No Trash, Just Truth! - Proverbs 9:10 Ministries

Episode 93 - Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

June 28, 2021
No Trash, Just Truth! - Proverbs 9:10 Ministries
Episode 93 - Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
Show Notes Transcript

Most Christians would say that lying is pretty black and white. It's a sin to do it, period. But if it's so black and white why does just about every Christian struggle with on a fairly regular basis? Is it ever okay to lie? Is there ever a situation where it's not a sin? Is lying to yourself, others, and God all the same and all equally serious? Is it okay to lie about something inconsequential to save someone's feelings? Why do we lie to begin with? 

In this episode, we delve into all this and more!!

Episode 93 – Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

       Welcome back! Chris, today we are going to talk about a subject that most Christians would consider is pretty black and white, and that is lying.

       Yeah,  most probably would say its black and white. If you are a Christian, you don’t lie; yet everyone of us has been guilty of lying or fudging the truth. And we have all been in situations where we fibbed about something to save someone’s feelings. So, if its so black and white, why does everyone struggle with it?

       Maybe because while it may be black and white in theory, in reality, it isn’t so cut and dry. And since that’s the case, and since lying is something everyone deals with, probably pretty often, we decided we needed to delve deeply into it.

       Well, let’s start by taking a look at what the world around us has to say about lying. I’m going to quote an article from Psychology Today that says, “We tell lies all the time. A 2002 study performed by psychologist Robert Feldman at the University of Massachusetts found that 60 percent of people lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation, telling an average of two to three lies.

The tendency to lie is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history, as other primates have been observed to cheat and deceive. Human children pick up this crafty behavior between the ages of two and five, and it is seen by some psychologists as a milestone of cognitive growth.”[1]

       So lying, according to this PhD psychologist, is milestone in cognitive growth? Let’s quote a different article on lying, still psychology today, but written by a different PhD. He says, “lies are like wishes—often, what is said are things people wish were true.”[2] So if you lie, Chris, and tell me the sweater I bought you is beautiful when, in fact, you think it’s hideous, what you are saying is that you wish it were beautiful. 

And here’s another view again from Psychology Today, but from yet another PhD and expert on lying. She says, “Leonard Saxe, Ph.D., a polygraph expert and professor of psychology at Brandeis University, says, "Lying has long been a part of everyday life. We couldn't get through the day without being deceptive." Yet until recently lying was almost entirely ignored by psychologists, leaving serious discussion of the topic in the hands of ethicists and theologians.”[3]

       And gosh, who wants to leave serious issues in the hands of theologians or ethicists? Wouldn’t we all feel better letting psychologists define, interpret, and advise on all things?

       Especially seeing how they all have such a consistent view! 

Okay, a few more of those psychologists’ views on lying. Here are some expansions on the opinions of a couple of the previously quoted psychologists. One says, “While most people are generally honest, even those who subscribe to honesty engage in deception sometimes. Studies show that the average person lies several times a day. Some of those lies are big (“I’ve never cheated on you!”) but more often, they are little white lies (“That dress looks fine”) deployed to avoid uncomfortable situations or spare someone's feelings.” Chris, it is hard to categorize someone as generally honest who lies several times a day![4]

Yeah, I agree. Another one of the previous psychologists says that, “While everyone lies a little, it appears that only a small percentage of people do most of the lying. There’s evidence that prolific liars share the personality trait of Machiavellianism: They are manipulative and exploitative of others; the trait is closely related to psychopathy.”[5] So again, the “experts” who are lamenting that theologians and ethicists are taking on lying, when they say psychologists should be the one to do it, are inconsistent in their views.

Let’s finish up with the world view, by looking at some other “facts” about lying from the so-called experts. First, there is a difference of opinion on how to know if someone is lying. My husband was a police officer for 33 years. In his training and experience there were telltale body language signs that someone was lying. And the police and FBI and other agencies have used these signs for many, many years. Just some of the signs are the direction your eyes shift when you are asked a question, if you move your foot a certain way before you answer, if you offer more information than required by the question, or if you rub the back of your neck while answering.

Recognizing these telltale signs has been a strategy for law enforcement for many years, but now while some psychologists say these signs are still reliable, others say they aren’t. They contend that some people are so good at lying, they don’t show any unusual signs, while others who may not be lying are just the nervous type and may display some of these signs even when being completely honest.

