships.
Skip forward a few thousand years, and Jesus tells us that obeying the greatest commandment looks like loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself. And that is going to look like worshiping Him only, preserving truth and justice, preserving the sanctity of human life, and being faithful in all our relationships, etc..
This is what Ron and Christopher are referring to when they say higher law/higher moral and lower law/lower moral. God’s law is His law – it is perfect. The Commandments are (His law, yes, cos He gave it, but) our law – made for sinners.
This is why Jesus talks about hate being the root of murder and lust the root of adultery – it goes beyond the 10 Commandments. There is a greater law out there, a perfect one, that goes beyond the simple rendering for our fallen sinful selves.
As Christians, we strive for the higher law – God’s perfect one. This is what Paul is talking about in the epistles when he says we are no longer under the law (the 10 Commandments) – as Christians, we serve a higher law. We are not supposed to worry about NOT sinning, we are supposed to worry about doing right. Being made perfect in Christ, we don’t sin, we do right! It has the same affect, see?
Here is that verse from Paul:
Romans 7:6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
Since this is a broken, fallen world, we run into moral contradictions. Instances of, “If this is done, wrong will ensue; but if this is done, wrong will ensue also.” So what do we do?
It is important in these instances to not look for the lesser wrong. Uh-uh. This is a wrong way of looking at it and it trusts our flawed judgment.
Rather, we look at it like this: In what way will I honor God, preserve truth and justice, preserve sacred human life, be faithful, etc.?
Mark actually brought up a really important point: the ninth commandment says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor.” In other words: You shall not say false things to harm your neighbor and pervert justice.
So when we are confronted with a moral dilemma (lying in this instance) it is our duty to honor God by preserving justice and sacred human life.
I’m sorry Heidi, but your comment didn’t help because I couldn’t understand it. Sorry.
I studied your exodus quote, and finally it hit me right in the face, how did I not see it sooner.
The two women never said they would do what pharaoh said, therefore they didn’t lie they merely disobeyed pharaoh and that’s ok to do because they did what God wanted instead of what pharaoh wanted.
Any other examples?
Actually, Grant, I think it’s pretty clear in Exodus 1:19 that Shiphrah and Puah actually lied to Pharaoh. When asked if they had been carrying out his order that all Hebrew male babies must be killed as they were being delivered by the midwives, they lied by telling Pharaoh that they had not been fast enough to make it to any male deliveries lately!
Ok, I don’t think it’s clear like you say it is, but that doesn’t matter. Even if they did lie, were they Hebrews or just midwives for the Hebrews? How do you get past the Ten Commandments? Commandment number 9 clearly says not to lie.
I believe the text supports either view that Shiphrah and Puah were “Hebrew midwives” or that they were “midwives to the Hebrews.” It’s probably more likely that they were Hebrew, since both names are Semitic, not Egyptian. … And, regarding the Ten Commandments, I don’t think we should think in terms of “getting passed” one particular command. As I said in my earlier posts, sometimes there is a conflict between moral absolutes. However, some laws are higher than others. When this occurs, we are exempt from our “responsibility to follow the lower law,” in light of our “overriding obligation to obey the higher law.” For a great discussion on this, check out this article: http://www.equip.org/articles/any-absolutes-absolutely/#christian-books-2
So you believe there is a higher law than the Ten Commandments?
Not quite what I said, Grant. I’m simply saying that when moral laws conflict, God grants an exemption to the lower in view of our duty to obey the higher. Jesus referred to the “weightier matters of the law” in Matthew 23:23. And, of course, He very succinctly answered the Pharisee’s question of, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” in Matthew 22:34-40.
Yeah, so you’re saying that the ninth of the Ten Commandments is a lower commandment? I personally believe that the Ten Commandments are defidently one of the weightier matters of the law. Then again I also personally can’t believe what we are debating here though.
I agree with your last comment, Grant (as well as much of the other comments you have made). Definitely not looking to engage in debates, just offering another perspective. I’m sure we would agree on most issues of doctrine that would come up, since we seem to both share a very high view of Scripture. I’m going to have to sign off now, since I’ve got to complete a few more tasks today. God bless you, brother.
I just want to add that the verse doesn’t say that God commended them for lying. It only says the God dealt well with them. And with Rehab it says that she was justified by receiving and sending out the messengers.
Neither say anything about God being pleased with them lying.
Well, the bible says:
A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Galatians 5:9 NKJV)
A very simple verse, maybe it could be applied as: a little evil ruins all the good that you mix it into.
Or mabe even: a little lie mixed with good intentions ruins the purpose for which the very lie itself was created.
God is in control.
He will make a way where there seems to be no way, He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side, with love and strength for each new day, He will make a way, He will make a way.
Lying is permissible in order to preserve a higher moral imperative. For an excellent response to this question by Dr. Norman Geisler, check out this 2-minute video: http://youtu.be/hYPUMY8iyko
Also, here’s another short answer provided Hank Hanegraaff at equip.org: http://www.equip.org/bible_answers/is-it-ever-morally-permissible-to-lie/
Exactly what I was trying to say. You said it in fewer words. Thanks, Ron!
This is a tough on Trent, but a good question.
Right away, I think about the verse that says “all liars” will be in the lake of fire (Revelaiton 21:8). Proverbs 12:22 – “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” Ananias and Sapphira died instantly after lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5). “Thou shalt not lie” is also in the Ten Commandments. I think it is pretty clear throughout scripture that God detests liars.
But then there are the other examples that people are giving, such as Rahab, the Hebrew women, and maybe even Corrie ten Boom. Although I don’t know for sure whether she actually lied to Nazis, she did lie once about a radio and immediately felt convicted about it. However, it turned out to be a blessing that the Nazis didn’t confiscate her radio (because she had lied about it).
Either way, it’s hard to tell what God wants in the particular situations we’re talking about. Although it’s good to think about, I believe we should avoid trying to determine some sort of formula since this is a hypothetical situation. If we ever find ourselves in this dilemma, we’ll have to follow Holy Spirit’s direction. Although I find it hard to imagine that He would lie…After all, He is God, who knows what God would do if we always told the truth? He has the power to rescue us from any situation, so maybe we should tell the truth and leave the rest to Him?
