Thank you again for a special Sunday morning. Here is a summary of the Bible study.

To Be Honest (Exodus 20:16)
The ninth commandment says, "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16). This commandment applies specifically to telling lies in a judicial setting (e.g., in a court of law). For true justice to be done, witnesses need to be truthful! However, God's commandment to be truthful extends to all areas of life.

"Do Not Lie"
The Bible says:
"An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies." (Proverbs 14:5, NIV)
"Do not lie. Do not deceive one another." (Leviticus 19:11b)
"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Colossians 3:9-10, NIV). [When a person becomes a Christian, he/she is a new person, and must no longer behave like the "old self."]
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor..." (Ephesians 4:26a, NIV)
What does it mean "to lie"? Definitions include: "to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive" and "create a false or misleading impression" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, 1998). The key words are "deceive" and "mislead." Of course, we can deceive and mislead without speaking words.

How & Why We Lie

In our small groups on Sunday, we discussed various ways we lie. In addition to the obvious ways, some of them include false claims (for example, false or misleading information on resumes), broken promises (particularly when we make promises knowing that we will not likely keep them), exaggeration, twisting the words of others to our advantage, and many other ways. The ways are numerous!

Why do we lie? We typically lie for self-centered or selfish reasons – that is, to gain some kind of advantage, or to protect ourselves. We might lie with good intentions – that is, to protect someone else from worry or hurt, or to protect others from losing face. In our discussions on Sunday, we talked about whether or not it is right to lie even when it is with good intentions. Is lying the only way to handle these situations?

Why We Should Not Lie
We should not lie because God tells us, "Do not lie." However, even a person who does not believe in God can see the danger of lies. Lies damage trust and reliability. Lies damage relationships. Lies often lead to more lies to cover the previous lies, and things get worse and worse.
The Bible says, "Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth is full of gravel" (Proverbs 20:17, ESV). Lies may seem useful at first, but the results of lies are bad.

Lies lead us away from truth, which is very dangerous. Truth is based on the "God of truth" - the eternal Creator of the universe. Truth stands forever. But falsehood has no real foundation. It is dangerous "ground"! Falsehood eventually leads to destruction.

Is it Ever Okay to Lie?
Christians disagree on this question. Key passages in the debate are Exodus 1:15-21 and Joshua 2:1-7. Though the midwives lied (Exodus 1:19), God blessed them (1:20-21). Though Rahab lied (Joshua 2:4-5), she was commended for her faith (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).

To support different views, Christians interpret and apply these passages in different ways. The "test question" that arises in this debate is: Is it right to lie to save a life? The Bible clearly says that lying is wrong, but allowing someone to be killed is also wrong! A moral conflict is apparent. There are three main views concerning this question.

1) Lying is always wrong in any situation. A moral conflict does not really exist. There is always a "third alternative." Christians must not lie, but trust God to provide a way out. (This is called the "third alternative view," unqualified absolutism or non-conflicting absolutism.)

2) Lying is always wrong, but it may be the lesser of evils in some situations. In a moral conflict, Christians must choose the lesser of the two evils, and then confess their sin. (This is called the "lesser-of-evils view" or conflicting absolutism.)

3) Lying is not necessarily always wrong. In rare situations, it may be okay to lie to achieve a greater good. Moral conflicts do exist, but there are higher and lower moral laws, and sometimes we must choose the higher law. (This is called the "greater-good view" or graded absolutism.)

Since faithful Christians disagree, I believe this is a subject we need to wrestle with through our own Bible study and thinking. Of course, discussing it with others is also needed as we together seek to live according to God’s will.

I am also aware that cultural differences may influence our views on the question "Is it ever okay to lie?" In the attempt to preserve relational harmony, the Easterner may not be completely forthright in "telling it like it is," while the Westerner may be direct and "brutally honest." In any case, all Christians should be truthful, reliable and trustworthy, consistently keeping their promises and consistently loving others (Romans 13:9).

What About You?

Do you lie in any way? Do you twist the truth? Do you keep your promises? Are you honest, reliable and trustworthy? Are you completely truthful? Evaluate yourself in light of the Bible. If you are a Christian, read and apply Colossians 3:1-10 by God's grace. If you are not a Christian, the most important thing is to know the Truth. Jesus said, "I am the truth" (John 14:6). Do you need to know Him?

As always, if you have any comments or questions, please let me know.

Your Servant,

You may E-mail Jay & Michele Lester

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