Here’s a couple of opinions on why people lie and the classification of lies. One psychologist says, “A large body of research identifies three major reasons why people lie: to get something they want, to protect or promote themselves; and to harm others. Avoiding punishment may be the main motivation for both children and adults.”[6]  Another says there are four types of liars, “Deceitful liars, those who lie to others about facts; Duplicitous liars: those who lie to others about their values, Delusional liars: those who lie to themselves about facts, and Demoralized liars: those who lie to themselves about values.[7]

We will do a couple more. An article in Time Magazine said this, “Researchers say there is a lot we get wrong about deception, truth-telling and trust—and that, if mastered, lying the right way can actually help build connections, trust and businesses. “I believe that we should be teaching our kids, students and employees when and how to lie,” says Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, who studies deception and trust.  They go on to say, “Prosocial” lies—fibs intended to benefit others—can actually build trust between people, according to research. Just remember: Lies are most beneficial when they’re not selfish.”[8]

And we will wrap it up with a psychologist that kind of backs that professor from the Wharton School’s theory up. She says, “Lies that knowingly inflict harm are widely regarded as immoral. But sometimes lying is done for good purposes. People may lie to protect others—so-called altruistic lies, such as when a doctor tells a family that their father died a peaceful death when he in fact did not. Some lies are told to help people achieve their goals, such as when a spouse tells a dieting partner that there are no sweets in the house. Many ethicists believe that lies that committed to benefit others should be seen as justified, and that a certain amount of deception may be necessary for maintaining a healthy, functioning society.”[9]

So that’s a lot of information, and a good bit of it wasn’t even consistent. So what is the truth about lying? Is there ever a time where lying is a better alternative to the truth? Do people who lie fall into neat categories like we described? Is lying just part of our genetic make-up? Rose, we have a lot of work to do, so let’s start by shedding some Biblical Truth on all of this. 

First, let’s define why lying is a sin. Jesus calls Himself truth in John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the manifestation of Truth. Because Jesus is truth itself, anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus must follow by walking in truth. Like all sin, lying is a rebellion against God because we are writing our own rules. We are playing God in our life by deciding what we will and won’t do.

Psalm 12:2 – 6 reinforces this, “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?” “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord;
     “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
 The words of the Lord are pure words,
     like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
     purified seven times.

So, Chris, that does seem pretty black and white. But what about those instances where telling a harmless, little white lie will save someone’s feelings? What about times lying is a safety issue? So we will get to these answers, but let’s start by breaking down lying. Now lying is lying, but there are 3 different ways people can lie. We can lie to God, to ourselves, and to others. Are all these lies equal? 

You would think we would start by going to the 10 commandments on this, but we aren’t, at least not yet because the commandment about lying is not actually worded the way many think. But more on that shortly. Let’s start with the easiest one and that is lying to God. What does the Bible say about lying to God and is it ever okay?

Well, first, obviously, it is impossible to lie to God, and we should point out that every sin is ultimately against God, so you can argue that any kind of lie is lying to God. But we are talking about directly lying to God. What does that mean and is it a more serious sin to lie to God than to ourselves or others? 

Like you said, all sin is ultimately against God, and all sin is equally damning however, there are definitely sins that are more serious due to their nature and the consequences. While all sin is against God, any sin that is directed at God is definitely the most serious of all offenses. As Gal 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.”

And lying to God would be considered mocking Him. So how does one lie to God? There’s a perfect example in Acts chapter 5. Pretty familiar story. Early on in the church, people were selling off property and belongings and bringing the money to the Apostles to put into the treasury. A couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sell a field. Ananias brings the money to Peter. Act 5:1 – 5 says, “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last.”

Ananias’ sin was not that he kept some of the money from selling the field for himself. His sin was that he said he was dedicating all the money he got from the field to the church, to God, when in fact, he wasn’t. As Peter said, he lied to God. Later his wife comes in and Peter asks her if they had indeed donated all the money they received for the field. She could have told the truth, but she, too, lied and said they did. Peter says in Acts 5:9 -10, “But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.” So, like we said, obviously, you can’t lie to God. But you can lie about the things of God to make yourself look good before others. Ananias and Sapphira wanted others to think they were selfless and gave all the money they received for the field to God. This would be comparable to your pastor preaching about the sin of adultery when he is actually having an affair.

