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Christians and lying

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Christians and lying

Postby Si » Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:38 pm

Hello everyone, this is my first post on these boards. I enjoy listening to The Narrow Path while at work; I listen to mp3's, so I am usually about a week behind the current day's episode. I apologize if this issue has been addressed further on the air in the last week.

I want to talk about the ethics of a Christian lying. Steve had some thought provoking calls on the issue. One possible scenario where it was thought it might be okay for a Christian to lie is if the lie were to protect innocent people. For example, if someone in WW2 were hiding Jews in their basement, and they lied to the Nazis who were searching for them, to save their lives. I think this may be an extreme example; there are other more common, everyday things.

What kept coming to my mind was, "white lies" told to be diplomatic and to not hurt people's feelings. For example, if someone invites me over to dinner at their house, and the food is bad, I am certainly not going to say so. I will tell them it was delicious. I couldn't imagine telling a gracious host that the food that was prepared for me tasted bad. The point of the lie is not to deceive, but to show thanks and respect for a gracious host. The good of the situation is not whether the food tasted good, it is that a person was caring and thoughtful to cook for you, and that love should be returned. Another example is, if someone gave me a Christmas present, and it looked like something I had no interest in whatsoever. I would thank the person and tell them it is a great gift. Again, the point is not to be a gift critic, but to be gracious that someone was thoughtful enough to buy you a present.

Telling someone their food is delicious or that their gift is wonderful is not in any way an attempt to deceive, mislead, or harm anyone. In Matthew 12, Jesus went against the letter of the law to heal on the Sabbath. And while these white lies may technically be lies, isn't it better to acknowledge and respect gracious acts of hospitality with kindness in return? How Christian would it be, if at the family Christmas dinner, you told your Mother that her present was junk and the ham was dry? Maybe that's the truth, but I can't imagine ever speaking it. The right thing would be to be to praise both, because the important thing is thankfulness and fellowship, not the quality of the material things.

Maybe I am way off here, and I'm willing to be corrected. I'd like to see what other Christians think!
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Re: Christians and lying

Postby steve » Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:54 pm

...or when your wife asks, "Do these pants make me look fat?" ;-)
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Re: Christians and lying

Postby Si » Tue Mar 14, 2017 10:07 pm

steve wrote:...or when your wife asks, "Do these pants make me look fat?" ;-)


That's certainly a good example. The purpose is to reassure someone who is in a moment of insecurity, not to be a waistline critic.

is my citation of Matthew 12 applicable? It seems to me that being brutally honest in these diplomatic situations in order to legalistically avoid lying, is like letting the sheep die in the pit on the Sabbath in order to legalistically avoid breaking it.

Thanks for the reply Steve, and thanks for your ministry.
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Re: Christians and lying

Postby SteveF » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:24 am

I actually just finished reading Eric Metaxas' biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer not only told a lie, he lived one. He was part of a government agency that was secretly seeking to overthrow Hitler while they were all feigning allegiance to Him. Bonhoeffer even had to appear as a sellout to many Christians, seeming to compromise positions he had previously held.

Trying to speak for Bonhoeffer, i think he would paint your scenarios as seeking the higher truth. He would see simply telling the factual truth in any scenario as an easy to follow legalism. What he came to think was there are times when a deeper/greater truth is needed to be discerned from God Himself. In this respect, I think Bonhoeffer and you hold a similar view.
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Re: Christians and lying

Postby Homer » Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:46 am

Being of the hierarchical persuasion I would say that lying is wrong but it is a bit lower on the scale of commandments than love which is at the very top. As in the case of hiding Jews from the Nazis there is a conflict between the command to be truthful and the command to love. Both can not be done simultaneously so the higher command rules. After all, Rahab is in the "hall of fame" of the saints in Hebrews 11. And her deception was a heroic act of faith, she put her life at risk for the sake of strangers:

James 2:24-25 (NASB)

24. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
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Re: Christians and lying

Postby Timios » Thu Mar 16, 2017 10:44 pm

There seems to be a way of lying (deceiving) while what you say is strictly true. Is it a lesser sin to do so?

For example, Corrie Ten Boom was hiding Jews during WW2. When the Nazis entered her house and asked, "Where are you hiding the Jews?" She replied, "Under the table." They thought she was just being a smart Alec, and so they let her alone. But actually, she had hidden the Jews under the table, but in the cellar that was under the table.

You might want to think twice before lying just in order to make someone feel good. Revelation says, "All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
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Re: Christians and lying

Postby TK » Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:42 am

You might want to think twice before lying just in order to make someone feel good. Revelation says, "All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."


Do you really think white lies to preserve feelings or relationships is the type of lie contemplated in this verse? A person who is always grossly blunt regardless of others' feelings is a jerk. Christians should not be jerks.

To me, the type of lying I believe the above verse is concerned with are those lies intended to further only my interest, or the interest of an evil cause.

In this context, every untruth would not be considered a "lie."
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Re: Christians and lying

Postby Timios » Sat Mar 18, 2017 6:16 pm

Did Jesus ever tell a lie in order not to hurt someone's feelings? It seems to me that He always told it like it is.
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Re: Christians and lying

Postby Si » Sat Mar 18, 2017 7:56 pm

Timios wrote:Did Jesus ever tell a lie in order not to hurt someone's feelings? It seems to me that He always told it like it is.


Events documented in the Bible are typically hard truths, told to sinners who needed to be made aware of their sin. We're not given much in the way of 1st century Judaean hospitality customs.

What if two situations are in conflict? In an example I gave, one's own Mother invites them over for Christmas dinner, and proceeds to cook a dry ham and gives a bad present, say, an ugly Christmas sweater she knitted herself. In such a situation, is it more important to honor your Mother, and honor her hospitality by telling a white lie and saying the food and present were good? Or are you compelled by your understanding of what constitutes proper truthfulness to tell your own Mother that her food tasted bad and her present was ugly?

In the example I gave of Matthew 12, If someone broke the Sabbath to rescue a sheep out of a ditch, are they breakers of the law, no question about it? "Then He said to them, 'What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.'" It seems clear to me that Jesus is preaching the breaking of the Sabbath for a higher good. By the understanding of the old covenant, a man could be stoned for collecting sticks. That's clearly not the case any more.

Examples of lying in Scripture tend to revolve around issues such as bearing false witness and fraud; that is, serious crimes that result in injury to others. In reference to the scripture you gave in Revelation 21: http://biblehub.com/greek/5571.htm . It is clear that fraud and deception of a much higher magnitude is in question. If the purpose of saying the food is good and the present is nice is not to hurt but to love, it seems we aren't even talking about the same issue.
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Re: Christians and lying

Postby TK » Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:55 pm

Well stated Si. I agree.
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