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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 automatically considered wrong, and was even commended at times. While this seems confusing or even contradictory at first given such Biblical commands as 'thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor' or statements such as 'Satan is the Father of lies', the Bible does not use a 'catch-all' definition for lying as modern English does. The Biblical idea (and jewish idea) of lying were somewhat different from what we might think of as a lie today. See the related question https://ebible.com/questions/845-what-does-the-bible-say-about-lying-is-lying-a-sin#answer-13783 for some details on the culture, as well as some discussion of various types of lies. That question helps form a basis for the discussion in this one. [In brief though, for those who do not want to go read another long answer, lies of the type the Bible condemns are those that stem from a malicious heart: False witness in court, false rumors, slander, gossip, malicious lies, distorted perception and action, lies to deceive into error, lies of false image/hypocrisy, course jesting, etc]. To examine cases in the Bible more specifically. Ex 1:15-22: The midwives feared God, and therefore let the boys live and lied to Pharoah about the circumstances. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 11:10, Prov 1:7). God blessed the midwives and gave them families because they feared Him. II Kings 10:18-31: Jehu deceives the prophets of Ball by pretending to be a Ball worshiper and summoning all the prophets. He then has his men kill all of them, tear down the temple, and demolish the statue of Baal. God commended him in this instance and did not admonish him for his deception. Ex 5:1, Ex 8:20-28: God and Moses both know that the plan is for Pharoah to drive the Israelites from the country - but God has Moses only give Pharaoh the repeated command to allow the people to go worship at a temporary festival. 1 Sam 16:1-13: God tells Samuel how to mislead Saul and say he's going to make a sacrifice and omit his going to anoint a new king. II Chron 18:18-22: God asks for someone to entice Ahab to war, then gives permission to a deceiving spirit to deceive Ahab's prophets Josh 2:1-15, Josh 6:25, James 2:25: Rahab is considered righteous for hiding the spies and sending them off a different way than their pursuers Judges 4:18-22: Jael promises safety and rest to Sisera, then murders him, thus receiving the glory for the victory. John 7:6-10: Jesus tells his brothers he isn't going to the festival, then goes later in secret. For the times when God seems to be condoning a lie, they fall under the : "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) As wisdom and prayer is needed in these situations, it helps to remember that we walk by the spirit not by a list of rules (Rom 8:3-5), and that we discern the will of God by abiding in Christ (Rom 12:1-2). 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, the midwives did have a chance to kill the boys, 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.
God allows us to do a lot of things so we can grow and find truth. That doesn't mean we have to sin to learn but sometimes that happens because we are not perfect. Even when we think we are getting away with something we really are not. He is patient with us.. He is a God of Grace and Mercy. If He were not well no of us would be here.
God has never condoned or supported any wrongdoing at any time for any reason. God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19. This text tells us that God has no reason to deceive us, that we can trust in what He says to us about what He is planning to do. Balak was asking the prophet Balaam to tell him what he wanted to hear, and the prophet was saying to him, and to us by extension, 'I can lie to you but God won't, and if I do, God won't change his mind because I lied to you'. The glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for He is not a man, that He should have regret 1Sam 15:29. This, Samuel said to Saul when he informed Saul he had been replaced as king of Israel and Saul, in response, grabbed Samuel's robe and tore it. Translation: there's nothing you can do to me that will make God regret His decision. To condone is to overlook, excuse, or give tacit or silent approval to an act that is objectionable or illegal. I find no evidence, in the whole bible, of God doing any of this. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak Matt 12:36. That doesn't sound like condonation to me. I've read where believers feel a sense of guilt for having "fibbed" (my word) to friends about their friend's appearance or some other trivial matter, and they worry if God holds them accountable for "lying " to the person. Genesis 6:5 tells us the Lord saw that every INTENTION of the thoughts of [man's] heart was only evil continually. Genesis 8:21..for the INTENTIONS of man's heart is evil from his youth... Man is born with bad intentions. Jesus says "everyone who looks at a woman with lustful INTENT has committed adultery with her in his heart" Matt 5:28. The writer of Hebrews says "the word of God [can discern] the thoughts and INTENTIONS of the heart Heb 4:12. What was the intent of your heart when you told your wife she looked nice in those jeans, and, no, they didn't make her look fat? LOL. Why did Abraham say that Sarah was his sister, what was his intention? Was it his plan to cause sickness in Egypt? No, he was not trusting in God to protect him even though he'd been promised a miracle for Sarah and himself. That's the mistake we need to underline in that narrative, not the lie, Gen. 20:2. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God asked 'How long will there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart'? Jer 23:26 The Lord looks on the heart,1Sam 16:7 Rebecca helped Jacob trick his father. Genesis 27. Jacob lied to his father for profit and was given the blessing. Jacob's sons lied to him about Joseph, and his favorite boy was lost to him for many years. At first glance you might think Jacob had gotten off with no accountability or punishment. Upon reading the rest of the story we see this isn't the case at all. Jacob's uncle Laban lied to Jacob and tricked him into marrying both of his daughters when Jacob was only interested in one of them, Rachael. Laban lost much of his wealth to Jacob. God doesn't overlook lies. He doesn't check with a set of rules when He looks upon us; He looks on our heart.
