Is it ever okay for a Christian to lie?
We are all familiar with the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16, KJV)
This is a clear prohibition against fabrication, exaggeration or changing the truth in our speech. It is in the company of commands such as “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:13-15, KJV)
These commandments all point to the way in which we relate to our neighbor, our fellow human being.
The Bible is clear. God hates dishonesty. Proverbs 12:22 is one of those places where God speaks quite plainly, “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.”[i]
There is a principle of honesty, purity and truth that runs through Scripture and should rule our lives as children of God. God, who never lies (Titus 1:2), has called us to be like Him (Ephesians 5:1).
Having established the principle that it is never appropriate to lie, it is not always necessary to tell everything one knows.
For example, when God instructed Samuel to anoint David as the next king of Israel, God provided the cover to satisfy Saul’s interest. (1 Samuel 16) If Samuel had announced, “I am going to anoint a new king,” Saul would have killed him. Therefore, God instructed Samuel to take a heifer and go to Bethlehem to make a sacrifice. Samuel was to invite Jesse and his family to the sacrifice. Then, at the meal, Samuel was to anoint one of Jesse’s sons. The plan was simple. Without lying, when asked, Samuel could say he was going to Bethlehem to offer a sacrifice. In this case, Saul was an enemy and a threat and it was necessary that he not know all the details.
It is not necessary to tell everything we know or to answer every question. Does the person need to or have the right to know?
There are times, especially during times of persecution, that it is necessary to hide the truth from the persecutor in order to protect lives. Even then, if we follow the Biblical example, it is better to tell the truth than a fabrication.
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:2-3, ESV)[ii]
Jesus said this in answer to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Too often, we cover or do not disclose the truth in order to look good to our peers or to avoid embarrassment. God is a God of truth and the truth will always come out.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.