What's So Wrong with a Little White Lie?

Do Not Lie

My own conviction is that is it is never morally right to tell a lie. Never. In difficult situations, I believe God will always give an alternative by which we can do what is right in God’s sight, and yet, not speak falsehood.

It’s amazing when we search through the Bible how many times it forbids lying, speaking falsehood, bearing false witness, and so forth. There are many verses again and again where God tells us not to lie.

Of course, we see this in the 10 commandments: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Ex. 20:16) but if we go to the New Testament, Paul says in Ephesians 4, “having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor.” In Colossians 3, he says, “Do not lie to one another.”

In difficult situations, I believe God will always give an alternative by which we can do what is right in God’s sight.

Back in the Old Testament wisdom literature in Job 27, Scripture says, “My lips will not speak falsehood and my tongue will not utter deceit.” In Psalm 5 it says, “You destroy those who speak lies.” In Psalm 58, it says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb. They go astray from birth, speaking lies.” In Proverbs 12:22, it says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”

That’s just a few of the verses that we could look at. My conclusion is that there are numerous biblical statements that condemn lying in the sense of verbally affirming a falsehood. When I talk about the question of lying, I use this definition: Lying is affirming in speech or writing something you believe to be false.

Augustine, Calvin, and others in history have defined lying in a similar way. I think it’s important that we recognize that imitating the character of God is the basis for not lying. God never lies. In fact, Hebrews 6 says that it is impossible for God to lie. Titus 1 says that he is the unlying God, the God who never lies.

Christian Ethics

Wayne Grudem

Bestselling author Wayne Grudem explains in 42 thorough chapters what the Bible says about ethical questions regarding marriage, government, abortion, and dozens of other issues in this highly practical, biblically based volume on Christian ethics.

Model God’s Character

God cannot lie. There are certain things that God cannot do, and he cannot contradict his own moral character. He himself does not ever lie. He wants us to imitate that moral character and to speak truth.

In addition, Jesus never told a lie. That’s another argument for the idea that we never should think that we are compelled to tell a lie. We could discuss at some length the narrative examples of some lying in Scripture—such as Rahab lying to the Jericho soldiers to protect the spies who came to her house—but I don’t think that those narrative examples overturn the conclusion that is repeated again and again in Scripture. God tells us not to lie and not to affirm falsehood.

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