Proverbs 12:22 spells this out, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” This proverb isn’t saying that people won’t lie. He is saying how seriously God takes lying – especially lying that is done to mock Him. Like telling people you are trusting in the sovereignty of God, but you daily check your horoscope to see what the day will hold, or saying that as a Christian, you proudly tithe weekly, when you actually don’t. Or, Chris, to make it personal, you and I are always telling people to read and study their Bible because that’s how you gain understanding of God, but we never bothered reading and studying the Bible ourselves, we would be guilty of lying to God. All of these examples are lies that mock God and are equivalent to lying to God. And while it is a forgivable sin – most of us won’t drop dead on the spot when we do it - it is an extremely serious sin that shows your heart, and if it persists, it should make you wonder if you are truly a Christian.

Okay, how about lying to yourself. Is this a victimless lie? How does one even lie to themselves? Well Bible reasons.com shows ways people deceive themselves. They say, “There are many ways you can deceive yourself and believe what you’re doing is right. Many Christians deceive themselves by thinking they can’t stop a certain sin, but truly just don’t want to stop a certain sin. Many people deceive themselves by believing something bad is good. They go out of their way to find a false teacher who will justify their sins when the Bible and their conscience says no.”[10] The bottom line is we lie to, or deceive ourselves, because, like all sin, we want to be our own God. We just find excuses to make it not look like what it actually is – sin!

Proverbs 30:20says, “This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’” Sometimes, we tell ourselves that what we are doing isn’t actually wrong. God didn’t actually mean something the Bible says – it was either mistranslated or was something that was meant for ancient times. Nowhere do we see this more blatantly than in Christians and churches condoning and even ordaining homosexuals. They will give you all kinds of reasons why the verses clearly stating homosexuality is a sin, don’t apply to today. Excuses like Jesus Himself never said homosexuality is a sin, or when Paul or Moses talk about it, what they meant was sex between the same sex outside of a committed relationship is a sin, and I could go on, but what is really going on here is that these people are deceiving themselves.

One that also gets talked about is living together  outside of marriage. People ask advice on Christian sites wanting people to okay what they are doing. They actually get mad when truth is spoken to them. James says in James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” We have often said that we can’t expect the unbelieving world to behave as Christians because they don’t know any better. They are blinded to the Truth of Scripture. However, we should certainly expect those who DO know the Truth to act accordingly. When we don’t, its sin. Jesus said in Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

So, in a nutshell, once you have been shown the Truth by the Holy Spirit, you are obligated to keep that Truth. If you are a professing Christian, saying, for example, that homosexuality isn’t a sin because Jesus didn’t actually address it Himself, when in fact Jesus is the manifestation of God’s Word and as God approves of every word of Scripture, you are lying to yourself, and that lie is sinful. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit opens up Scripture to us, that’s called Special Revelation. He helps us understand the Bible. But we have to do our part by studying it and making sure we are interpreting it correctly. As 2Tim 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

And this is a no brainer, but of course it is never okay to lie to yourself. In fact, if you pray for God to show you Truth in something you are believing in that is actually a sin, He will! When we sincerely pray for godly wisdom, and knowledge to know God and His Word better, and then apply ourselves to doing just that, that is a prayer He will always answer in the affirmative! That is what the verses, ““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened,” found in Matthew 7:7 – 8 are all about!

Okay, onto lying to others. This is definitely the most complex of the three. And for this, we start at the very familiar place of the 10 commandments. Almost all of us know the commandment, Thou shalt not lie; but the actual wording of that commandment in Exodus 20:16 is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 5, the other place where the 10 commandments can be found, uses this same wording. 

So it would seem that the commandment is about lying to and about others. And this makes sense since the first 4 commandments transition into the great command, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind”; and the last 6 transition into the other great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And there are other verses that talk about lying to others. Ephesians 4:25-27 & 29 says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” This verse tells us that lying to others is not only a sin, but it is destructive and it gives the devil a foothold.  