I know for myself, if telling the truth ever endangers my life, even though it would be incredibly scary and hard, I would want to tell the truth. Heaven is a better place anyways, right? So why do we try so desperately to stay here? Especially if staying here requires us to do something God hates.
Excellent! You brought up everything I thought of. If we tell the truth, whatever happens will be the best. God can even blind people to what we say, if He so chooses. I love what you said about heaven. I’ve heard it before.
Personally, I don’t think that lying is ever right.
The challenge, Christopher, is that there is sometimes a conflict between moral absolutes. I believe a biblical case can be made for a hierarchy of values (set up by God in accordance with His nature), where some laws are higher than others. So, when there is an unavoidable conflict, as in the case of lying to save a life, it is our duty to follow the higher moral law. In other words, protecting human life (showing mercy) is a greater moral duty than providing the guilty with correct information. For a great discussion on Christian ethics and moral absolutes, see this article: http://www.equip.org/articles/any-absolutes-absolutely/#christian-books-1
I totally see what you are saying, Ron, and I might agree. It doesn’t quite set with me yet.
Can you point to where you see the hierarchy in the Bible? I realize that God puts high value on mercy, but Revelation still says that all liars will be caste into the lake of fire, and Psalm 101:7 says that “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.” The language God uses about liars, people who speak falsely or practice deceit sounds pretty strong.
God hates injustice, but he obviously hates deception to.
Of course, when we become a Christian, we rest in Christ’s righteousness, so there is grace for the Christian. But obviously that in no way gives us an excuse to sin.
I don’t think there is a formula that we can follow about this dilemma. For my part, I don’t think I could ever lie because I feel like that would be taking the problem out of God’s hands and inserting my own rational in place of God. I would much rather obey what I see explicitly in Scripture (rather than just inferred, such as a ‘hierarchy of values’), and let God play His divine role. He still does miracles. I am want to depend on His divine intervention much quicker than my limited human logic (although it would be tough).
I don’t know, these are just my thoughts.
I think it’s ok if by lying it would be to save lives like that. I asked my mom and she said that she did not think it was ok even in a situation like that because the Bible says “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” and she also said that that was situational ethics (“Situational ethics, or situation ethics, takes into account the particular context of an act when evaluating it ethically, rather than judging it according to absolute moral standards.” from wikipedia) I’m not enttirely sure what to think about that I think she has a point but I think presonally it would be ok in certain situations to lie about something that would save people’s lives.
Something that I’ve been learning recently is that God is in control and that He is good all of the time. So whatever happens happens, it’s God’s will, right?
So He says in the Ten Commandments that “You shall not lie”, then we shouldn’t lie, right?
Now if I was hiding Jews and was asked if I was or not, I think the Holy Spirit would have to push me in order to lie.
That is only my opinion.
Jesus condemned murder. (I’m not talking about killing for the sake of criminal justice, God commanded that.) But if killing was ever OK, it seems to me that the anointed King David might as well have killed Saul. He had every reason to, but he didn’t–even when he had an easy opportunity. He knew it was wrong to kill God’s anointed. So he didn’t. I think lying is similar.
I actually just learned about this in my Biblical Worldview class here at Liberty University. My professor, Dr. Troy Matthews, gave us three ways people can look at moral absolutes:
1. Unqualified Absolutes = “No exceptions, no exemptions.”
This means that because God does not contradict himself, thus implying that moral absolutes will not clash, we can conclude that all “moral conflicts” arent real.
2. Conflicting Absolutism = “Dot the lesser of the 2 evils.”
This means that becasue we live in a fallen world, there are moral conflicts, and you have a duty to uphold both, but you should do the lesser of the two evils and then ask for forgiveness. Most people would use this for lying to Nazis.
3. BTW, MOST IMPORTANT: Graded Absolutism = “Do the greater good.”
This means that in a fallen world, there are moral conflicts. However, there are higher and lower laws. There is no exceptions, bu there are EXEMPTIONS from obeying them in view of higher ones. Thus, you do the greater good.
Everyone has brought up Rahab, but I want to really see what the Bible says.
James 2:25:”In the same way, was not
even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she
gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?”
Hebrews 11:31 ” By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”
Soo….. here we see Rahab PRAISED for her action….. interesting…… But God said in Exodus 20:16, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
…….Wait, “give false tesimony.” That was when the Jews were in court, and two men had to give an account of a wrongdoers actions. To give false tesimony was when two men would claim a man did something he did not do FOR THEIR OWN GAIN.
In summary, how I would respond to the above question is: YES! I would lie to save a life. BUT lying for my own selfish gain, THAT is what God hates.
in James 2:25 you have to pay attention to context My pastor says the three rules of biblical interpretation are context context context. And in the Hebrews verse I believe it’s saying that she was not killed because of her faith that whole chapter is about faith. So please before you quote a verse pay attention to the context.
Yes and in the context of James (as the next verse makes clear) faith without works is dead, and in this case that work involved lying. She’s praised for faith that bore fruit in a lie…a lie of love…sure is weird isn’t it?
Actually what that verse is saying is that our faith is evidenced by our works. Good works testify of our faith, bad works (lying) testify that we’re still battling a fallen nature although saved. God is big enough to overcome any seemingly impossible situation without requiring us to sin. He wouldn’t contradict himself that way. On lying the Bible even says that satan is the father of lies. Why would God tell us to do something that comes from Satan himself? I don’t know about you but that just doesn’t make sense to me.
My youth group went very deep into this question and this is the answer I have decided to believe. Yes, Rehab, Corrie Ten Boom, the Egyptian mid-wives lied. But take Rehab, she didn’t know the laws of God yet. She lived in a pagan land. In the Bible it doesn’t congratulate her for the actual lying, but for saving them.
Then my favorite story is of Corrie Ten Boom’s sister Nollie who was also hiding Jews in her house. When directly asked she told the truth that the girl with her was a Jew. The girl was then taken away to a concentration camp. Everyone was appalled that Nollie would give the girl away. But then on the way to the camp the girl and several others got away to safety.
My point is, God is sovereign. Our duty is to God FIRST and then to man. And God tells us that lying is an one of the seven abomination, it’s up there with murdering, and we don’t come up with excuses for murdering do we? And if God wants something to happen, He doesn’t need little man to lie for Him.
