Baptists/Is there an exception to lying?
QUESTION: Hi Dr Ronald
I have read several articles and scriptures in relation to this issue but I still could not find a satifactory or definite answer to this question.
The question that I am asking is whether or not it is ok to lie in some circumstances? Recently I have been put into circumstances where I believe lying is the right thing to do.
As you might be aware, there are many instances in the Bible where Godly men or women lie. The examples are Rahab, Abraham, Jacob, Elisha, Jael and Egyptian midwives. There are also some examples where God told someone to lie. Eg Moses and Samuel.
The conclusion so far I have reached is that in the Bible God talked about how Christians should "be as wise as serpants, and innocent as doves." This would explain why Jesus always talked in parables or answers a question with another question even though he said that "our answers should be yes or no, anything other than that comes from the devil." Wisdom therefore seems to allow lying in certain circumstances.
Would you please shed some light on this issue? Thak you so much.
ANSWER: Howdy, Ricky! While the Bible does record the lies of men it does not mean He approves of their lies. Rahab was rewarded for her faith, not the lie she told. It took faith in the Lord for her to hide the spies. Could she have found a way to segue out of lying and still hide them? Possibly, but she took the easy way out and lied. Her faith saved her and was applauded, not the lie. Jacob paid heavily for his lies and got nailed by his Uncle who was a better liar and deceiver and his relationship with his brother and father were troubled after that. I see no lie in Jael. There was no man outside and she gave him what he asked for. She was going to be the killer, but it was his error to assume that he was in no danger because she was a woman. Abraham lied and God had to protect Sarah, but God had no pleasure in the lie. I don't know where you see Elisha lying. The Egyptian midwives lied but Paul tells us that it is not good to do evil that good may come.
I can't see where God told Moses to lie. You will have to tell me where that is and Samuel did not lie. He did go and sacrifice. That was not his only mission or even the main mission though in a sense it was for sacrifices are made when a new king is crowned. Thus, he told the truth without giving all the details.
When I counsel with someone I always tell them to say no more than they have to as I do not need the gory details unless those details are needed so I can give proper counsel. You do not need to reveal everything you know about something unless you are asked for all the details. Also, things change. If you tell someone that you are going to the store for milk and coming right back, but when you get to the store you remember that you need eggs and butter and then see that you are low on gas so you fill up and then go home did you lie? No, you said what you had planned, but things arose that changed the situation. Unless you can predict the future you will sometimes make statements that appear untrue if you look at it from a legal perspective, but in reality is that in the process things may your initial statement untrue and yet it is not a lie.
People lied to save Jews during WWII. That they saved Jews is a good thing, but a lie is a lie. Some say you never have to tell the truth to your enemies. We were allowed name, rank and serial number if captured in the military. Other than that we were not to tell them anything else and I think that works in all cases.
Telling a parable was a not a means of lying but rather fulfilling the prophecy that hearing they would not hear and seeing they would not see meaning they would not understand. Jesus answered with a question not because He was lying but rather catching the evil lads in their own craftiness as they were seeking to find a way to condemn Him in what He said. That is not lying.
Again being wise as a serpent does not mean to act like the old serpent, the devil. A snake knows when to fight or run and we need to be able to rightly discern our circumstances, but unlike the serpent we are not to strike and attack but rather like the dove fly away from danger. He could have used as ferocious as a hawk or eagle, but the intent was to compare the two creatures and show that wisdom does not need to be aggressive or hurtful. A great many preachers need to learn this lesson.
What I believe is that if we cannot tell the truth then we should say nothing. Do you have to tell every last detail of something like answering a person that asks if you know if their spouse is cheating. You can say yes without recounting every instance in detail that you saw or the cheater told you. That is discretion, not lying.
Blessings to you as you study and seek His will!
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QUESTION: Hi Dr Ronald
Thank you for your advice. I am not too sure if I agree with your interpretation of lying.
If the intention is to deceive, then it should be considered lying.
In Exodus 3.18 God asked Moses to request the permission of the Pharoah to worship three days in the wilderness. Clearly, the sacrifice wasn’t the real reason for their leaving, and although Pharaoh refused, it was still obviously a deception.
Similar in Samuel's case, where God asked Samuel to take a cow and organise a sacrifice in order to deceive Saul that the real reason was to annoint David King. It didn't matter that the sacrifice took place, it was still a deception because that was the purpose of God's command - to deceive Saul.
In 2 Kings 6:18 - 20, Elisha asked the Lord to blind the equestrians and charioteers who had come to capture him at the orders of the king of Syria. When blinded by God, Elisha told them that he would lead them to the one they sought. But instead, he led them into Samaria, to the King of Israel. Then he asked God to open their eyes. Here God did not take any actions for Elisha's deception.
Josheph lied to his brothers by pretending not recognising them even though his purpose was to test his brothers. However, again, the main intention is to deceive.
