Is it ever right to tell a lie? We all know that “honesty is the best policy,” and have been taught from a young age that lying is wrong. We try to instill honesty in our own children and it’s easier to just make it a cut and dry issue. But the reality isn’t so simple. As we study history and learn about the Jews who were tortured and killed by NAZIs, we want to identify with the heroes who hid them and lied to the enemy to save lives. It seems natural and right to do so. But should they have confessed that as a sin to God in prayer, afterward? Even though it seemed like a good lie at the time? We will look at the Biblical rule for honesty, but first, examine the exceptions to the rule.
#1. In wartime to defeat an enemy:
2 Chronicles 18:18-22 Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right hand and His left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.’ Therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you!.”
Examples from our day: Counter-intelligence and undercover work, misdirection used by the military or intelligence community during war time. …”to the devious You show Yourself shrewd.” – Psalm 18:26
#2. To save an innocent life.
Exodus 1:15-21 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharoah, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
These midwives are also listed in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.
A current example of this kind of righteous deception is Lila Rose, who went undercover at Planned Parenthood to expose their evil. She pretended to be a woman in need of their services and secretly filmed the discussions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Abdvj7rPpjA&feature=relmfu
#3. To hide or protect the people of God and save your own life:
Joshua 6:22-25 But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, “Go into the harlot’s house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.” And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
Rahab is also mentioned in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) and became an ancestor of the Messiah. Because she feared the Lord, she was blessed.
An example from history is Corrie Ten Boom. She lied as she bought supplies and forged passports for the Jews that lived in her household. She saved her own life and the lives of those under her care.
These examples represent the higher law of preserving innocent life and fearing God.
These are exceptions to the general rule of speaking the truth, and only under these kinds of circumstances would lying or deception be acceptable and right. We know that God hates lies for His Word says in Revelation 21:8 …”But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Honesty is the rule our lives are governed by.
Exodus 23:7 Stay away from making a false charge. Don’t put an innocent person who is in the right to death, because I will not consider innocent those who do such evil.
Leviticus 19:11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
2 He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
3 He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the Lord;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Don’t testify against your neighbor without cause. Don’t deceive with your lips.
Zechariah 8:16 These are the things you shall do:
Speak each man the truth to his neighbor;
Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace…
Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to each other since you have taken off your old self with its practices.
So, we are to be honest with God and with other believers. We are not to lie about others – which is slander and perjury (when in court giving witness). We don’t use lies to cover up for our own sin, but confess what we have done and repent of it. We do not deceive to get our own way or gain profit.
It is not wrong to deceive an enemy or to conceal a truth in order to save lives or wage war in defense of our family or country. While the lines may seem blurry at times, they really aren’t. The rule is honesty, but the higher law is a greater truth – for life and faithfulness to God.