Nana Yaw Aidoo
A story is told of a young man who decided on a flip and point approach to Bible study. He flipped his Bible open and put his index finger on a text. The text read, “a lie is an abomination to the Lord.” Wanting to learn more he closed his Bible, flipped it open again and dropped his finger on another text which read: “but a very present help in time of trouble.”
This combination of texts represents the attitude of most people as far as lying —a false statement presented as the truth and made with the intention of deceiving—is concerned. With regards to the sin of lying most Christians do not live on a higher level to non-Christians. We lie to avoid trouble; shift blame; shirk responsibility; impress others; avoid conflict; hurt others; and sometimes just to be nice. There are also times we lie and convince ourselves that it is for the benefit of the other person.
Lying is one of those sins some have termed “respectable sins.” Many who have no sympathy or place for false teaching or immorality either in their own lives or in the lives of others have no issues winking at a lie (which is also immorality, Ed.), which others or they themselves have told. A study which was done on lying revealed that 60 percent of people cannot speak for 10 minutes without lying (Yarber). One wonders how many of this 60 percent are members of the churches of Christ. It is a behavior that most people learn by the time they are 4 years old (Yarber).
So commonplace is this sin that some have tried to justify it by appealing to Rahab’s lie (cf. Joshua 2). Some years ago in a Bible class one sincere brother (and others) suggested the propriety of lying in some instances due to the favorable comments the Bible makes about Rahab (cf. Jam. 2:25). It is true that Rahab did lie. Some say she didn’t. However even a blind person can see that she did (cf. Josh. 2:1-6). And it is also true that she is commended in the Scriptures. However, she is not commended because she lied. To think along such lines is to think beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6).
The writer of the book of Hebrews mentions her faith (Heb. 11:31). Rahab had faith in the one true God (Josh. 2:9-11) and she “believed assuredly what her other countrymen disbelieved, and this in the face of every improbability that an unwarlike few would conquer well-armed numbers” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown). This faith manifested itself in the work (cf. Jam. 2:25) of hiding the spies even to the risking of her own life. Thus, James, far from commending her lie, was arguing (as he had done beginning with the 14th verse) that this woman showed,
…by her act that her faith was genuine, and that it was not a mere cold and speculative assent to the truths of religion. Her act showed that she truly believed God. If that act had not been performed, the fact would have shown that her faith was not genuine, and she could not have been justified (Barnes).
But did she not, in showing her faith by her works (Jam. 2:18), lie to Jericho’s king? Yes, she did. However, commending an aspect of a person’s actions or life is not necessarily a commendation of everything that person has done or everything in that person’s life and character. To so argue is to suggest, for example, that when we commend a drunkard for saving a person from drowning, that necessarily means we have commended or sanctioned his drunkenness. This is an argument only a person who wants to indulge in the devil’s brew would make. The Bible is not pro-situational ethics. It is a book of absolute and objective truths. And verily it is a mark of its divine inspiration that it both explicitly and implicitly condemns the sinful actions of its heroes.
While some people based on poor and incorrect reasoning about Rahab would say, “I cannot believe that lying in every circumstance is wrong,” thus says the word of God:
1. God abominates lies: “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:… a lying tongue, and… a false witness that speaketh lies” (Prov. 6:16-19).
2. Humans are never more like the devil than when they lie: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).
3. Lying is a form of hate: “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin” (Pro. 26:28).
4. A Christian, no matter how doctrinally sound, is unfaithful, if lying is his/her habit: “If any man among you seems to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (Jam. 1:26).
5. The one who encourages (either implicitly or explicitly) the liar, is just as guilty as the actual liar: “Who knowing the judgement of God, that they which commit such things (like deceit – Rom. 1:29) are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure (also consent – ASV 1901) in them that do them” (Rom. 1:32).
6. Liars cannot live fulfilling and fulfilled lives: “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile (deceit – NKJV)” (1 Pet. 3:10).
Big liars (politicians especially fall into this category), small liars, white liars, all liars will be condemned by the holy and awesome God to an eternity in hell: “But…all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death… And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:8, 27).
Dear reader never forget this. None of us is immune to the sin of lying (1 Cor. 10:12). You are a liar if you think you are. And also, a lie, no matter how innocent, is a sin against the Almighty God. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:9-10).
Barnes’ New Testament Notes. Power Bible CD, 5.1, Online Publishing Inc., 2006.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary. Power Bible CD, 5.1, Online Publishing Inc., 2006.
Yarber, Chris. “Lying.” Faithlife Sermons, 2019,
www.sermons.faithlife.com/sermons/477100-lying. Accessed 3 Dec. 2022.