Romans 12:3 “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, since he gives life and breath and everything.”
I seen a lot of people said that well Rahab lied so it must mean it is okay for us to lie today. I believe that it is not okay for us to lie, even if we are lying for a very good reason.
You see it was ok for Rehab to lie because she was under old testament law. But we are under the new testament law so it is not ok for us to lie… even if it is for a good cause.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Rehab didn’t have the old testament law. If she had, she would have known of the old testament commandment that says “thou shalt not lie.”
Hey guys, when I submitted this question, it not my intent to cause conflict. Don’t feel that the other side is out to get you. As far as I can tell, the magority of us are strong Christians. So, I ask that you keep that in mind. With that being said, I am geting very mixed messages. I am seeing many different answers, mainly one of the following:
(1) “Lying is okay if it is to protect a life.” My question with this answer is, “Okay, then were do you draw the line? Where doesthe lying stop? When does it become sinful?”
(2) “Lying is okay if it is the lesser of two evils.” I have seen things like “higher law” as an argument for this. Okay, my question with this is: “What makes one evil less then another? What makes one law ‘higher’ then another?”
(3) “Lying is never okay, ever”. Arguments in favor of this say “Because God is sovereign, He will take care us.” My question is this: “What if you were Corie Ten Bloom and the Natzis came to your door, demanding you tell them if you are hiding the Jews. Do you really think God would want you to say, ‘Yes, come take them’. That seems to me that you would be fearing the Natzis more then God.
Also, what if (and she probabbly did) Corie Ten Bloom told the Jewish refugies, ‘I will keep you safe’? Wouldn’t she be lying if she let the Natzis take them?”
Forgive me Trent. I have to laugh. Your comment isn’t all that long…
This comment is necessary in order to guide the discussion. Thanks Trent!
lol… yeah. I guess not super long. But it was long enough for there to be a “see more” button on it. 🙂
I already slightly addressed this in my first comment, but to further explain myself.
If Nazis had showed up at my door while I was keeping Jews it is more a fear of the Nazis to tell them a lie than to tell them the truth. If you tell them the truth you are trusting God completely to keep yourself and the Jews safe, there is only faith and hope to rest on in that situation. But if you lie, then you are not trusting in God, but instead are fearing the Nazis as if they controlled everything and had more power than the God who made them. The God who gives them life and breath and everything.
Corrie Ten Boom did promise she would take care of the Jews in her house. But who does she love more, God or the Jews? Hopefully God, and in that case her first duty is to God. So when she promised that she would keep the Jews safe, she should have said, “To the best of my abilities.” But the way she said it she had to lie way or another, either to the Jews or to the Nazis.
I hope I’m making sense. And thank you, Trent, for bringing this up. I love being able to defend my beliefs, it really strengthens them and gives me a new understanding on what I believe and why I believe it.
I used to believe it way okay to lie if it was protecting another life, but after examining it with my youth group my views changed drastically. And this has given my the opportunity to support what I believe. 🙂
I think that if Corrie Ten Boom had promised to keep the Jews safe she was promising something she was unable to perform. She could not guarantee her abilities to keep them safe. She could try, but ultimately their safety wouldn’t be up to her. Telling the truth to the Nazis wouldn’t be lying to them, because she has deceived them already in that premise.
Hey Trent, I just wanted to say thank you for asking this question. I must admit when I saw the question I inwardly (and outwardly) slumped and thought, seriously do we really have to cover this? This discussion has always made me feel really uncomfortable. But I cannot tell you how much I have been blessed by having to think through all this. Having to think through and study for these questions is helping me be stronger by forcing me to know my convictions and beliefs. 🙂 God bless.
I’m glad you got something helpful from this post. Have an awesome day!
Hmm, really tough question. So here’s what I think:
A lot of people here are giving Rahab, Corrie ten Boom, and others as examples of how lying isn’t always bad. While I agree that God can use a lie for good, I disagree with using these examples. Rahab, biblical characters, and historical figures were all human and therefore fallible. Just because a person in the Bible lied doesn’t mean that it is right. A lie was what brought sin into our world.
As for determining when it is okay to lie, I think that as Christians we need to strive for the truth first. In a case of life or death, I think that lying would be acceptable when it is to glorify the Lord. The midwives lied to save Hebrew babies and this was pleasing to God. The borderline of a lie becoming a sin is when a person lies for selfish reasons. For example, I think that Corrie ten Boom was wrong to lie about the radio because she lied for selfish reasons. Lying about hiding the Jews, God’s chosen people, was not wrong because she was saving lives.
I hope this can shed some light on a very cloudy subject.
I am currious of Brett’s opinion on the matter. Brett, is lying ever okay?
I think one of the first steps to finding an answer to this question is to ask, Did Jesus ever disobey a commandment in favor of a better cause? I think of at least two instances of this that I’ll leave up for discussion for the time being: Mark 3:1-6 (Jesus healing on the Sabbath) and Matthew 12:1-8 (Jesus plucking grain on the Sabbath).
If Jesus broke the law, essentially, then is it not acceptable for Christians to do the same in favor of a higher good? (I’m not stating this as my belief, just throwing some questions out to try to aid in some logical thought.) If it is acceptable, how did Jesus draw the line? Did Jesus really break the commandment, or was that law just misinterpreted?
Last thought, and perhaps a better example: 1 Kings 22:1-23 (God sends out a lying spirit). God put a lying spirit in all of the king’s prophets. God didn’t lie, but does this point to the fact that sometimes God approves of lying in order to perform a greater work? Again, just some questions to provoke some thought and further discussion.
This is a really great question, Trent. One that we are too often afraid to ask. And I especially appreciate your logical evaluation of the answers given.
In other related news, this post gave me a great starter-question for our Sr. High class’s discussion about morals tomorrow. Thanks!
I’m glad you can use this question for something else. 🙂
this is a little different but what about parents who ask their
children to lie about what they really think in class or on papers or on
tests to get a good grade from a teacher that will grade down if they
proclaim the unpopular truth. Isn’t our goal as Christians to be found
faithful; and our goal as parents to raise children who will be faithful
as well. And isn’t faith all about doing what is right even when not
convenient? What are we teaching our children when we do this, but
teaching them to sell their convictions and faith to gain the world.
