As the moral climate of our society has been deteriorating, lying and deceit have become major problems. The political world is particularly plagued by this problem — from the recent scandals within the IRS– to the reports that the president and his aids lied to the American people concerning the Affordable Health Care Act.
Lawyers have increased in numbers over the last decade, mainly because of irresponsibility among men due to lying and deceit. If one was to do a study on the subject of lying and deceit they would discover that there have been volumes of material written on the subject of lying, not to mention the ethics and moral issues regarding lying.
What I have to say about lying can by no means be construed as the final say on the subject. I am not an expert, but the goal of this article is to:
• Determine at least one principle truth about lying which everyone would agree.
• Show how applying this one principle can help us guard against common mistakes concerning lying.
• Offer points of application.
When is a lie NOT a lie?
Well, obviously when it’s a misspeak. Who misspeaks? Politicians misspeak and don’t ever, ever lie. (The only ones who don’t know that must live on some isolated island not yet discovered) The difference between a lie and a misspeak, depends on who’s speaking. One could say that a misspeak occurs when the person misspeaking does so without bothering to check facts or the truth of what’s being said. Then, when they are caught in the untruth they can say, “Well, I didn’t lie, I only misspoke.”
When a person says something that he or she knows for a fact is untrue no matter how they try to spin it, this is a lie and it can’t be turned aside as misspeaking. Did you know that some politicians — even those who are lawyers — lie? (No big surprise about that) Lying to pander one’s self to the electorate is reprehensible and the lowest form of public behavior; especially for someone who is entrusted with the solemn duty of enforcing the laws of our nation.
Many of us complain about how much politicians lie to us, but are we any different?
The dictionary defines a lie as:
1. A false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.
2. Something intended or serving to convey a false impression;
3. An inaccurate or false statement.
4. To express what is false; convey a false impression.
What does the Bible say about lying?
9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,
10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him
5 A faithful witness will not lie, but a false witness speaks lies.
5 A false witness will not go unpunished, And he who tells lies will not escape.
8 “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.
1 “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.
19 Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment.
16 There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil,
19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
A lying tongue is not only something God hates, it is something that is an abomination to Him! This was proven in the consequences of lying and deceit given in Acts 5:1-11.
So, I now ask the question: Are we guilty of lying when we do not keep our word? It is certainly true that if we knowingly tell someone that we are going to do something, knowing that we have no intentions of following through on our promise or commitment, then, we are guilty of lying — there was intent to deceive that person. But many people today believe that if they do not follow through on a commitment or promise, it does not necessarily mean that they lied. Too often we are just too quick or rash with our mouth. They don’t take enough time to think about what they are saying. They usually don’t have too much thought behind their words. But what does the Bible say about that?
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment.
The point is that our words should mean something. Our words should be well thought out and our words should be few.
For example, if we tell someone that we will meet them somewhere tomorrow, and we have no intention of meeting them, then we have lied. This excuse is often used with a deliberate intent to deceive. The person does not show up at the appointed time and then calls back back at a much later date with excuses of why they were unable to meet, usually goes something like: “I meant to call you but I was just so busy, I didn’t get around to it.”
We all have been guilty of this, but we need to realize when we say we will do something we need to keep our word. We do understand there are legitimate reasons that make it impossible at times to keep our word and in those circumstances we are not guilty of lying. But it might be better not to make this promise or to say, “I will try to call you back tomorrow to confirm.”
I could list numerous examples. The point is any time we say the words “I will” we need to be responsible to do it. We all, on occasion, fail to do the things we have good intentions of doing or we are hindered in some way and can’t do them. However, if we are unable to keep an appointment we should be thoughtful enough to call and cancel, or tell of our delayed arrival. We are living in an age when there are so many uncaring attitudes expressed. Too often, these careless attitudes, if left unchecked for too long, can be construed as lies and deceit. As Christians, we can be good witnesses by being different.
None of us likes being lied to. None of us likes being falsely accused of lying. The reason is because truth is primarily a self-regarding virtue. In other words, it is in our own best self-interest to see things as either being true or untrue. If we wish to walk carefully through life, to do so we must be able to show our true position. When you lie to me, YOU know your position but you have given me a false impression which obscures my view of you. When I lie to you, I create a situation in which you have a false view of I really am.
The implication of this is that no one who has any regard for his own dignity and self-respect will be guilty of the immorality of a lie. Even a liar does not like to be lied to. The one principle of truth that I have tried to convey is that lying does not always involve malice. It is possible for an honest person to error by an unintentional lie without any intention of deceiving. Such a person may not consider themselves to be a liar. But just as the hypocrite is detested and despised, so should the liar be. However, just as no honest person would ever consent to play the hypocrite, so no honest person should ever be guilty of a lie.
What kind of witness are we to those around us? As Christians we need to ask the Lord to forgive us if we are guilty of lying or deceit. Not only do we not want to lie, but we also want to keep our word so that people know we are honest and trustworthy. On the other hand, before we accuse another of being a liar, we need to make sure that we can prove malice or intent, lest we be deceived and become liars ourselves. As Christians, we want to represent our Father well in this life and be honest and free from false accusations. We can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit as we seek to be like Jesus. Jesus always kept His Word. God still keeps His Word and is faithful to keep every promise He makes in the Bible. That is why He is reliable and we can trust Him.
And we are called to be like Him.