Is it ever right to lie?
This is a difficult question. Conducting my own research, I found that even pastors don’t find it easy to address it in its entirety. There are many variables to consider that the Bible doesn’t say anything about. Since it would take too long to include every detail and circumstance in this letter, I plan to address just some of the more important aspects of the question. Please understand, also, that I am in no way an expert in this area, and that I’m bound to making mistakes as well. From what I concluded from my search, though, I hold to my belief that lying is not the best way to face any situation.
Firstly, I would like to establish the definition of a lie: a lie is a false statement told with the intention to deceive. We also understand that the Bible explicitly commands us not to lie.
Here comes the difficult part. Many would argue that there are times when lying is acceptable, or even permitted. One such case would be when you have to protect someone. Two of the most famous Bible scenarios that are often brought up are found in the book of Joshua, when Rahab the harlot lied to protect the Israelite spies, and in the book of Exodus, when the Israelite midwives lied to Pharaoh to save the male babies. The supporters for conditional lying, or lying when “necessary,” would go on to say that these people were blessed for what they did.
However, nowhere in the Scriptures do we find God commending their act of lying, no matter how good their intentions may had been. The Bible never approves of it, but it didn’t condemn these particular persons for it either. Rahab was blessed. She was even mentioned in the “faith chapter” of Hebrews 11. A plain study of what Scripture says, however, would tell us that Rahab was commended and blessed for her heart of faith. Her lie was not mentioned. Scripture also says that the midwives in Egypt were blessed “because [they] feared God.” Again, their lie was neither commended nor condemned. From here, we cannot say that lying was permitted or condoned.
Another famous example of lying to protect someone is the story of Corrie ten Boom. Corrie lived in the Netherlands during the Nazi takeover of the country, and she is known for rescuing and hiding Jews from the Germans. Nazi soldiers repeatedly came to her house and asked if she were hiding Jews, and she always denied it. Ironically, it was Corrie’s own sister, Nollie, who believed in being truthful at all times. One day, when the Nazis once again came to inquire about any Jews they might be harboring, they had hidden the Jews in an underground cellar, the door of which was under a table. When Nollie was asked the question point-blank, she said yes. When asked where, she said, “Under the table.” The soldiers looked, saw nothing there, and thought that Nollie was playing a joke on them. They left without spotting the cellar door, and Nollie was faithful to her conviction of truthfulness.
Previously we talked about lying to protect others. What about lying to protect ourselves? My answer to that is quite simple. If we did something wrong, we know we shouldn’t cover it up with a lie. A sin leads to another sin. If we did something right, why would we need to lie? We should rejoice in persecutions!
Finally, I would like to leave you with a thought. Is it possible that lying, whether to protect ourselves or others, reflects a lack of faith in God? In His will? In His power? If the Lord rescues us physically, like He did for Nollie, praise be to Him! If He doesn’t, is that reason enough to take the situation into our own hands by means of falsehood?
These are just the main aspects of the question that are commonly raised. As I said, there are other scenarios. Nevertheless, this is a matter that lies (pun not intended) between you and God. Search Him and His Word, and I pray that He will lead you in all righteousness and wisdom.
Nathanael Chong (19) is a staff writer at TPS Chapel and Changing Lives Ministry. He studies at Asbury University in Kentucky.