Such a great question guys! It is interesting that most of us only see two options and miss the possibly greater and simplest of responses to that situation. You are correct in that we can either lie or tell the truth. But if we tell the truth we still have two more options and not just the one you mentioned. Our two options are: Step aside and allow the persecution of the innocent OR stand in the way risking our own lives for the safety of another. After all, Christ has been our example in doing exactly that. What if 1000 Germans when faced with the decision chose to tell the truth and then risked their very lives to protect the innocent not allowing those finding shelter in their homes to be taken away without a fight. How many would have run to join them. What if there were only 100 or 10. I guess we will never know how the conviction of these would have inspired even more to rise up against injustice. I certainly can’t blame anyone for not doing this. I am not sure I would have in their same situation. But if I do have to tell the truth and in so doing risk another’s life, I hope I will be found faithful to stand and protect innocent lives in whatever way I can.
Yes I think there are situations where lying is not only the permissible thing to do, but actually the right thing to do. For example, in Genesis 22 Abraham quite obviously led Isaac on as they went up the mountain where, for all Abraham knew, hugs son would die. Similarly, in Exodus the Egyptian midwives were commended for protecting the Israelite babies by lying to Pharaoh. Also, the spies that went into Canaan were well, lying – as all spies and undercover agents do all the time in order to foil the enemies and catch the bad guys. So yes, there are situations that arise in life where lying fulfills a greater purpose and I think that should 1) expand our awe in God’s weird and wonderful ways; and 2) make us as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.
Hello Mark, I disagree with the examples you’ve provided to support your logic, and would like to share my reasons with you because I believe you truly desire the truth in this.
Withholding information, is not the same as lying. When Isaac asked what they would do for a sacrifice Abraham answered and told him the Lord would provide. He wasn’t lying, he had faith in the goodness of God, that He would keep his promise even though Abraham didn’t understand what God was doing. That example of Abraham and Isaac where God provided a sacrifice in Isaac’s stead, signified how God would provide Jesus to die in our place.
In Exodus the Bible never explicitly states that what the midwives told Pharaoh was a lie. If it was, their intentions were good (to protect harmless babies) and they had not yet been given the law, or told by God not to lie. Their hearts were definitely in the right place, although if they actually lied what they did was still wrong. I think they weren’t lying, but were being cunning (as serpents and harmless as doves) in their reply to Pharaoh. (Although I can’t be certain, since I wasn’t there;)
Also, I do not know whether you speak of the spies sent by Moses in Numbers 13 or the spies sent by Joshua in Joshua 2, but both groups of spies were never mentioned to have lied. Sneaking in to another country to examine it and spy on it, doesn’t necessarily make you a liar.
However the point remains that even if they all HAD lied, that doesn’t mean that their actions were justifiable, and right. Just because someone in the Bible (who God likes) sins, doesn’t make it okay. David was far from perfect. Killing your neighbor and stealing his wife isn’t exactly a good example to follow, (if you get what I mean;) and he was punished dearly for it.
Thanks Mallory. I appreciate your comments. What I really respect in this whole discussion is that people have a great concern to obey God and take his word seriously. And I definitely agree with those who say lying is wrong 99% of the time – honesty is a big deal and that should be our default mode of operation as Christians. But I basically think there are times where it is wise and right to protect people by withholding information or deflecting questions or diverting in other ways. That is actually a very important skill in church life – we need to protect people’s reputations and that means we don’t have to answer all the questions people ask – half answers glorify God! So I think that’s actually a good skill to develop and I think you see it in some of these Old Testament examples – they were people of integrity but because of certain situations (most of which seem to involve the loss of life) they “led people on.” So, in conclusion, when you need to, lead people on and love Jesus!
Oh..and no the New Testament never amends, alters, abrogates, or fulfills the commandment not to lie. If anything the New Testament heightens the importance of honesty, integrity, and consistency in our dealings with one another. Blessings!
What do you mean by lying?
Do you mean lying as in the word “False” used in the 10 Commandments? This is the word for it: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8267&t=KJV
When I mean lying, I mean telling a non-truth.
It’s okay to lie if it is to save another person’s life, if what they are doing is for a good reason. It is not though, in any way, okay to lie to save yourself. If we are trying to do something good, we shouldn’t deny it. Especially if it is for God, for we be willing to lose our life for Him.
Trent was curious to know what my opinion on this topic is — so here you go!
Here are some assorted thoughts:
1) Even if it is okay to lie in specific, extreme circumstances, we’re talking about a tiny exception. 99.999999999999999% of the time we must tell the truth.
I’m concerned that all of you will leave this conversation believing in an exception that will probably never apply to you. For every one time someone has lied for a good reason one million people have lied for the wrong reason, thinking they were protecting themselves or someone else, when it reality they were refusing to trust God and were taking matters into their own hands.
Once you make room for this exception it becomes easy to rationalize (i.e. rational lies) fudging on the truth in situations that do not demand it.
2) I am not convinced that Rahab and the Hebrew midwives should be used to support lying for two reasons:
• First, the lack of explicit condemnation is not proof of God’s approval. Rahab was also a prostitute, which is mentioned and never condemned.
• Second, each of these women were non-Hebrews at the time. They are examples of people being drawn to the living God and to the people of God. They are not examples of mature faith and practice.
3) A better Old Testament example would be David on the run from Saul. David was a mature man of God who had received the Holy Spirit when Samuel anointed him the future king of Israel.
He lied to the high priest in order to obtain Goliath’s sword and holy bread from the temple. His actions resulted in almost all of the priests being slaughtered by King Saul and he took responsibility for their deaths. Later he deceived the King of the Philistines by pretending to be insane. He wrote a Psalm inspired by that experience.
I would love to see everyone delve into these examples a bit more. I don’t think they are conclusive one way or the other, but they are probably more applicable to modern believers than the examples of Rahab and the Hebrew midwives.
4) The lack of New Testament examples of lying “for a greater truth” make me question the whole argument. For that matter, I don’t see any New Testament examples of ever sacrificing one kind of obedience for the sake of some greater obedience.
Rather I read, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” — 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV).
