Does the Bible teach that it is ok to lie?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Van, Mar 14, 2011.

  1. Van

    Van
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    Does the Bible in some passages tolerate and condone lying?

    In Second Corinthians 12:16, Paul says, “Being crafty, I caught you with guile.”

    So some assert Paul was teaching that it is ok to lie. But if you read the passage, the sentence is a rhetorical reference to an apparent charge by skeptics. Paul seems to be answering a charge against him that he had enriched himself with the money collected for the saints. So contrary to the assertion, Paul is teaching that skeptics slander teachers of the gospel, and not that it is ok to lie.

    In Romans 3:7, Paul says, “For if the truth of God hath abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

    Contrary to the assertion that Paul is advocating lying to make God look good, the verse actually is part of Paul’s argument concerning the great benefit of being Jewish. The faithfulness of God (he keeps his word concerning promises) is not nullified by the unbelief of some Jews. In fact, unbelief in truth is tantamount to lying to oneself, and even if every man be found a liar, God is still true to his word, righteous and just. Further, God’s righteousness is placed in a good light (glorified!) by our unrighteousness.

    It is at this point in Paul’s discussion, that Paul addresses another possible charge by skeptics. Paul phrases the charge rhetorically in our verse (Rom. 3:7) that if our lies make God look good, why does God hold our lies against us. He, of course, answers the rhetorical question by saying those that say, “Let us do evil that good may come” deserve condemnation.

    Again, and contrary to the premise that the bible appears to advocate lying, Paul is clearly teaching that it is wrong to justify lying by saying something good will come from it.

    Unlike the first two passages, in Joshua 2:1-6 the Bible provides a mixed message in the account of Rahab. She had faith in God and therefore in the victory of God’s people, so she betrayed the people of Jericho and saved the lives of her family. She lied. Shakespeare said, “Oh what tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” and here we have a great example. The Bible commends her faith in God, and it is not clear that her lying was not justified. In Hebrews 11:31, her faith is praised, and in James 2:25 her deeds are praised as proof of her real faith. But is doing evil, because we decide as individuals it is consistent with God’s will, and will save the lives of our love ones, justified? The answer must be no.

    So lets back up and look at the problem again. During this time, tribes, groups, or nations built or occupied walled urban areas for protection from other tribes, groups or nations. The people under Joshua’s command were going to sack Jericho. The king of Jericho was marshalling forces to defend Jericho. So the situation concerned combat orchestrated and directed by the leadership (government) of the opposing groups.
    The bible teaches that some individual actions such as killing other humans for self-interest are wrong, but similar actions in accordance with leadership (government) are allowed. Hence the government does not carry the sword for nothing.

    So if Rahab was acting as an agent of Joshua’s leadership, the message concerning lying becomes complicated but not necessarily inconsistent.

    While it is accepted by most scholars that Rahab was a harlot, a prostitute; I think this view is wrong. I think Rahab was the daughter of a family whose business was inn keeping. Thus harlot is used figuratively as one exhibiting infidelity to the culture of Jericho. This would explain how men, entering the city would meet up with Rahab in her house, an inn. It would explain (another guest observed the spies) how the message got to the King that the spies had entered Rahab’s house. And, would set the circumstances that afford the view that the spies might have known that this inn was run by those that had faith in Yahweh. Viewed in this light, and I know it is an argument from near silence, Rahab’s actions are consistent with biblical mandate.

    One other point about Rahab, before moving on to the next passage concerning lying, is that she is listed in Matthew 1:5 as the wife of Salom, great great grandfather of King David! This to me supports the innkeeper view and argues against the literal harlot view. But either way, if Rahab was acting as an agent of Joshua’s leadership, her action to provide misinformation is consistent with the duties of soldiers. Therefore, if Rahab was acting solely out of self interest her lying is to be condemned, but to the extent her lying was part of her actions as an agent/soldier because of her faith in God and allegiance to His chosen people, her lying may be justified.

    In Exodus 1:18-20 we have the story of midwifes that lied to the king (Pharaoh?) to avoid killing the innocent boy babies of the Hebrew women. Again, the midwifes seem to be acting at least in part, as agents for the Hebrew people and consistent with their understanding that God teaches that killing innocents is wrong, while also in part out of self interest (avoiding punishment and enabling further action as agents of the Hebrews.)
    So again we have the picture of people lying after they have put their own lives at risk to save the lives of some of the chosen people. And again it seems to the extent they were acting in self interest, their lies are to be condemned and to the extent they were acting at the direction of the leadership of the chosen people and consistent with their understanding of God’s will, their lying may be justified.