Well, sure it does. The devil is the father of lies. He got to Eve by lying to her about what God had said. He gets to us by taking a thin thread of truth and wrapping it lies. So when we lie to each other, we are just playing into his hands. Here’s what “The Ultimate Guide to Liars and Lying says, “It’s hard to respect people who don’t respect themselves, and, as we’ve seen, failing to live with integrity is a way of disrespecting ourselves. It’s also hard to trust the word of people who don’t take their own word seriously, or to entrust responsibility to people who don’t respect their own agency.”[11]

Luke 16:10 would back this view up. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If we are known to lie, even about little things, how can we possibly expect people to trust us with big things! How can we expect God to trust us with big things?! But what about lying to save someone’s feelings? Is that the same as other lying? Chris, I’ll toss you a few examples. What if someone spent all day cooking for you, and the meal is awful, and they ask how was it, is it okay to lie and say it was fabulous? Or, if you are out with your friend and she asks you if her dress makes her look fat – and it does! – but you are already out, and she can’t change, do you lie and say you look great? Does the 9th commandment come into play in these and other situations?

I’ll start by quoting an article on lying that Tenth Pres. Church put out. It said, “The Bible, and in this case, the 9th commandment, turns out to be more sophisticated than we often think; we don’t need to reinterpret according to modern sensibilities but rather to obey it in spirit and truth according to what it says. 

Therefore, we should not quickly or easily discount the many lies we speak according to some flippant situational ethic. Our problem is not that the Law is not flexible enough to meet our real-world situations, but rather that our hearts are deceitful, that we so seldom want the truth to be known, that, as Paul says of us, “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit” (Rom. 3:13). Far from thinking of situations in which we may excuse the impulse to untruth that is so deeply ingrained on our hearts, we should ask God for a new heart, for his Spirit to work his own character into us – including a deep and abiding love for truth –so that we might do his will in every situation.”[12]

Okay. Great information. And I would absolutely agree that instead of making God’s Word fit our life, we need to make our life fit God’s Word. And we absolutely do not want to lie or hedge at all on anything that is of consequence. But how do we practically stay truthful without totally crushing people’s feeling about inconsequential things?

I think the key is in the end of that quote – ask God for a new heart, for his Spirit to work His own character into us. Do you think God is more concerned with someone’s talent for cooking or is He more concerned with the motivation behind the cooking? When Jesus walked the earth, do you think Jesus cared if the food someone put before Him was tasty, or was He instead, focused on the heart that prepared it? We don’t need to lie in situations like this, we just need to change our focus. Going back to the two examples you gave, how can we change our focus so that our answer both honors God and Truth, and not destroy someone we love’s feelings? What if you answered your friend the lousy cook when she asks you if you like the meal by saying, “I can’t believe you went to all this trouble for me. You put out a beautiful meal and I really appreciate it.” 

I see what you did! I love that! And you’re right, that answer is much more honest and gets to the heart of the matter – your friend did work hard to cook for you, and as a good friend yourself, you should eat every bite not focusing on that it tastes lousy, but that someone thought so much of you that they prepared it! And even if your friend made hot dogs, the meal is beautiful because of the heart that prepared it. Okay, let’s apply this to the other example. We are out, and I ask you if I look fat in the dress I’m wearing, and I do. How are you going to be honest, but not send me to the ladies room crying and hiding myself?

It’s the same as the cooking question. Instead of answering the surface question, answer the heart issue – which is so much more important anyway. I would look you in the eye and say, you are beautiful. And I want everyone to understand, we aren’t saying pour on false flattery – that’s lying, too! What we are saying is cooperate in your sanctification and growing your new heart by focusing on the things Jesus focuses on. God doesn’t want us to lie, but He also doesn’t want us to be unnecessarily harsh or cruel with our words; and we won’t be if we are looking at what really matters. When we change our focus, there are so many things we may lie about now that we won’t have to anymore!

And this works for answering questions, too. Who hasn’t lied at one time or another when answering the question, “How are you?” Chris, when we change our focus to focus on the things of God, no matter what is going on in our life, or how lousy a day we are having, we can always honestly answer the question, “How are you?” with “blessed,” or “great,” or even, “I’m good,”  because, as Christians, we have had our biggest need met and our biggest problem solved. We have been forgiven and given salvation and are no longer under God’s wrath. 

Okay, now, the final question – is it ever okay to lie? Are there situations where God is okay with us lying? You may be surprised to know the answer to that is yes. But it may not be for the reason you think – it’s not to spare someone’s feelings or avoid a nasty or uncomfortable confrontation.

