Believe it or not I have been asked this question on more than 1 occasion: “What if someone says they’ve never lied, stolen, lusted, blasphemed—if they deny having any sin at all?”
Ask the person if he has kept the First of the Ten Commandments. Has he always loved God above all else—with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30)? If he says that he has, gently say, “The Bible says that ‘there is none that seeks after God’ (Romans 3:11). Nobody (except Jesus Christ) has kept the First of the Ten Commandments. One of you is lying—either you or God—and the Bible says that it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2).
Today it’s the Ninth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). It is common when mentioning this Commandment to hear the response, “You mean that if some lady asks you if you think she is ugly, you have to tell her the truth—that she is?” Let the person know that there is a big difference between discretion (wise self-restraint in speech) and lying (a false statement intended to deceive), and that God knows the difference.
Should a Christian ever tell a lie? There are times when we may find ourselves in the difficult position of realizing that telling the truth may have dire repercussions. For example, you are asked by a Nazi if you are hiding any Jews in your home. Should you tell him there are two under your bed? To do so would result in their sure death. Your choice is to lie and save lives, or tell the truth and be a party to murder.
Another example is putting “tourist” rather than “Bible smuggler” on your visa into China, or not telling the police in a persecuted country the names of other members of your underground church. Perhaps the answer is that it is the motive that matters. However, the issue depends on the conscience of each individual.
The Bible tells us that God doesn’t lie, and the Ninth Commandment makes it clear that bearing false witness against our neighbor is wrong. Bearing false witness in order to cause harm to another, or to avoid the consequences of our own wrong behavior, is never acceptable to a holy God who knows our motive.
The dictionary defines a lie as a false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood; something intended to deceive or give a wrong impression. People often claim that they have told only a “white lie.” But there is no difference between a white lie, a half-truth, a fib, or an exaggeration. All are lies in the sight of God. How many murders does one have to commit to be a murderer? Just one. In the same way, if they have told even one lie, no matter what color or size, that makes them a liar.
The Ninth Commandment requires the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. God is a God of truth and His Law demands absolute honesty from the heart. Yet the human heart is deceitful above all things. It has been well said that taking the easy path is what makes rivers and men crooked. Look at this telling quote:
. . . 20,000 middle and high-schoolers were surveyed by the Josephson Institute of Ethics—a nonprofit organization in Marina Del Rey, Calif., devoted to character education. Ninety-two percent of the teenagers admitted having lied to their parents in the previous year, and 73 percent characterized themselves as “serial liars,” meaning they told lies weekly. Despite these admissions, 91 percent of all respondents said they were “satisfied with my own ethics and character.” (Reader’s Digest, November 1999)
The path of lies is often the easy path, but it leads to hell. The Bible warns that all liars will have their part in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 21:8). What a fearful thought! People may not think deceitfulness is a serious sin, but God does. It should break our hearts to even think of the fate of the ungodly.