Now, this verse is not specifically addressing lying, but there are enough examples of Christians refusing to lie and God providing “a way of escape” to convince me that this verse applies to the topic at hand.
5) I am not comfortable with the idea of moral contradictions — that wrong will ensue regardless of our choices, requiring us to select the lesser of two evils. It is easy to create such a situation in hypothetical, I have never heard of one in real life.
For example, you can create the hypothetical where a Nazi asks you whether a person with you is a Jew. If you say yes, she will be arrested. If you say no, you will be lying. Bad result either way, right? A classic moral contradiction.
We must stop playing God! We are not all-knowing. To think we can narrow the possible outcomes of our actions to two black-and-white scenarios is the height of arrogance and a refusal to believe that God can make a way even when we don’t see how.
The “hypothetical” example above actually happened to Corrie Ten Boom’s sister, Nollie. She chose to tell the truth, resulting in her own arrest and the arrest of the Jew with her. And yet she insisted that no ill would come to the Jew as a result her obedience. She trust God to make a way. And He did. Five days later the Jew was miraculously rescued.
6) All that being said, I realize that even Corrie Ten Boom was unsure where to land on this question. This is not an easy topic and my remarks are only intended to counterbalance what has been a largely one-sided discussion so far. If everyone was arguing for the opposite position, I would probably have had some counter-balancing things to say in the other direction.
7) If anything I’ve said is unclear or bothers you in any way, please respond and let me know. I’d be happy to clarify or reconsider what I’ve written.
Undoubtedly some of you will point to various examples from the life and ministry of Jesus as proof that lower laws can be sacrificed for higher ones. I am not convinced that this should heavily influence our thinking for several reasons:
First, Jesus wasn’t breaking the law. He was obeying the law in a much fuller way than the Pharisees. At the very least, I don’t see Jesus describing His actions as sacrificing something lesser for something greater. He was fulfilling the law, not overturning it.
Second, Jesus is the Son of God. He is much more qualified to transcend straightforward obedience than we are.
Third, Jesus was initiating a New Covenant, so many of His actions were intended to signal a change in the way God’s Law was understood and obeyed.
Of course, I realize that Jesus is our perfect example of how to live. At the same time, He is our perfect example. He was able to get angry and not sin, hang out with prostitutes and not sin, and transcend the law without breaking the law. All of us will have great difficulty doing any of those things. Which is why we need to exercise great caution.
I think the balance we must achieve is following Jesus while remembering that we are not Jesus. God is creating the image of Christ in us, but that process will be incomplete and imperfect this side of Heaven.
In my experience (I could be wrong), most people who defend their anger based on the example of Jesus are justifying sinful anger. And most people who defend hanging out with the wrong crowd based on the example of Jesus are justifying compromise.
That doesn’t mean righteous anger is impossible or that God doesn’t call us to share His love with prostitutes. It just means that it is easier to get these things wrong than it is to get them right. Humility is in order.
Yes, honestly I don’t care what other people think, unless it’s true. All I want is truth, the bible, pure infallible you can take anywhere truth.
I agree, Grant. Thanks Brett for the insight. I want to apologize to you Grant for sounding like a know-it-all. Will you please forgive me for my arrogance?
For your conscience sake I’ll forgive you. You know, it’s possible to be genuinely wrong, not arrogant, just wrong. But it proves that you aren’t arrogant since you apologized, so I will humbly, with the knowledge that I am wrong sometimes too, accept your apology.
Excellent point. Thank you for your sound Biblical answer. I believe that you answered wisely and in a humble way. God bless, dude, and I am still praying for Anna. Have a great day,
Thanks for both of these comments, @BrettHarris:disqus. I appreciate them very much.
Thanks for these examples Brett! You’ve given me a lot to think about. This is an issue I have often wondered about myself, and I honestly didn’t know how to answer this question satisfactorily. (Thank God for the Discussion board:) I am cautious to express an opinion where I lack experience.
I’ve never faced a situation where I had to choose between telling the truth, or exposing people to harm. I do know that just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean they have a right to an answer, or to the specific information they seek, and that the truth doesn’t have to be harmful. Of course, not answering often implies you have something to hide.
Is answering truthfully but in an evasive, or purposely misleading manner practicing deception, (e.g. in order to protect someone) or is it merely being “cunning as serpents, and harmless as doves?” Have any thoughts anyone?
In my youth group we did a study on lying, very in depth for several weeks. And I never realized how many lies there are.
And to answer your question, Yes deception is lying. Think about it, if you tell your parents that yes you went to the store, but you don’t tell them that you also bought a pack of cigarettes while there. Would you think of that as lying to your parents? And if it is, why would it be any different no matter who the person was?
Hope I helped. 🙂
Great comments, Brett! You’ve brought faulty arguments to light and given perhaps valid arguments some direction. I agree with you that this is a very rare matter. However, let that not be a reason to avoid diligently seeking an answer (not that I believe you are doing so). If there is indeed an acceptable circumstance to lie (I am not yet convinced that there is) and subsequently there is a line to be drawn between unacceptable and acceptable, we must find what that is (Ephesians 5:10), not ignore it for the sake of rarity. But yes, if this line (if it exists) isn’t found, we should opt to tell the truth in whatever circumstances we face. I just wanted to remove a possible interpretation of your statements as saying that we should ignore the issue. Again, thank you for chipping in!
Thank you Brett! You are so right.
It is important for us to just focus on honouring God in every area of our lives, with all our hearts, with a tender conscience and our hearts open to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. God judges hearts, so listen to His Spirit when He tells you something.
If any of us ever find ourselves in the hypothetical situation (on whichever side of the discussion we may currently find ourselves) we just need ultimately to remember to trust our Sovereign God and listen to His Spirit, as He is in control, and will work His will.
Corrie lied in certain situations, and God brought good out of it. Nollie told the truth, and even though it may have brought danger, God brought good out of that too. He was glorified by both of their work for others, and arguably more by Nollie’s implicit trust.
I pretty much agree with you.
If we lie we are showing that we fear the outcome of whatever is going to happen (even if that things may be bad to others as well) instead of trusting in the Lord’s care and provision. Not lying in circumstances such as with the Nazi’s might be a hard thing to grasp, but if we truly do trust God, then we should not fear man.
