Date published: September 15, 2012
“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfil?” – Num. 23:19 (NIV)
The importance of truthfulness and honesty (as opposed to lying and dishonesty) can be seen in the emphasis the Bible places upon the ultimate source of truth, which, simply stated, is God and His teachings. Truth is an inseparable part of the very character of God, namely, His integrity, trustworthiness, and faithfulness. He is, for example, called the “God of truth” (Psalm 31:5), who “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). The Bible relates this quality of truthfulness to all three persons of the Trinity. In Jesus’ Upper Room prayer He addressed the Father as “the only true God” (John 17:3). Jesus Himself is described as “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; 17; 14:6), and the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26 16:13). Not only God’s person but also His teaching is truth (John 17:17; Psalm 33:4; 119:142, 151, 160).
Truth is not only a moral quality, but we can also speak of it as that which is revealed for what it really is – open, uncovered, and authentic, opposed to what is false or phony. God reveals Himself to us this way, as the One True God (vs. the false gods of idolatry, Jeremiah 13:25; 16:19). Finally, truth can be understood in terms of statements which are accurate, correct, or right. God’s words are true, and we can respond to them with faith. The Good News is described in many places as the “truth of the Good News” (Galatians 2:5, 14 5:7; 1 Timothy 2:4). The entire body of Christian teaching is also sometimes describe as the “true teaching” (2 Timothy 2:15).
In contrast, the source and basis of lying is in Satan, who is called “the father of lies” (John 8:44), standing in fundamental opposition to the truth of God. Among his sinister purposes is to deceive people and cause them through unbelief to question God’s integrity (Genesis 3:4-6), for not to believe God is to make God out to be a liar (1 John 5:10). Lying is also rooted in the minds and hearts of sinful humanity (Jeremiah 17:9) “who tells lies as soon as they are born” (Psalm 58:3), “hide the truth” (Romans 1:18, and “trade the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). Lying can become such a habit that it is ingrained in one’s very lifestyle (Jeremiah 9:5; 23:14) to the point that one’s conscience can be destroyed or rendered insensitive (1 Timothy 4:2). Those who lie will themselves be the recipients of lies (compare Genesis 27:35 with Genesis 29:25). The fruit of lying and dishonesty is the breakdown of society (Isaiah 59:14-15). Those who reject the Good News are at the same time believing the lie, living under its dominance, and becoming liars themselves (1 John 2:22). The ultimate destiny of liars is judgment (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11) in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8; 21:27; 22:15).
As we have seen, truthfulness is fundamental to God’s very person. As such, He fiercely opposes lying and dishonesty, for it offends His holy character in which resides absolutely no darkness (1 John 1:5). Lying is listed among the sins that He especially hates (Deuteronomy 25:16; see Proverbs 6:16-19 where two of the seven sins are related to lying). Lying is part of the old life before salvation in Christ (Colossians 3:9) and violates the clear command of God (Exodus 20:26; Leviticus 19:11-12). Believers are to follow the way of truth (Psalm 86:11; 2 John 4), hate lying (Proverbs 13:5), and reject the company of liars (Psalm 101:7). Because they are members of the same body (Ephesians 4:25), God’s people are to refrain from lying and be “completely truthful” (Psalm 51:6). The very serious nature of lying can be seen in one dramatic incident in the life of the early church (Acts 5:1-11).
Although some may feel that lying or “fudging on the truth” is acceptable (or even encouraged) under certain circumstances as perhaps the most loving thing to do, the Bible in its entirely uniformly condemns all forms of lying. For one thing, “love is not happy with evil but … with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). For another, we are not to “do evil so that good will come” (Romans 3:8). In other words the Bible is concerned with the way we do things, not just the rightness or wrongness of the things themselves. The Romans passage is of special significance since Paul uses lying to illustrate this very point (Romans 3:7).
It is true that some of God’s choicest servants were guilty of lying at some point in their lives (Genesis 20:2; 1 Samuel 21:2; Matthew 26:72), but we must remember that the Bible does not approve everything in reports. In addition, God does not and cannot lie, but He is still able to use the lies of others to accomplish His purpose.
Why Do We Lie
We sometimes lie because we are afraid of being discovered. It is tempting to lie to make yourself look good when you want to please or impress someone. Fear is the most common motive for lying, that is, afraid that our inner thoughts and emotions will be exposed or our wrongdoings discovered. But lying causes greater complications than telling the truth and brings even more problems. If God can’t be trusted with our innermost thoughts and fears, we are in greater trouble than we first imagined. Lying to each other disrupts unity be creating conflicts and destroying trust.
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