Fibs, Bluffs, White Lies, Half Truths, Dishonesty: What the Bible Says about Lying
By Betty Miller
There is a plague that is grieving the heart of God because it is preventable and can be stopped. It has spread among all churches and is particularly rampant in society. Even God’s ministers are not immune and many of them are infected with it. What is this evil plague? You may be surprised as it appears rather harmless at first glance. It is now so commonplace that people are deceived into just accepting it as normal, instead of recognizing and resisting it. This epidemic is the practice of lying and dishonesty.
What is it that the Bible says about lying? — A lying tongue is not only something God hates, it is also something that is an abomination to Him.
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19
As the moral climate of our society has been deteriorating, lying has become a major problem. The business world is particularly plagued by this problem — men’s dishonesty with each other, meetings “forgotten”, company theft, promises not kept, contracts broken, etc. Lawyers have increased in numbers over the last decade, mainly because of irresponsibility and broken contracts among men due to lying. A news organization recently did a survey here in America and asked people several questions to determine the percentage of people who lied or were dishonest about things. Some of the questions were:
- Do you cheat on your Income Tax Return?
- Do you compliment people when you really don’t mean it?
- Do you tell your spouse to tell callers you are not at home when you are there?
- Do you tell “little white lies” if it will keep you out of trouble?
- Do you tell creditors that “the check is in the mail” when you have not yet mailed it?
- Do you exaggerate in repeating things you have heard?
The results of this survey determined that nearly 80% of Americans are not truthful under certain circumstances.*(Documented Survey Stats Below) This is understandable when we look at the morals of our society but what about Christians? Have they fallen into the habit of lying also? Also, what constitutes a lie according to the Bible? Anything that is not the truth is a lie and God’s Word the Bible tells us what is truth. The Bible is the standard or measuring rod we must use in determining truth. Sadly, Christians are also succumbing to this epidemic of lying. Lying to each other has now become so commonplace, Christians too, have become liars.
The Father of Lies
Have you been lied to lately? Was it another Christian that lied to you? A minister perhaps? Each of us have had our trust in people undermined, or in some cases even destroyed because of lies. We would all agree that lying is an ugly evil. The Bible tells us that lying began with the devil and that he is the father of lies.
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. John 8:43-47
The Bible is filled with admonitions against being dishonest and lying. One of the Ten Commandments states, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).
Before we point our finger at another for being a liar that we feel God needs to deal with, let us examine our own lives to see if we are infected with the same disease. What kind of witness are we to those around us? Are we deceived and have we become liars ourselves? Let us first give a definition as to what a lie is according to Webster’s dictionary:
- To make a statement that one knows is false, especially with the intent to deceive.
- To give a false impression or action or false statement, especially with the intent to deceive.
- To make a false statement in order to evade the truth.
- The invention of a false story or excuse in order to deceive.
Choose Ye This Day Whom You Will Serve
Perhaps for a Christian, a Biblical definition of lying could be summed up in this statement: Any time our word does not agree with God’s Word.
In Numbers 23:19 the Bible says, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” When we do not keep our word we are guilty of lying. Over the last year I have lost track of the number of times Christians have failed to keep their word to me. I am not angry or resentful or bitter over this, as the Lord has worked those attitudes out of my life. I have learned to take every offense to Him in prayer and He then removes any personal ill I might have and He gives me a forgiving and gracious attitude toward others. However, since I began to notice how many of God’s people were not keeping their word, I received a prayer burden of intercession for this evil to be removed from God’s people.
I first began praying about my own life and asked God to expose any areas where I might be guilty of this sin. I have tried to obey Romans 12:17-21 which says, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Most of the time I would just forgive these lying offences and would just pray for them and try to “live peaceably with all men.” However, in prayer, the Lord spoke to my heart that I must go one step further and “speak the truth in love” to my brothers and sisters if I truly loved them.
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15-16
If we, as the body of Christ, are to mature and grow up we must conform to the truth which is Jesus. The devil is behind every lie and as Christians we are admonished not to lie to one another. Colossians 3:9-10 says, “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.”
Two Roots of Dishonesty
The two main reasons we lie are usually rooted in either fear or pride. Fear is the first reason. We are afraid of the consequences if we tell the truth. Yielding to fear shows a lack of trust in God to take care of the situation. If we yield to God and do it His way He will usually give us favor with those that we fear. The other reason is pride. We are prideful and concerned about what men will think of us (desiring man’s approval instead of God’s approval.)
Jesus always kept His Word. God still keeps His Word and is faithful to keep every promise He makes in the Bible. That is why He is reliable and we can trust Him. We are called to be like Him. The Bible says that out of a man’s mouth proceeds what is in His heart. If we tell lies or fib then it means that we need a heart cleansing.