There is my little thought on this discussion. 🙂
Great points, Brett! I totally agree that we mustn’t play God and mustn’t lie for the wrong reason.
But regarding the Hebrew midwives, I got a little bit confused…. Did you say that the midwives were non-Hebrew? Exodus 1:15 states that the midwives were Hebrew.
Also, Exodus 1:17 states that “the midwives feared God.” Could the verse suggest that the midwives did have faith in God, perhaps?
In addition, Exodus 1:19-20 seem to imply that God dealt well with the midwives because of the midwives’ lie to Pharaoh. After verse 19 states the midwives’ lie to Pharaoh, verse 20 says, “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives” (NKJV) or “So God was kind to the midwives” (NIV). The transitions “Therefore” and “So” are words that indicate cause and effect. So could the midwives’ lie to Pharaoh have caused God to deal well with them? And could God dealing well with the midwives suggest that God was pleased with the midwives?
Hey Kim, thanks for you questions!
First of all, many biblical scholars and commentators believe that the phrase “Hebrew midwives” is better translated “midwives to the Hebrew women.” Not only that, but they bore Egyptian names and it just doesn’t make sense that Pharaoh would entrust such a job to women who were actually Hebrews themselves.
For a more thorough treatment of this question, please see this article by Apologetics Press: https://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1167
Second, I certainly agree that they demonstrated faith in God. Clearly these women, like Rahab, were being drawn to the living God and identifying with the people of God.
Finally, it is clear that God dealt well with the midwives, but it is not necessary to conclude that they were blessed for lying — nor is it even clear that they lied at all. Consider this quote from an article on ChristianCourier.com:
Does that help? Of course, there are probably many who dispute this interpretation of Exodus 1. My purpose is just to demonstrate that Exodus 1 does not require us to endorse lying.
Thanks for your answers and the article links, Brett! They help a lot. I see your point now! I’ve definitely learned something new 😀
Maybe a similar question would be us it ever ok to kill someone. If u saw Hitler before he took power and u knew that if u shot and killed him all the horror of the holocaust would not have happened would u do it? I think that to do the greater good
is the best way. Let’s take the hi road.
The problem with your hypothetical situation, Jesse, is that in that situation you *know* what will happen (or not happen) if you shot and killed Hitler. But in real life, you wouldn’t have that luxury. Our ability to predict the outcome of our actions is limited. That is why I feel that obedience to God (and trusting Him with the outcome) is almost always better than trying to pick the lesser of two evils.
That is an excellent point. Thanx for bringing that up. But if u had the chance to assassinate him while in power?
I’ve been thinking through this issue a lot in the past day or so, so I’ll share some of my thoughts so far. I’ve been racking my head for any instances in scripture where a person’s lying was explicitly approved, but frankly I have come up with none. I thought of instances such as Abraham and Isaac lying about their wives (Genesis 20 and 26, respectively) and Paul as he was under the arrest and trial that led to his death.
In the former examples, the men lied, and it didn’t turn out well. In the latter, Paul didn’t lie. These instances all involved lying (or not lying, even though there was possibility) for the person’s own benefit, which gave me this thought: What’s really the difference between doing something for your own benefit and doing it for someone else’s?
The Bible emphasizes looking out for others’ interests rather than your own (Phil. 2:4), but does that justify sinning in order to do so? For instance, is stealing to help a friend in need more justified than stealing for yourself? I ask these questions because, really, we have no problem looking out for ourselves (Ephesians 5:29); thus the Bible emphasizes looking out for others so much.
If the Bible justifies lying for someone else’s good, I would expect that it would also justify lying for our own good. If Paul didn’t lie to save himself from imprisonment and death, would he have lied to save someone else from such a fate? The same could be asked about Jesus. Again I ask, What’s really the difference? I look forward to the input you all have to this, since I am still hammering out this issue for myself.
I would agree with Brett’s points. Very well said. I, too, believe that any exception/exemption would be very, very rare; in fact, so rare that most of us would never find ourselves in that situation.
The only thing I would add is that, while a rare circumstance for us (as evidenced by the number of times Corrie or Nollie Ten Boom are referenced), this is a far more common scenario in some places in our world today than we might realize. It would be enlightening to hear from some of our brothers and sisters who are risking their lives to spread the gospel amidst terrible persecution, or meeting in secret as part of an “underground church” movement. I’m thinking of video footage that was shown at our church of late night baptisms in a river, where all in attendance were at great risk. I’m also thinking of the harsh treatment inflicted upon the loved ones of those who were arrested or killed for their faith, simply because of association to the condemned.
One thing is sure: we cannot simply dismiss these believers as immature, or assume that it was a lack of faith that led them to protect fellow believers or family members by withholding information that could have been used to harm them (and even advance the cause of evil). As I said, in many places in the world today, this is NOT just a mental exercise!
I appreciate so much of what I’ve read in these comments. I, too, just want to offer a counter-balance to those who may feel they “know” how they would respond in any situation, even one they have never faced, cannot begin to fathom, and have not even taken the time to seriously reflect on (beyond the next posted comment).
Thank you, Trent & Brett, for your moderation and wisdom. Here are a few other resources for further perspective:
Thanks for your participation, Ron. I’ve really appreciated what you’ve brought to the discussion. Here are a few thoughts inspired by your comment:
1) I’m glad you pointed out that this is not just a mental exercise for many Christians around the world. It’s easy to make strong statements on either side of this debate from the safety of our comfortable couches. It is another entirely to actually make your choice in the face of extreme persecution or injustice.
2) We are in no position to judge the decisions of dedicated Christians in these extreme situations. Their choices are between them and God. We cannot assume they made the decisions they did because of distrust in God or spiritual immaturity. Neither can we assume that they did not. It is better not to judge at all. Just pray for them and for persecuted Christians everywhere. Thankfully, God’s grace is great enough to cover these situations whether His children make perfect choices or not.
3) I would like to echo a point made by Christopher Witmer, namely, that saving lives or preventing the suffering of others is not the highest end or greatest good for believers. My fear is that we can unwittingly adopt a definition of “greater good” that is not the same as God’s.
