Is it right to lie for the sake of politeness? To keep a surprise party secret?

We know that lying is defined as "making an untrue statement with the intent to deceive." We know it is a sin (Leviticus 19:11; Proverbs 12:22).

But is it right to lie for the sake of politeness?
Should we ruin every single surprise party we know when someone asks us a question related to it?

Clarify Share Report Asked November 29 2013 Mini Samuel Bourassa

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
Actually, the Biblical idea (and jewish idea) of lying were somewhat different from the catch-all modern definition.

For example, for a jew, it was actually impolite and cruel to tell a friend "you made a bad purchase", even if they had. The duty of love towards a friend trumped cold 'truthfulness', and one was to compliment the purchase. [Advice before the purchase was perfectly acceptable].

This is why it is not only important to understand the culture and context of scripture as written [ie the difference between false witness and a lie in general, or how a lie was defined in Bible times], but it is of even more importance to subject everything to the moral law.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself". (Mark 12:29-31)

On this hangs all the law and the prophets. (Matt 22:34-37)

So, is a lie intending to harm your neighbor? Then it is a malicious lie. Is it intended for the benefit and love of your neighbor (such as the surprise party) or to protect the innocent? Then it is not a "lie" of the type the Bible condemns. 

Furthermore, there are many times in the Bible where people (or spirits) acting on behalf of God, used deception as a means to an end. It was not considered wrong and is even commended at times:

(Ex 1:15-22, II Kings 10:18-31, Exodus 8:20-28, 1 Sam 16:1-13, II Chron 18:18-22, James 2:25, Judges 4:18-22, etc)

What then, is the different between a deception that is commended, and a lie to be utterly condemned? The lies of the Bible to avoid are such things as:

False witness in court (Deut 19:15-21) This is a severe form of lie, as a person's life, future, or reputation could hang in the balance. Any mistruth in a court of law is never acceptable. (Although, as Jesus showed, one could remain silent (Mark 14:57-64), and as Paul showed, one could tailor one's argument to the court rather than directly answer questions (Acts 23:26). Jesus is perhaps the best example of being indirect and avoiding direct answers, preferring to get to the heart of issues, as he often answered questions with yet another question).

False rumors, slander, gossip (Ex 23:1, Lev 19:16, Prov 26:22, Jer 9:4-6): This includes any lies or exaggerations done under the cover of 'prayer requests' or 'concern'. It is better not to bring something up at all the facts of the case could be misconstrued, or of telling the matter is going to lead to the tale spreading rather than reconciliation. (Prov 11:13)

Malicious lies: Lies deliberately done to harm another person - whether to hurt their reputation, or just to hurt them, such as belittling sarcasm. (I Cor 13:6, Eph 4:32, Isaiah 59:3, Prov 26:26)

Distorted perception and action: (Ex 32:7-10, Isaiah 5:20-23, Rom 1:21-32)

When our hearts harden to God's truth and light, then our vision becomes distorted, and our actions eventually become more and more depraved.

Lies to deceive into error: (Gen 3:1-7, Isaiah 5:18-19, Jer 9:8, Titus 1:10-11, Matt 24:24)

Lies to inflate one's own image, lies to get oneself out of trouble, etc.

It really, then, comes down to a matter of the heart and subjection to God. Truth remains truth, but as Jesus points out to Satan, it is the higher truth, the eternal truth that matters. Temporal truths only stem from the eternal - not the other way around. In none of the numerous biblical examples was temporal truth changed (The spies really were under Rahab's straw, we might say the midwives were lying through their teeth to pharoah, Jehu's plan to slaughter the prophets of Baal was quite opposite from his stated plan to worship Baal, etc]. Yet, the temporal took a back seat in view of God and the eternal plan.

As such, if someone lies to protect someone else's life from an unjust genocide, or uses tact, or throws a surprise party - they are still following the Royal Law. Their heart is towards God and towards each other.

November 29 2013 33 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Nathan Toronga Christian Elder.
Dear Samuel, you asked an important question, but then, your detailed analysis of scenarios and your verdicts in each are splendid. You know the answer, my brother. And you are right!

