When is it okay for a Christian to lie, if ever? Survey says….
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25 NASB
Under the Law God told His people, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 16:20) Then Jesus came on the scene and added to the prohibition against lying by stating that what comes out of your mouth simply reveals what is in your heart, in this statement to the Pharisees, You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. (Matthew 12:34) And in the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write Ephesians 4:25 (above).
I think it is fairly obvious that God desires for His people to speak the truth. Let’s examine who the Bible says that you are as a Christian:
- You are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), meaning you now are the physical representation of Jesus on earth.
- In Christ Jesus you are the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), meaning you are “not guilty” of sin standing before God.
- You are a royal priesthood (2 Peter 9), meaning you are an ambassador for God, needing no one (but Christ) to stand between you and God the Father.
- You are a holy nation (2 Peter 2:9), meaning you are set apart from sin and worldly ways.
This is who you are in Christ. Whether you are acting like it or not, that is who you are! Does that look like someone who would lie? Furthermore, with regard to you being the physical representation of Jesus on earth, remember how Jesus described himself? I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) Jesus describes Himself as “truth.” The book of John also says this about the one we now physically represent on earth. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 14:14)
Now I know you philosophers are out there calling on every resource in your fertile minds in order to conjure up a scenario in which it is okay to tell a lie. “Let’s say a man is home with his wife and someone comes to the door wearing a ski mask, carrying a gun and duct tape, and asks ‘is your wife here?’ Is it okay for the man to lie then? Boom!” Okay, my philosophical Christian friend, there is precedent in the Bible for such cases. Take, for example, the case of Rahab. Joshua sent two spies to Jericho, and the enemy found out about it. Rahab hid the Israelite spies, and when the king’s men came looking for them, Rahab claimed that she had sent them away, thus saving their lives (Joshua chapter 2).
Then there is the account of the midwives living in Egypt who were ordered by the king to kill every newborn Hebrew boy in order to weaken the Hebrew population. The midwives let the boys live and when asked to explain themselves, they said that the vigorous Hebrew women gave birth before they could get to them (effectively lying). While the actual lying is never applauded, both Rahab and the Hebrew midwives were blessed.
Finally, there is the case of Samuel who is instructed by God to go and anoint David as King of Israel. When Samuel questions God, saying if Saul (current King of Israel) finds out, “he will kill me.” God instructs Samuel to also take a heifer for sacrifice, and if questioned simply say “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 16) While Samuel is not instructed to lie, he is certainly not answering completely, with an element of deception.
In each Biblical case, as with the ski-masked perpetrator, lives are at stake. Misleading (aka lying) prevented a great injustice in the eyes of the Lord – murder. Therefore, I will finally answer the question. If you ever do find yourself standing at your door, confronted by a ski-mask-wearing, duct-tape-carrying, gun-wielding perp, breathe a prayer to the Lord, and if the Holy Spirit leads you, then follow the path of Rahab and the midwives. But short of a life-threatening episode such as that, let your words represent who you are: Holy, righteous, child of God, Body of Christ…. be like your Heavenly Father who “cannot lie!” (Titus 1:2)
Now, if your sweet little grandma asks how you liked her mutton and gravy fruitcake, I’m afraid you’re on your own!