Jesus prayed that His Father would keep His disciples from the evil one (John 17), but that obviously didn’t preclude them from being persecuted, tortured, and executed. His concern was for their spiritual and eternal well-being, not their temporal comfort or security. And that is His concern for us as well.
Hope this helps. Thanks again for engaging with this important question.
Thanks for your comments, Brett. I agree with each point you made. My only suggestion is that it might be better to say, “His ‘primary’ concern was for their spiritual and eternal well-being, ‘rather than’ (or ‘more so than’) their temporal comfort or security.” I believe God would have us be concerned with both a person’s spiritual and eternal well-being, as well as their temporal comfort or security. And when we are able, to respond to both spiritual and temporal needs. I totally agree, however, that the spiritual and eternal well-being of a person is of utmost importance, just take issue with the characterization that God is “not” concerned with their temporal comfort or security.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I believe they have been very helpful to this discussion. God bless you and your ministry.
Absolutely. I did not mean to imply that God doesn’t care about our temporal comfort and security, only that His concern for our spiritual and eternal well-being far outweigh His desire for us to be comfortable. That is why He promises that we will suffer, allows us to suffer (though it grieves Him), and why Christ suffered for us. Ultimately, however, these two concerns are united in Heaven, where both our spiritual and physical well-being are forever guaranteed.
Thanks for the clarification, Brett. I wholeheartedly agree!
I apologise as I do not have time to read all the comments and have merely skimmed over a few (and read Brett’s initial response). However, I would like to share my opinion.
Viewing that lying is an absolute requirement from God, I do not believe it is ever ok.
Some people believe it is ok to lie IF it is to save someone’s life. I do not believe this the case because God never instructs us to save life – yes He instructs us to not take life but never are we required to save life. If we were required to save a life then think about all the Christian medics who who would have to keep on giving CPR even when endangering themselves; it would not make sense.
I also do not believe we can use examples out of the Bible to condone lying in certain scenarios. The sin of man is shown in many areas and God often worked around it to construct His plan. His plan is perfect and without sin but He is a gracious God that works His plan around our sinfulness.
I also believe that in ethics often we try and make the 0.000000001% acceptable and thus endanger ourselves because if that is acceptable then maybe 0.00000001% is acceptable and then eventually we decide maybe 1% or 10% when in reality God says we must not lie and that is an absolute command.
God wants us to obey Him and trust Him, often we don’t understand how He will work things out but He has a plan and we need to do our part by being obedient to Him.
I’m not positive what I think about this, but it made me think about a particular part of “The Hiding Place”. It’s been a while since I read that book, but if my memory is correct, Corrie’s sister was hiding her sons from the Nazis. They were hiding in a special compartment underneath the floor of the room Corrie’s sister’s daughter and the Nazis were in. The soldiers asked the girl if she had any brothers, and she said yes. They asked where they were, and she said they were under the floor. The soldiers found them and arrested them. Later on, whether that day or the next I don’t remember, the boys were miraculously released. Corrie disagreed in that book with her sister’s and daughter’s total honesty. As I said, I may be wrong on some points in the story, but I think that was basically what happened.
I wrote that just because I thought it was relevant to the discussion, and I’m still not sure whether I agree with Corrie or her sister.
In the end, I probably am more inclined to stick with Mark 13:20:
“But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.” (KJV)
I think the most important aspect of this deep discussion is NOT whether or not it is sometimes OKAY to lie, but whether or not all manner of lying is SIN. I think we should focus on proving that point with scripture, because it that is true, then we KNOW all lying isn’t okay. If we know all lying isn’t okay and is sinful, then we won’t have to bother discussing exceptions! If not all lying is sin, (e.g. lying for unselfish reasons) THEN lets discuss possible situations where lying may be actually be a good choice. Lets stop comparing stories about people who are just as capable of error as we are, and seek the truth in God’s word.
^THIS. This is really the best approach. When looking to affirm or deny absolutes, you should do one of two things:
1) Change the statement to the broadest, “absolutest” (I made that up) truth you can, and then look for affirmation/refutation.
2) Test a particular aspect of it by using another known absolute (hence why I brought up the life of Jesus earlier), just as you might use a test value in an algebra equation.
It is because neither of these seem to yield solid, overwhelming evidence for lying that I am not sure it is ever acceptable. But when any questions like this come up, this is almost always the best approach. It’s the science of logic, really.
I love it, Mallory! Great comment!
I automatically tend to lean towards thinking the “which is going to cause more harm?” side of things. If my family was hiding, and I had the option to either tell a lie and save them or to be honest and endanger my family, I would want to do whatever it took to save my family. I would be struggling with which commandment to obey; do not lie or do not murder, but honestly the decision does not seem that hard. I know that all sins are equal in the sight of God, so I am also struggling with replacing one sin for another. This is the thought process I have struggled with for a while, and wanted answers to.
Here is something my father, who has been working in the military and law enforcement for over 25 years, has been constantly reminded my siblings and me lately. Whenever you are threatened, you do not, under any circumstances, owe the person threatening you anything. If you are in a school or on a college campus, and someone runs in with a gun telling you to stand up if you are a Christian, you do not have to do anything. You do not need to listen or respond to that mentally retarded and evil person, unless the Holy Spirit is moving you to stand. It is the same way with someone coming up behind you in an empty Wal-mart aisle and pressing a gun up against your back, whispering to not make a noise and to walk straight out the door to their car. Are you going to listen? I should hope not! Instead, you would wrench away and run in zig-zags down the aisle, screaming as loud as you could the whole way. You have alerted the rest of the people in the store, and it is almost impossible for anyone less than a sniper to critically hit a moving target. You do not owe that person anything, especially your compliant obedience. Man should hold no power whatsoever on our decisions or actions, only God.
But I also believe that this is one of the many reasons that God sent down his Holy Spirit. We tend to over think so many things, and expect ourselves to have answers and solutions for everything. We feel this need to be in control of all present and future situations, and think up these possible examples, like the one above. While most people will probably scoff at the idea, I think the best thing we can do right now is to pray for God’s wisdom in future problems we’re faced with, and train ourselves ever day to be able to hear and discern what the Holy Spirit is instructing us to do. So that when the time comes and we need to make a decision, it won’t be “should I tell the truth or a lie”, but “what is God telling me to do?”