I understand that sometimes lying does not give great consequences to the liar which I believe is what your are trying to say. However, if lying is considered sin, then clearly God should punish or disapprove such an act in any circumstances. Which is why I don't understand why Abraham, Jacob, and my other examples who wasn't punished by God for lying but even considered as having faith in God (which seem contrary to the act).
This leads me to believe that there are exceptions or circumstances where lying is warranted and can be still considered an act that is appoved by God. However I do think that the circumstances are very limited (taking precedents only from the Bible). I believe the teaching comes from the fact that we should should be practical that is as "wise as snakes and innocent as doves". Surely God will judge our hearts when we do lie but I don't believe all lies or deceptions are automaically sin.
Please let me know what you think.
Actually, it would seem that the worship was stage one of the plan seeing God said He would harden Pharaoh's heart. God already knew how Pharaoh would take this request. This creating more work for the Hebrew slaves took them out of their comfort zone as it seemed they were content in their slavery as we see from their complaints later on that they missed the leeks and the garlic finding freedom a tad more difficult than their slavery. The elders did not believe Moses so with the added pressure they at first were angry, but as things went on they looked for a savior. Indeed, you have to get a sinner lost before you can get them saved. Moses warned of problems if they were not allowed to go and so comes the ten plagues. After the tenth plague, Pharaoh wanted them out of the land period so instead of just worship they were gone for good. Pharaoh regretted it to his loss of life and army. Thus, it is neither lie nor deception because Moses may have thought this was the moment of deliverance, but it is not what God planned. If that request had been fulfilled Moses and in a way, Pharaoh, would have gotten the glory instead of God bringing them out by a mighty hand.
God had already told Saul that he was rejected as king through Samuel. He did not need to know his replacement or when it would occur. Actually, the lie or deception never happened since we do not see that Saul heard about it or asked so that brings it to a different light philosophically. Again, one does not have to disclose everything you are going to do. God provided the sacrifice that happens when a king is crowned because that was what was going to happen. God does not have to tell all that He is doing to anyone so if Saul had asked and was satisfied with that answer no lie would have been told because that was indeed part of the plan. Again, he never asked so there was no deception. Now, God knew all this. Therefore the sacrifice was necessary to the plan, but Samuel needed a security blanket so the the idea of it being a cover made him feel secure though he should have felt secure anyway. Great to know that the prophets were human and flesh like us.
Elijah did not lie in that he did do what they asked and what he said he would do. He led them to himself, but he did it so that when they saw who he was he was in a safe place and the enemies of God were captive. No man knew him because God caused a blindness to come over him. They got what they wanted, but not in the way they expected. If they expected one thing and did not get it that way then they were self-deceived.
Now, is deception always evil? Lust is not always evil for the the same word is used for lust and the word desireth in "he that desireth the office of a bishop desireth a good thing." It is a strong desire. You can have a strong desire for your wife and that is great but strong desire for another woman is evil. (Matt 5:28) Optical illusions are deceptions. They aren't really lies, but they deceive us. Thus, while the situation did not happen had Samuel been asked by Saul why he was going only stating the fact of the sacrifice may be perceived as deception it was actually answering a direct question with a truthful statement. You do not have to share all you know about a given situation. When I was in the military some information required a security clearance and a need to know. Just because I had the right clearance did not give me the right to know everything that was in that category. Saul did not have a need to know nor the security clearance since he was no longer God's chosen leader. His clearance had been downgraded.
Joseph's intent was to test, not deceive. After being sold into slavery, he needed to know how his brothers had changed or not over the years. His tests showed him that they had repented of their deed and hurt over what they did to him and their father. He also saw the selfishness had been replaced by a willingness to die rather than grieve their father further. He timed his revelation of who he was since they did not know him. After all, he had gone through plenty of changes since 17 and was attired in the garb of the Egyptians and spoke their language. Indeed, his Hebrew might have been rusty enough to sound like a foreigner speaking it. This might be compared a bit to Jesus not revealing Himself immediately to the two on the road to Emmaus but waited until after they shared their feelings and then teaching them much of what they should have known. Joseph was learning about his brothers and teaching them as well. Timing you revelation is not really deception.
Abraham and Jacob both suffered consequences because of their lies. Remember, before Moses there were no commandments. Conscience was the rule and the conscience is flawed. That covers Rahab as well. God taught mankind here a little and there a little, line upon line and precept upon precept. Thus God dealt with each man where he was and rewarded his faith even when he erred until he learned what he needed to learn. That is called grace mixed with mercy.
God will not lead His people into sin. That much is an absolute. If I were you, I would rather err on the side of no lies ever than to seek a few instances where you might be able to get away with it. I think we have to look at what seems to us as something to understand the character of God and the big picture so to speak and admit as a bystander looking at situations we may not have all the facts or not having the proper perspective.
Peace be unto you as you continue to study and seek His will!