It is NEVER right to lie. For whatever reason.
(We lie, of course - at least I do. For various reasons, and not all of them that noble either. I wouldn't know about you, though.) Yet lying, like theft, hatred, gossiping etc, will remain a sin.

If we tried to justify the means, then if I stole 'from the rich to give to the poor', I'd be innocent! But theft is theft, no matter the motive.
(Here I must add a little flesh: if I'm hungry, and I pass by your field, and I take some watermelon or whatever is readily edible, and I eat it on the field, I have NOT stolen. Biblically. Deuteronomy 23:24-25. This is what the apostles were doing at Mark 2:23)
Hence where an exception exists, the bible clearly says so.

Now to the bigger picture:

A. Lies are not infinite; they have a beginning and an end. They were founded by the devil. John 8:44. Satan is the father of lies. He fathered lies. As a means to accomplish his pursuits of rebellion. Lies will finally end when the great controversy is finally ended - with the incineration of the devil.

Hence while the rebellion lasts, it'd be folly to assume that our God plucks a few 'leaves' from the devil's tree to advance the interests of His Kingdom. Lies are always an abomination to our Father, who is Truth.

B. Truth
Truth is absolute. Either something is true, or is false. There is no neutral ground. Once one speaks, it's either or, but never neither. So if we serve the Truth, we don't mingle it with untruths, and still assume that it's still truth. Any amount of untruth, no matter how insignificant, once added to truth, can only taint the truth. No lie will ever edify the truth. Suppose truth was white - any amount of lying cannot make truth whiter, but creamier until it takes the opposite color, maybe say red. (For indeed red is the color of sin)

C. Justice & Mercy
These are parts of the pillars that sustain God's Dominion - Justice & Mercy. The question then rises - if I tell the truth, this guy will get into trouble. Should I tell the truth & consign him to sure punishment?

Yes, I may lie. You may too. But that is still sin.
When an offense is committed, it is against God, and sometimes against man also. And if I hide the truth from man, so that my friend is spared punishment, then his record of sin stands against him forever. He has not been pardoned, because I don't have the power to forgive him in that matter. For mercy to be exercised, the decision maker must get the truth, then decide to forgive. That way, even in heaven, the sin is acquitted. If the decision maker decides to punish, again the sin is acquitted. Lying is only to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin, but face judgment in the end.

Only the one who has the power to forgive, should forgive, based on truth. That is justice and mercy.

D. Surprise Party
While I do not wish to get into the technicalities of 'surprise' parties and other surprises, I want to say that, to the citizens of heaven, lying must be an inter-galactical language that they CANNOT speak. It's like, if you were Greek, and were asked to speak Chinese under certain circumstances. You can't! Lies belong to a different kingdom, which is alien to us. We therefore cannot lie 'for a good reason' without sinning.

E. Painting by my daughter.
To me, anything she paints is beautiful. But if it's ugly, then her attempt should be commended, but she should still be told that her picture needs to get a lot better. All said in love, of course. We can't lie to please her. It's sin.

F. Food at the girlfriend's family.
By asking the question, theoretically, the mother must expect one of two answers. You give the correct one.

G. Our Example
Finally, we have our God and Redeemer to imitate.
Since He never lied, no matter what, neither should we.
We must try to be like Him.


July 18 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Jose de Carvalho Seminary Theology Graduate
Apart from the examples in the polemical life of David, and that 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. 

I fully concur that lying is a sin and that God hates lies (Levitical Law; Prov. 6:16), so I am not going to decontextualize lying or condone it, however 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, impacting 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 believer 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


July 02 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Frank Scimeca
I believe there is a good reason that one of the commandments DID NOT say "Thou shall not lie" BUT RATHER "Do not bear false witness". I believe, and am open to correction as I desire to learn more, that under certain circumstances lying is OK as long as it does not bear false witness and is not malicious, hurtful or designed for the negative outcome of a brother or neighbor.

June 29 2014 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

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