I don’t think this is an issue we can solve and walk away from after discussing it. I don’t think we can make a blanket statement about this issue, although God made it pretty clear in the Ten Commandments that lying is wrong. If we were to say “lying is wrong but…” and excuse it under certain conditions, anyone could benefit from that. For goodness’ sake, the murderer could excuse his behavior and appear right in his own eyes if we think we can add exceptions onto what God has told us. So I after discussing this with my parents and reading some of the comments, I came to my own personal conclusion that some things are not meant to be over thought and picked apart. I think this is one of the many things that we just need to trust God on.
It’s a deep subject, and one I think most of us have an opinion on based on an armchair experience. If we were actually faced with a life/death situation who knows for certain where we would decide, there are so many possible situations.
One thought I had is, in many of the situations given, hiding prisoners in wartime is often imposed etc.. In war, even in the bible etc, suddenly taking a life is treated differently to ‘murder’. In a war, is failing to tell the truth worse than putting a sword through the enemy’s heart? Both a wrong but does the playing field change the game?
I understand the response ‘but lying isn’t trusting God to save you’. But the fact remains that good people get killed every single day, God doesn’t prevent the free acts of the people who take their lives.
You’ve just watched your neighburs who told the enemy the truth, get marched outside, along with the prisoners they’ve now found, the girls and woman are raped, then all randomly shot, next they come to your door, your wife and children and 20 child prisoners are in your basement, you have word the allies might break through tomorrow, how do you answer their question based on what you have just seen etc?
Hey guys ok i know this has nothing to do with the article but i’m really curious how do you write a post for this website? do you have to have an outside blog or what? i guess this is more to you Brett then anyone else 🙂
Somewhere up this page it says:
“Have something else you’d like to discuss? Just submit your question or topic (and any elaboration you’d like to provide) using our Submit Content Page. We look forward to hearing from you.”
Just hit the link to the submit content page.
There’s another way to get to it. On the desktop version of the site, there’s a link at the top right corner of every page (I think).
Or just click below (I know, that’s way too easy):
ok thank you so much Sam i so appreciate it 🙂 thank you may God Bless You. look out for a post from me 🙂
Glad I could help. I’ll be watching for that post!
okeydokes! 🙂 i’ll be working on it.
hahaha i just saw were it says click hear to sumbmit topics or questions 🙂 lol
hey just curious but how old are you?
I would say, but I do prefer to not make that publicly available online. Let’s just say I’m a high school student. Is that OK?
oh yes i do understand fully. yes that’s ok i was just wondering what age group i’m working with hear 🙂
do you mind if i ask you were you go to school?
That’s Awesome so am I.
haha thanks i know that is tooooo easy! 🙂 lol
I’d say even if you were faced with the “Are you hiding Jews?” question you shouldn’t lie, but you shouldn’t tell the whole truth either. Even if you faced death, a noble death would be better than dying with a lie on your record! 🙂
I think that our duty is to follow God no matter what. God’s Law is NEVER case-specific. God’s Truth is Absolute Truth, true no matter what the circumstances. A great example is Nollie Ten Boom. She told the truth, knowing the consequences. Our job is to obey God. He will take care of the rest.
Our family had a discussion on this a couple times. My parents say that if a murderer came into our house and told Dad to tell him if there were other people in the house, then it would be RIGHT to lie and say that no one else was here. If it was for protection. This doesn’t really explain it like we talked, but it will have to do. It is not a “black and white” case. It isn’t that you should NEVER tell the truth or never tell lies. Like Brett said, you have like, a millionth of a chance that it is right to lie. Almost like when Jesus had “righteous” anger. Most of our anger is not righteous. Not every case is the same.
Yes, it is ok to lie. Imagine this: it’s World War Two and you are housing Jews to protect them from concentration camps. A German soldier comes in asking if you are hiding any Jews. What would you say?
Whether you should lie in particular circumstances is up to you to decide. You have agency. You can choose whether it is necessary to or not. It’s a choice that you have to make. That’s really all I can say. It’s a really hard question to ask if it’s ok to lie or not.
I think of it’s a life and death situation, or you are on the the Lords side of a Satanic situation, it is ok to lie. But really,not is your choice. Choose wisely, you will be held accountable, in this life or the next.
I’m late to this conversation and I haven’t read all the comments-but….She didn’t just lie, she deceived people by hiding the Jews in her house and she stole ration cards. I know they were given to her but it really wasn’t the man’s cards to give them to her.
Was it ok to hide people? And nowhere in the memoirs does it say they prayed to God and asked him what they should do. The brother was doing this and it seemed good to them to do these things. Also they had their Bible readings but did they share the gospel with the Jewish people they were hiding? She especially taught kids the Bible and could very well have taught the Jews about Jesus-but the family seemed more impressed with having God’s people then telling them about Jesus.
Also she talks about when she was in the concentration camps and praying with godly catholic women. It bothered me to read it since catholicism is not Christianity.
When I first read her story I was impressed with her and what she did for God and when I reread her story all these things came up and it’s really bothered me. Did she do these things for God if how she did them wasn’t Godly?
It’s not popular to say that what she did was wrong because then you’re a murderer too-and I’m probably worse then that since I wouldn’t hide the Jews. I don’t think that was right. The niece she was mad at for always telling the truth was in the right. Tell the truth, because we need to trust in the Lord and lean not upon our own understanding.
I think this question is deeper than “When is it okay to lie, if ever?” Just Germans saved Jews from the Nazis by lying doesn’t mean that it was right. God used those people who lied and did not lie to protect the Jews. It is never right to lie. Lying is a sin. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t take something bad and make it good, but it also doesn’t mean you can use that argument to defend your lie. You need to trust in God. If you are ever in a sitution where lying would protect someone, you need to do a deep self-examination. Why do you want to lie, when you should be believing that God has everything in control?
It all comes down to Fear of God. If you have a Fear of God, you won’t have to worry about knowing when it’s the right time to lie or be deceptive. When you fear God, you will take the action that upholds the highest moral law in the situation before you. Jesus demonstrated this concept throughout the New Testament, especially when accused of breaking the Sabbath in order to heal. Which is greater, the Sabbath or a man’s healing? Which is greater, honesty or a man’s life?