 In Ex. 1:15-22, Pharaoh orders the Hebrew midwives to kill all the male babies when they are born. The midwives, who fear God, don’t and they lie to Pharaoh about why they don’t saying the Hebrew women give birth before they even get there. These midwives disobeyed and lied to Pharaoh in order to save the lives of the baby boys. Their lie was born from a fear of God, and so they were rewarded for it as Ex 1:21 – 22 tell us, “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.

Dr. R.C. Sproul says this about the passage in Exodus,“We are always and everywhere obligated to tell the truth to whom the truth is due. We are to speak the truth where justice and righteousness requires the truth.” But in this case, righteousness required deceit. Being righteous before the face of God required, in this specific case, that a murderer be deceived. You are not required to tell everything you know or even tell the truth if it is necessary to stop a murder. There are occasions where it would be a sin to tell the truth.”[13]

We see “deceit being necessary for righteousness” in many places today. Closed countries where Christianity is illegal and you can be killed for it. The people living in those countries need to hear the gospel! So missionaries, doctors, and businessmen go into the country under the guise of a humanitarian or business mission, so they can witness the gospel to the people of that country. They are lying to the government and local officials about why they are really there, but they are lying because they fear God and know God commands that the Gospel be taken to the ends of the earth. 

So to wrap up, we need to be people of truth – we need to make sure we aren’t lying to God, ourselves, or others whether its in the little things or the big things. Truth matters! As Matthew 5:37 says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” We need to be a person of integrity. Someone others can count on to tell the truth even if that truth is really difficult. We need to be someone who doesn’t tell people what they want to hear if it isn’t true, however, we also need to be someone who can see the heart of others and can answer any question honestly without crushing someone’s feelings.

And finally, we need to recognize that there are circumstances where it is more God honoring to lie than to tell the truth – but those situations are very few and far between. For all other times, we need to strive to honor God in both what we say and what we do, and to be a light of integrity before others. As 2 Cor. 8:21 says, “for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of man.” 

That’s all we have time for today. Thanks for tuning in! For all of you waiting on a release date of The Bible Blueprint, we are sorry, but there has been a delay. We will let everyone know the date as soon as we know it.

In the meantime, check out Chris’ and my devotional on You Version! It’s called the Gospel for Life. It’s an 11 day devotional. And stay tuned for information on a Zoom Bible Study we will be starting in the fall. Have a blessed day!

 

 

 

 



[1] Sullivan, Bill, PhD. "The Truth About Lying and What It Does to the Body." Psychology Today. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pleased-meet-me/202001/the-truth-about-lying-and-what-it-does-the-body.

[2] "Deception." Psychology Today. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/deception.

[3] Kornet, Allison. "The Truth About Lying." Psychology Today. May 1, 1997. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199705/the-truth-about-lying.

[4] "Deception." Psychology Today. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/deception.

[5] "Deception." Psychology Today. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/deception.

[6] ibid
[7] "The Ultimate Guide to Liars and Lying: Everyone Falls Into These 4 Types." Nir and Far. March 04, 2021. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://www.nirandfar.com/types-of-liars/.

[8] Shortsleeve, Cassie. "Here Are Times When Expert Say It Might Be Better to Lie." Time. October 02, 2018. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://time.com/5406989/when-better-to-lie-than-tell-truth/.

[9] "Deception." Psychology Today. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/deception.

[10] Chery, Fritz. "25 Important Bible Verses About Deceiving Yourself." Bible Reasons | Bible Verses About Various Topics. March 27, 2021. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://biblereasons.com/deceiving-yourself/.

[11]"The Ultimate Guide to Liars and Lying: Everyone Falls Into These 4 Types." Nir and Far. March 04, 2021. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://www.nirandfar.com/types-of-liars/.


[12] Kapic, Kelly, Liam Goligher, and Deryck Barson. "Tenth Presbyterian Church." Is Lying Always a Sin? | Tenth Presbyterian Church. January 26, 2019. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://www.tenth.org/resource-library/articles/is-lying-always-a-sin/.

[13] Sproul, R. C. "The Sanctity of Truth." Ligonier Ministries. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/sanctity-truth/.