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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

What Is Lying? Are "Little White Lies" Wrong?

Lying is a deliberate attempt to deceive by use of any form of untruth. By words, gestures, circumstances, or silence an attempt may be made to convince another that there is a reality different from what we know to be true.

The book of James tells us, "Let your 'Yes,' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No,' lest you fall into judgment" (James 5:12). Our word should be our bond. A person who feigns illness to avoid work is lying. A person who has his secretary say he is out, when he is in, is lying and forcing her to lie too. A person who fails to declare his income accurately on his tax return is lying. A person who falsifies his achievements or age is lying. A person who covers up or exaggerates facts is lying. A person who misrepresents merchandise is lying. A person who bears false witness against another breaks the ninth commandment by lying, and one who does so in court is guilty of the crime of perjury.

A woman came to evangelist Billy Sunday on one occasion and asked, "Reverend Sunday, how can I stop exaggerating?" He looked at her and said, "Call it lying." It is the same way with the "little white lies." There is no such thing as "a little white lie." Lies are lies.

Yet lying is a part of society. We train our children to lie. For example, suppose you go to someone's house for dinner, and they give you a delicious meal. If you say, "That was delicious," you have told the truth and everything is fine. But what if you go to someone's house and they serve you something that is absolutely terrible, and you say, "That was the most delicious meal I have ever had"? You are lying. You may have done it for a good reason--a white lie--but you still lied. Honestly praise something, or be silent; but do not lie! The Bible tells us that by "speaking the truth in love, (we) may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

People take little children to visit a relative and, by telling them to say certain things that they do not mean, teach them to lie. People go to church and sing hymns to God they do not mean. We sing a song called "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." One stanza reads, "let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also." This song was written by a man facing excommunication and possible death for his faith. Yet how many communicants in the church he founded--or in any other--are willing to make such a commitment? So we sing lies to God.

We must begin to be truthful to God and to one another. There is no way that the Holy Spirit can operate in someone's life if there is a lack of truth. The Spirit of God is the spirit of truth. Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). It is a dreadful condemnation on us as evangelicals that the term evangelistically speaking means the exaggeration of attendance figures. We only honor God when we exhibit truth and integrity in everything we do.

Excerpt taken from Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions, Copyright 1984 by Pat Robertson. 

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