By Patrick Donahue
Perhaps one of the most prevalent sins in our society today is the sin of lying. The Bible clearly condemns lying in passages like Ephesians 5:25 ("Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour ..."), Colossians 3:9 ("Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds"), and in the Old Testament where "a lying tongue" is described as one of the seven things that the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:16-17).
My Random House College Dictionary defines a "lie" as "1. a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; a falsehood. 2. something intended or serving to convey a false impression ...." From the first definition we see that at least three things are necessary to make a statement a lie:
1. the statement is false
2. the person making the statement knows it is false
3. the statement is made with intent to deceive
Our society has classified lying into several different categories. The first category I want to mention is what is called an "outright lie." An outright lie is a lie told in order to gain something for yourself, or to hurt another. An example of this would be calling into work sick, when you are not in fact sick. Colossians 3:9 condemns these type lies.
Another category is classified as "white lies." These are lies that are not told to gain anything on the part of the teller, but are usually deemed as not hurting anything or anybody. Some examples of this type of lie are listed following:
* telling a girl that her dress is beautiful, in order to avoid hurting her feelings, when deep down you really think her dress doesn't look that good
* telling our kids that there is a Santa Claus
* telling a person who is having a birthday, falsehoods about the purpose of an excursion when really taking them to their surprise birthday party
Colossians 3:9 condemns these type lies.
Deceiving "In Sport" (When Joking)
Another type lie that I would like to mention is something many Christians don't consider wrong because it is part of a joke. For example, what if my wife told me that we were having bean soup (not my favorite) for supper when we were really having fried chicken (my favorite). Suppose she did this just to get my reaction and then immediately told me the truth, and laughed about it. Would that be a lie? It meets all three criteria. It is a false statement. The person making the statement knows it is false. And the statement is made with intent to deceive. So it is a lie, and is condemned by Colossians 3:9. Now it is not wrong when you tell a joke that includes a false statement when you are not intending for the other person to believe you, but it is wrong if you are intending to deceive (even if only for a very short time). This is verified both from the definition of "lie," and Proverbs 26:19 which reads, "So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?"
Deceiving By Leaving A False Impression
Notice the second definition for a lie given at the beginning of this article. It reads, "something intended or serving to convey a false impression." It is possible to deceive someone, and thereby violate Ephesians 5:25, by saying something that is "technically accurate" (remember that that was President's Clinton's claim), or even without saying any words at all. An example of this type of sin occurring is found in Genesis 37:31-35. If we say or do anything with the intent to "convey a false impression," we have lied.
Revelation 21:8 reads "... all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." That should be conclusion enough.
[Editors Note: Thanks to Pat Donahue for writing the articles! He may be reached at:PatDonahue@mail.com, 4607 Old Railroad Bed Road, Harvest, AL 35749, (256) 721-0726.]
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