I have struggled over the years with lying. And I have rationalized lies I have told. In recent years, God has taught me to mellow out and stop worrying about the past. I have also felt confident that God always looks at our hearts. When I assured a friend that I had not heard gossip about her, I was lying. My motive, to help bring her to a place of greater self assurance Why I will not longer feel guilty... although someone had attempted to say unkind things, and I had 'heard', with God's help I didn't listen. When my sweet daughter said "Do I look good in this?" and I assured her that she did (even though something else would have maybe looked better in my opinion), I guess I was lying, but her face lit up, I knew she felt confident to face the world, and looking good on the outside is almost always a pretty subjective thing. When I declined an invitation saying "I would have liked to come", I was lying. The truth would have been I feel uncomfortable in your home because I don't trust your spouse". But that would have been hard for my friend to hear, and her spouse is already undergoing treatment for sexual addictions. Why would I want her to now feel uneasy in my presence when it would probably serve no greater good? You may feel I am still incorrect and naive to rationalize lying, but to conclude: 1. these situations are not meant to further a selfish goal 2. they are always meant to lift up or encourage or prevent from discouraging someone. I would welcome any challenges to this stand I have taken. Though I feel no condemnation, I realize that God may want to take my behaviour in a better direction...a higher road. Sincerely Kathy D.
One of the saddest parts of the Scriptures I found to be in the Old testament is 1 Kings 13. Here is an obedient prophet of God that is unnamed bringing a message of judgment against Jeroboam and God used that prophet to show signs and miracles of authenticity, yet his life would be cut short because of an old prophet of God deliberately lying to him. One would think that the Lord would have punished the old prophet for lying and deceiving this younger prophet, yet it was the younger prophet who was slain by God for directly disobeying the Divine decree. That prophet was emphatically told not to return to the way he came and not to eat or drink there. The King had experienced the reality of a miracle, the sign being that the arm that directed his men to arrest the prophet became dried up and the King could not return it. Then the King asked the prophet to pray for his arm and it was restored. The prophet was then asked to go with the king for rewards and food but the prophet refused to go citing the “Word of God”. Shortly after, the Old Prophet was told by his sons what had happened and thus he ventured to meet him. When he found the young prophet he invited him to his home for food and drink. At first this young prophet refused citing once again the “word of God” that had been spoken to him warning him not to return by that way. Then the persistent old prophet lied to him saying, “I am a prophet also as you are. And an angel spoke to me by the Word of Jehovah, saying, Bring him back with you into your house, so that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied to him.” The Scriptures don’t mention anything about what motivated this old prophet to go and lie to him and yet the severe judgment came upon the young prophet for returning in disobedience. The only time it speaks of the old prophet being inspired to speak the Word of God was inside his house while the young prophet was sitting at his table. 1Kings 13:19-22, “1Ki 13:21 And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, So says Jehovah, Because you have not obeyed the mouth of Jehovah and have not kept the command which Jehovah your God commanded you, but came back and have eaten bread and have drunk water in the place which He said to you, You shall not eat bread nor drink water, your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.” MKJV The young prophet may have been hungry and thirsty and when he hears this old prophet I gues his weakness might have helped to persuade him but what I cannot fathom is how this old prophet would willfully lie to him to persuade him to go back. I would have thought that his lie was as bad if not worse than the the young prophet’s mistake. Well the story goes on to show the Old prophet regretting his actions and placing the dead young prophet in his tomb. I wonder too, why it seems God condones lying in certain places but declares to us that all liars will not be going to heaven Rev 21:10. If I was to analyze what I see in the Scripture should I say that lies to protect oneself and for the desecration of others seem to be of the devilish kind, yet lies like those told by the midwives in Egypt to protect the sons born to Jewish mothers clearly seem to be rewarded by God and acceptable as in Ex 1:15-22. “And it happened, because the midwives feared God, that He made them houses.” Christians who tried to protect Jews from the Nazis would be telling lies to keep such poor souls safe. When is a lie accepted or not? I think the motive for the lie should be what determines this.
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