Is It Ever Okay to Lie?

You’re walking on a sidewalk late at night. It’s dark but there are light posts to guide your way. Suddenly, out of the dark, a man comes running towards you. As he passes he screams, “Save me! He’s trying to kill me!” You look back and see him rush around a corner near a large trash bin where you think he might try to hide. Then, you wheel around because you hear the second man running towards you out of the dark and he looks menacing, like a street gang member or something. He has a gun. He rushes up to you and demands, “Where did he go?!” What do you say? Do you tell him the truth? Or do you lie?

Like most people, I think your first reaction is to lie. But why? Because your instinct is to protect another human being from harm. Suppose the gunman is wearing a badge, what then? Of course, you tell him the truth, right? On the other hand, if you don’t tell him where the first man went, only to find out later that the first man had robbed, beaten, and left for dead the second man’s wife, how would you feel? Quite a moral dilemma, isn’t it? And that’s just the parts of one story I could make up. I’m sure you can think of a number of scenarios where you have to choose between truth or lying.

If you’re ever caught in this sort of dilemma, my advice is to ask yourself one question. What would Jesus do? Then go to your Bible, it’s full of references about lying, one of the most important of which is this in Proverbs 6:16-19; “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Notice that the word “lie”, or a variation thereof, is the only one mentioned twice. I find that astounding. Here’s another in Luke 8:17; “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” In other words, anything we say or do that conceals the truth will eventually come out and bite us in the butt at some point. Finally, there is one that hits home for me: Luke 16:10; “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” I don’t think that one needs any explanation.

But you may be asking yourself. “What do these passages have to do with the gunman who is asking me where the first man went?” Perhaps a weblink might shed some light on that and you can reach your own conclusions. Here it is:

The link at Allan Turner is where I gleaned the story I recounted in the first paragraph of this latest blog. The link is fairly lengthy but basically it boils down to three positions referred in that article as follows: “Graded Absolutists”, “Unqualified Absolutists”, or “Conflicting Absolutists.” According to the graded absolutist, lying is sometimes right because showing mercy to the innocent is greater than telling the truth. The unqualified absolutist, on the other hand,
believes there are many absolute moral laws, and none of them should ever be broken. In other words, the unqualified absolutist believes one cannot justify lying even when such lying is for the sole purpose of saving the life of another. The one who holds this position believes that lying is always wrong. I think in today’s world, most of us would agree this is fairly harsh and extremely difficult to operate and live under in a practical sense. After all, we’re human. I don’t know about you but my instincts would tell me to lie to the gunman! Finally, there’s the conflicting absolutist.
The one who takes this position believes that we inherently live in an evil world where absolute moral laws sometimes run into inevitable conflict. In such cases, the conflicting absolutist believes it is his responsibility to do the “lesser evil.” He will break what he considers to be the lesser law (viz., lying) to uphold the greater law (i.e., preserving life). Then, after doing so, he prays for mercy and asks God to forgive him for breaking a lesser commandment that circumstantially conflicted with the “greater good.”

So, there you have it. Who are you? Do you believe that sometimes it’s okay to lie, that it’s not sinful? Are you one who believes lying is always wrong, under any circumstance? Or are you one that believes that sometimes you have to choose between the “lesser of two evils”, knowing that you are sinful, then ask for God’s forgiveness? If you go back to the story that started this blog, think about what Jesus might do. My guess is he would tell the gunman the truth. But why, knowing to do so might lead to injury or death to the man running from him? In my opinion, because that’s what God would want him to do. So therefore, if I am to be Christ-like, I would do the same! After all, it’s all God’s will on this earth, right? Maybe God has other plans than what might be playing out in your head. Maybe God intends him to scoot around the corner by the trash bin where you told him the runner was hiding, and the runner is in a crouched position with a big-ass steel post ready to whack the gunman silly into unconsciousness!

Recently, I was caught in a lie. To most people, what I did would be what most of us consider in today’s world as a “white lie.” In other words, by that definition, one that was not intended to inflict harm upon another. But I digress from my words and my actions that led to this post to begin with. I lied. Period. There is no substitute for truth and no justification can be given to compromise that. Truth is truth. I suppose then, one could call me an “unqualified absolutist.” I just hope I never get in the same position as I put you in with the story recounted in the first paragraph in this blog.

I’m human and having said that, then that means I make mistakes and errors. I’m not perfect. The key is recognizing when I do lie or make mistakes, I ask God for forgiveness, and ask those that I have harmed for theirs. In a real sense, this latest “Ramblings” about lying and what the Bible has to say about it is a mirror image of a program I’ve come to know well over the past few years. It’s in Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” I’ve asked God for His forgiveness and I’ve asked the friend that I harmed for hers. I know God will forgive as long as my heart is right and it is. I’m not sure if my friend will forgive me, only time will tell and that too, is in God’s hands.


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