When is a lying not a lie?

Pinocchio           When is a lying not a lie?


Jose de Carvalho


I am following this question in a biblical platform that I very often interact on and post my very humble opinion to perplexing questions. Like many others in the body of Christ this is a contestable topic.

As expected the responses have ranged from believers can never lie, to a little white lie that does not cause warm is somewhat Ok. As well as the moral high ground, emphasizing that God does not lie, Jesus our perfect example could not lie, therefore we should conform to this example. Others have tried to re-contextually what is meant by a lie in the Bible. Nothing unusual!

Firstly I must affirm that I fully concur that lying is a sin and that God hates lies (10 Commandments; Levitical Law; Prov. 6:16), so I am not going to decontextualize, liberalise or somewhat condone it for the purposes of adding weight to my argument. 

However, apart from examples in the polemical life of David, Rahab (Joshua 2:5) and the Hebrew midwife (Ex 1:15-20) lied to protect the Israelites, God also used a form of deceit to punish Ahab in battle (1Kings 22:20), God is sovereign, thus uses whatever means He deems necessary to accomplish His Holy purposes.

Therefore what also appears to be true is that in certain circumstances lying to avoid a sin with much greater consequences maybe warranted; ‘Christian principal of greater good’. (I am aware that the western mind set has difficulties in accepting 2 possible contradictory ideas being true. This was not so in the Hebrew mind-set especially if the Word affirms it).

This line of reasoning is given validation by many secular ethicists*, but this is not my frame of reference.

In all the examples of lies for the greater good in the Bible, I am not aware of God’s condemnation ever being made.

*Teleological ethicists, affirm that actions are judged right or wrong on the basis of the result. Deontological ethicists, emphasize duty, asserting that actions are inherently/morally right or wrong.

Although the above ethical models may appear to have some credit, they both fail on account of the basis of appeal to reason; so then who decides what is right or wrong? Christian ethics must be grounded on biblical principles, dependant on a biblical world view for decision making processes. On this basis I offer as follows:

Christian ethics and behaviour models should just not be concerned with present situations and realities.  The impact of our decisions in the future must be considered, both now and eternally. Christians conduct in the present is challenged by the realities of living in a fallen sinful world as it impacts the community of believers everywhere. In this context, biblical principles, the Holy Spirit and Jesus are our guidelines for the principle of greater good as believers make decisions on a daily basis. Further believers have to be very mindful that they will be held accountable for all our moral actions.

I close with Lane Craig:

“Despite the inequities of this life, in the end the scales of God’s justice will be balanced. Thus, the moral choices we make in this life are infused with an eternal significance”

So I wait for our Lord’s return

Yours in Christ

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