Robert H. Farish
“Lie not one to another; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings” (Col. 3:9). Here the Holy Spirit positively prohibits the Christian to lie. Lying characterized the “old man,” that is, the unconverted man. Lying is classified as among the doings of the old man and must be put off by the child of God.
The temptations to lie are many and strong. The strength of the temptation lies in the facts that is a Satanic device which is widely used in the world; it appears to be handy escape route by which responsibilities can be dodged, punishment avoided and face saved. It presents itself as short cut to profit. For many it is the royal road to success. It has become so common, and so many have seemingly gotten by with it, that people are no longer shocked and indignant when a lie has been exposed. People with conviction against the sin of lying are not as vocal in expressing disapproval as the case requires. Too often condemnation of lying is only expressed when one is an interested party—ie. when he has been lied about. Indulgence has grown into endorsement and thus lying has gained a place of respectability in the affairs of men. Members of the church have not set an example of speaking the truth in the midst of a crooked generation but have spinelessly followed the example of the world.
The commercial lie is one of the common forms of lying. It seems that advertising has become a sort of arena in which the participants struggle to see who can make the most extravagant claims. Many of the claims are so utterly unreasonable as to be an insult to the intelligence of the prospective buyer. The public conscience is “seared as with a hot iron.” It is said of the merchants of Christ’s day that many had such light regard for truth and were so anxious for gain that they would frequently intersperse their statements with oaths in an attempt to bolster their claims for their products. Some thought that Christ had such in mind when he said,
Swear not at all; neither by the heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king neither shalt thou swear by thy head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your speech be yet, yea; nay, nay; and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one (Matt. 5:34-37).
Whether this teaching of our Lord is to be limited to the device of emphasizing one’s statement regarding his products by oaths and superlatives or not, is not of as much moment as the fact that such very definitely comes under the censure of the Lord in the teaching in this passage.
A return to simple statements of fact is in order. Confidence, which is an essential thing in any stable economy, will be restored when men let their yea be yea and their nay be nay. Commercial lying is of the evil one. There are those who argue that to stay in business and meet competition one must utilize lies because everybody is doing it. Our Lord answers this in these words: “Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate and straitened the way that leadeth unto life and few are they that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). No question about it, the many are engaged in commercial lying but there is no doubt either as to where they are headed. Christ has assigned the destiny of all liars: “But for the fearful and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
The sin of lying figures prominently in politics. There are political mis-statements, distortions, exaggerations, evasions Machiavellianism; call it what you will, it is lying. It doesn’t require uncommon astuteness to detect the ominous distrust of our government that exists among the people. There is only one way to restore confidence in government and that is by each public official, as an individual, committing himself to a severe course of speaking the truth. This must be from principle and not merely from policy. Speaking truth, for the sake of policy, will not fill the bill. If one is honest merely because of policy, he will veer from the course of truth at any point where it does not seem to be the best policy. Truth should be spoken because it is right to tell the truth.
The social lie is a character cancer. Pride of life is a hot bed which fosters the social lie. Upon what basis can children be expected to respect their parents and to have any conviction against lying, when they see exhibited in the example of their parents’ tolerance of the sin. Lying about accomplishments, income, price of clothes etc. deceives no one for long—especially one’s own children.
These general observations on the prevalence of lying and the bad consequences could be extended. It is seen in every human relationship. Lying is a popular practice and for those who rely upon human practices as their standard of conduct, this is all the evidence required to determine their course. This, however, is not enough for the child of God, for he has as his standard of conduct the things written in the Bible. “These things write I unto thee that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15). It is therefore necessary for the Christian to investigate to learn what the scriptures teach with reference to lying. The Bible reveals God’s attitude toward liars, the destiny of liars and the origin of lies.
Among the things hated by God the sin of lying predominates. At least four of the things, listed by the wise man as things hated of God, partake of the sin of lying:
There are six things which Jehovah hateth, yea seven which are an abomination unto him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that deviseth wicked purposes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness that uttereth lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Prov. 6:16-19).
Here it is expressly stated that God hates lying in any form.
The attitude of God toward lying can be seen by considering the punishment which God has ordained for the liar: “But for the fearful and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). The fact that this dread punishment is assigned to the liar by a kind and merciful God points up the enormity of the sin. In speaking of heaven and the character who would be excluded therefrom John writes, “Without are the dogs and the sorcerers, and fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone that loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:15). This same writer states that “There shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie” (Rev. 21:27). These passages show God’s attitude toward liars. In view of God’s attitude as seen in the punishment which he assigned for liars, no person can afford to be indifferent.
Christ taught the character and origin of lies and the spiritual ancestry one adopts when he stoops to lie. He said,
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh as he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar and the father thereof (John 8:44).
The devil standeth not in the truth, he is the father of liars. He told the first lie ever uttered when he told Eve that she would not surely die for disobeying God. Even when Satan expresses truth as he did in quoting the Bible to Christ he does so with the design to deceive. He was acting in his role of liar in quoting scripture. This is true anytime a person perverts the scriptures to support some action which cannot be supported by a consideration of the whole truth.
The first sin recorded against a member of the church of our Lord was the sin of lying. Ananias and Sapphira lied, of all things! about their contribution. How many church members now living would be living if God killed with the same dispatch those who lie about their giving today? Lying about our giving is not lying to man but to God. Did any claim income tax deduction for giving which you did not give? Have you left the impression with your brethren that you were giving more than you actually gave? That is what Ananias and Sapphira did! The account of their sin can be studied with profit.
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keen back part of the price of the land? While it remained, did it not remain thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thy power? How is it that thou hest conceived this thing in thy heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down and gave up the ghost and great fear came upon all that heard it (Acts. 5:1-5).
The lie in the realm of religion is probably more far reaching, in the destruction wrought, than any other. John warns against such: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The curse of heaven has been pronounced against any who speak lies in religious matters. “But though we or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8). Not only is the preaching error condemned, but the one who receives not the love of the truth is condemned.
And with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
How dangerous it is to believe a lie in religious matters. It does make a difference what you believe—the difference between heaven and hell.