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man… Matthew 15:18-20a
We need to ask God to cleanse our hearts and begin reading and studying the Bible so that His Word resides in our hearts. As we keep His Word and water it with prayer it will produce good fruit in our lives. Lying is not only speaking an untruth; another form of lying is not keeping our word to others. Luke 8:15 says, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
Little “White Lies”
Let us look at some specific ways the devil gets us to lie. We will expose some of his devices. These sorts of lies are being practiced by many Christians. Now remember, we are guilty of lying when we do not keep our word. Even if these sorts of lies seem harmless and don’t appear to really hurt anyone else, they are harmful to our own souls. The more we practice telling untruths of any kind, the duller our conscience becomes.
- “I will call you back tomorrow.” (This excuse is often used with a deliberate intent to deceive. The person does not call back at the appointed time and will call back at a much later date with excuses of why they were unable to call which usually goes something like: “I just was so busy, I meant to call , but did not get around to it.” We all have been guilty of this, but we need to realize when we say we will do something we need to keep our word. We do understand there are legitimate reasons that make it impossible at times to keep our word. This is not the case we are referring to here. It would be better to not make this promise or to say, “I will try to call you back tomorrow.”)
- “I will be happy to do that for you.” (Whatever promise was made, it was not kept and their word about the matter causes them not to be trusted. The Holy Spirit is trying to purge this lack from His people and is using a group of men known as “Promise Keepers” to help restore trustworthiness back in the heads of families by stressing that they need to keep their promises.)
We could list numerous examples but these two cover a lot of territory; any time we say the words “I will” we need to be responsible to do it. We all, on occasion, fail to do the things we have good intentions of doing or we are hindered in some way and can’t do them. However, if we are unable to keep an appointment we should be thoughtful enough to call and cancel, or tell of our delayed arrival. We are living in an age when there are so many uncaring attitudes expressed. As Christians, we can be good witnesses by being different.
One of the biggest faults of many Christians, and our society as well, is that we tend to over-commit and then we are unable to keep our word. It is disheartening to see this shift prevalent in businesses. They commit to the jobs, then, are not able to produce them on time and thus the standard for business practices is shifting to not expecting them on time. Business people must now factor in lengthy time delays just to compensate for people’s lack of business ethics.
People that tend to over-commit sometimes have a pride problem and are people pleasers. They want people to like them so they offer to do things for them, and because they are unable to keep their promises to all they end up not being able to keep their word; thus they are dishonest. In business it is usually greed that tends to cause them to over-commit. They want more business and more money, even when they must work from a backlog that was promised timely.
As Christians we need to ask the Lord to forgive us if we are guilty of lying or deceit. It is a very serious matter with God when we lie. (We can read of the incident of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts Chapter 5 in the Bible. They both fell dead when they lied to the Holy Spirit.)
The Bible also lists this sin of lying as one that can lead us to hell along with some other grievous ones. Revelation 21:7-8 says, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
We can be overcomers through the power of the Holy Spirit as we seek to be like Jesus. We not only do not want to lie, but we also want to keep our word so that people know we are honest and trustworthy. As Christians, we want to represent our Father well in this life and be honest and free from fabrication and fibbing.
* Survey Stats are taken from several news agency surveys.
1. The MSNBC news article below being one of them and also the news broadcast at the time on this subject. In the news broadcast they commented that almost 80% had lied. The news article was posted on MSNBC at this link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13819740/ns/us_news-life/.
Here is one of the statements made in that article, as this one said 65% of those questioned admitted to lying:
— “Lies, all of them — but we don’t really like calling them that. In a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll, over half of respondents said lying was never justified. Yet in the same poll, up to two-thirds said it was OK to lie in certain situations, like protecting someone’s feelings.”
— “Nearly two-thirds of Americans agree. In the AP-Ipsos poll, 65 percent of those questioned said it was sometimes OK to lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, even though 52 percent said lying, overall, was never justified.”
— “In a study in the late ’90s, DePaulo asked 77 college students and later, 70 people in the Charlottesville, Va. community to track every lie, however small, in a journal for a week. Of the 77 students, only one reported having told no lie. Of the other 70 people, six made that claim.”
The percentages above from the same article are even greater than 80%; one is 99% and the other is 88%, while the first one is 65%. This makes the average of 84% in these polls and studies when they are all combined.
2. There is also another article on Science Daily that said 60% of the people lied in a study. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020611070813.htm
The study, published in the journal’s June issue, found that 60 percent of people lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two to three lies. “People tell a considerable number of lies in everyday conversation. It was a very surprising result. We didn’t expect lying to be such a common part of daily life,” Feldman said.
3. There was also an article on the (PRWEB) from February 13, 2000 were 93% of the people admitted to lying at work. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2000/2/prweb12025.htm
4. There was also another article from Fox News on lying and they found 60% of the people had lied in a psychology study. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,195546,00.html
The study, published in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, found that 60 percent of people had lied at least once during the 10-minute conversation, saying an average of 2.92 inaccurate things.
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