1. Hi there,

    I got one of your flyers a couple weeks ago at El Camino College. I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner but finals have kept me very busy.

    I noticed on the flyer that lying is a sin. I completely understand that – it makes sense after all since lies generally hurt people. But when I noticed that even a fib was a lie, I thought of questions.

    What about telling kids that Santa exists? That is such a happy part of childhood where being good all year is rewarding with gifts under the tree. It is such a magical part of childhood. But technically, telling a child Santa exists is a lie.

    What about when your wife asks you if a certain shirt makes her look fat? Do you tell her the truth and say “Well….actually Honey, yes it does.”? Or do you sugarcoat the truth and say “No sweetie, you look beautiful to me no matter what you’re wearing”.

    I just think that certain lies, that don’t have the intention of hurting people, aren’t all that bad. Don’t misunderstand me – I am not saying that everyone should go out and lie to each other. But how should one handle situations like this, and other situations similiar to this?

    • Yes, telling kids that Santa exists is a lie, regardless of the intention, right?

      In the case of answering your wife, I believe discretion is the key here.

      Even if you lie for a good cause, i.e. you’re hiding Jews from Nazis during the war and you lie to the Nazis, that’s still a lie. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do it in that kind of circumstance, but really, it’s still a lie.

      If you’re a Christian, confess it as such and repent, then move on. If you’re not, then that’s another sin against God that will be held against you on the Day of Judgment.

      Good questions! Thanks.

  2. Doesn’t repenting some action imply that you resolve not to do it again?

    But if lying was the lesser evil in this case (hiding Jews from the Nazis), resolving not to do it again would mean choosing the greater evil.

    So it’s hard to understand what “repenting” would mean if you remained convinced you had taken the most moral (or least immoral) course available to you, and would do the same thing if the situation were repeated.

  3. So, what would you do, then? A bit of a dilemma, huh?

  4. Here are some notes related to lying from a lesson I did based on Norman Geisler’s ethics book, Love Your Neighbor.

    “Scripture References dealing with lying:

    a. 9th Commandment in Exodus 20. “Bear false witness” refers to being honest under oath or in a court of law. i.e. falsely accuse, lie to defend the guilty
    b. Revelation 22:15. To live a life of lies and deceit is to live far from God.

    ***In general, a lie is the intent to deceive someone.

    ***Could this be improved by adding; “A lie is deceiving those who deserve or expect to know the truth.?”

    ***This definition says people should be honest in everyday conversations, but allows for deception in other circumstances. Games, war, higher law.

    ***Examples from the Bible of this approach:
    a. Joshua 2 Rahab was dishonest to protect lives of Jewish spies.
    b. Exodus 1:15-21 Shiprah and Puah, 2 Hebrew midwives, were dishonest to the Pharoah in order to save lives of baby boys.
    c. 1 Samuel 19-20 Jonathan was dishonest in order to protect life of David.

    ***Ethically speaking, this is the “graded absolutism” approach.

    Thanks for the discussion!

  5. Steve, it’s only a dilemma if you regard both rules — the rule against lying, and the rule against facilitating murder — as absolutely binding, and there’s no way to follow both. If you don’t regard the rules as absolute, or as equally binding, there’s no dilemma and no need to repent, is there?

    Could this be improved by adding: “A lie is deceiving those who deserve or expect to know the truth”?”

    Brandon, it seems you want to assign the same distinction between “lie” and “deception” as we typically make between “murder” and “killing.” And it does make sense to have such distinctions. But it’s very hard to provide an exhaustive description of what the difference is. In everyday speech we say “murder is unjustified killing,” but then we have hundreds of pages of law trying to work out the nature of “justification.” If your distinction took hold, we could spend hundreds of hours trying to work out who “deserved or expected” truth. 🙂

  6. 1. I am guilty.
    “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16

    2. I know it.
    “…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)” Romans 2:14,15

    3. The good news is Jesus paid my fine.
    “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

    4. I believe the good news.
    “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14,15

  7. I am loving the new tract, Steve!

  8. I have a few questions about Exodus 20:16.

    First, is bearing false witness the same thing as lying? Isn’t bearing false witness more specific than just lying?

    Secondly, it says you shall not bear false witness AGAINST your neighbor. Does that mean you can bear false witness for your neighbor?

  9. Love the new tract !

  10. As for lying, I think the key is that God looks at the heart – without going into detail explaining, I’ve had rare situations where I was deceitful, but didn’t “lie” at all ! But perhaps I was “Bearing false witness” – so there’s a slight difference between the two sometimes.

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