    The bible many times contains passages where God helps those He chooses to help and hinders those He chooses to hinder. And when he hinders, he sometimes does not allow the target of his action to see the truth, He hardens his heart and causes him to take actions that result in benefit of God’s purpose. So while it is true God cannot lie concerning his promises, it is also true God is consistent with his purpose, which may include providing misinformation to those of His choosing.

    In Second Thessalonians 2:11, Paul seems to say God sends a “deluding influence” to those who reject God and choose instead the path of wickedness. I think all this is saying is sin has consequences. We can be blinded by pride; comforted by the apparent logic of rationalization, and think falsehood is truth. Since God created our capacity to choose to reject God, it follows that God’s sovereignty would cause Paul to observe that God is responsible for the deluding influence inherent as a consequence of proceeding down the path of wickedness. God sometimes clouded the minds of some individuals to cause them to take actions in order to further God’s purpose, but I reject the premise that God clouds beforehand the minds of everyone that rejects God to the degree that they cannot choose God. We make the choice and suffer the consequences both in the short term and the long term.

    In 2 Kings 8:10 God’s prophet Elisha tells Hazael to tell the king, you shall surely recover and at the same time tells Hazael that the king will die. The king would have recovered if Hazael had not killed him the next day. Elisha knew about the future murder of the king by Hazael, and knew of the terrible things Hazael would do, but why did he tell Hazael to mislead the king? Perhaps because he knew Hazael would tell the king he would recover so the king would not take action to establish a different replacement. I do not know. In any event, it can be argued that Elisha did not authorize a lie to the king simply by pointing out that the implication was that the king would surely recover from the sickness, rather than from the evil of Hazael.

    In Jeremiah 20:7, Jeremiah seems to be complaining that God deceived him. However, the word translated deceived is better translated enticed or persuaded. In context this translation makes far better sense, for why would Jeremiah say he cannot endure not speaking in the Lord’s name, if the Lord is a deceiver? What this verse is really all about is Jeremiah complaining that his service as a prophet has costs in ridicule, insult and reproach. ‘O Lord, you enticed or persuaded me and overpowered me and prevailed, so I am ridiculed all day long’ is an apt paraphrase.

    In summary, individual lying because of self interest is not in accordance with the will of God as taught in the bible, but providing misinformation as an agent of a governing body acting in accordance with the will of God seems to be allowed. Lying should not be part of our everyday lives; it should be avoided even if our interests are put at risk. Lying is the enabling technology of evil. Final point, do not seek situations where it is necessary to lie to save the lives of your loved ones, for in the cases above, the dilemma was not sought but came to those who may have lied. In other words, even if their lying was wrong, perhaps God will not judge them as harshly because they did not create the situation. God knows, I do not.

    Speaking about individual behavior, the Bible says lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. God hates all liars. Each Christian should do his or her best to never lie.
     
  2. Alcott

    Alcott
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    My class has been studying the patriarchs recently, and yesterday we came to the part where Jacob steals Esau's blessing by deception, at his mom's urging and planning, including outright lying. He says he is Esau. In English, that seems to just come up as a pun when God later says to him after be began his flight, "You will be given the ground on which you lie" (Genesis 28:13).
     
  3. Ron Wood

    Ron Wood
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    The Bible doesn't teach that it is OK to lie it teaches that God forgives lies. The Gospel isn't about doing things but about forgiveness for doing things.
     
  4. SBCPreacher

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    In some instances I believe that it is appropriate to lie. The examples already given are good examples. Here a couple of others.

    It is good for a captured soldier to lie to the enemy about the location of his fellow troops or their plans.

    If someone breaks into your home with the intent to do bodily harm, it is good to lie to them about your sleeping children who are in their rooms.

    If your are planning to give someone a surprise party and they ask if there's a party planned for them, don't tell them, "sure, we're planning to throw you a surprise party next Tuesday!"

    If your 4 year old daughter comes out of her room after she picked out her own clothes (which don't match at all) and has done her "makeup," and she happens to look like a circus clown, don't tell her she looks like a circus clown. Tell her clothes and makeup are beautiful!

    Now, if you're lying for selfish gain, it's wrong. If you're lying to get out of the trouble you deserve, it's wrong. If you're lying with evil intent, it's wrong.
     
  5. Van

    Van
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    Telling the truth is more important than making others feel good. Anyone can rationalize that this or that deception is justified by the ends. But I believe the Bible teaches it is never right to do wrong in order to accomplish something right. Two wrongs do not make a right.

    Again, based on my study, it appears when folks lied in the Bible because they were acting under the cover of governmental authority, as opposed to personal choice, and the government was acting (apparently) in the will of God, the lie was condoned.

    This issue not whether we will be forgiven, all our sins will be forgiven, the issue is us growing more Christ-like, which means clinging to the Truth, no matter the cost.

    May God Bless
     

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