What exactly is a lie? Webster’s Dictionary provides several definitions. As a verb, a lie is to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive or to create a false or misleading impression. As a noun, a lie is an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive, an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker, or something that misleads or deceives.
We see the following words often today to describe a lie: a white lie, gossip, a fib or ‘fiblet’, a tall story or tall tale, a misstatement, a misrepresentation, disinformation, a whopper. Innocuous, aren’t they? More shocking are the words: slander, libel, defamation, perjury, backbiting, dishonesty, deceit, fraud. We do not hear these words much any longer to describe a lie, as they are deemed too harsh.
Proverbs 12:17, He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.
Why would someone lie? Here are a few possibilities.
- Self-preservation. In other words, liars attempt to protect themselves from punishment for wrongdoing.
- Jealousy. Liars simply want to discredit or hurt the innocent because of jealousy over accomplishments or abilities.
- Fear. Often, liars fear the lack of or the potential loss of a position or popularity. In order to achieve or “protect” themselves, they will do whatever it takes to discredit anyone they fear may gain more popularity or position than they currently have.
- To gain some perceived advantage. We see this during political campaigns with mud-slinging commercials and “news” articles. However, this has crept into business practices as well; cases are being revealed of false “reviews” of businesses and restaurants in order to hurt the competition or false positive “reviews” in order to gain business. It also occurs in the office and church setting as liars hope to gain a promotion, position or recognition.
- Bullying. Some use lying to control and manipulate others in order to accomplish their own desires or agenda.
Proverbs 25:18, A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.
Isaiah 32:6, For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.
Today, we seem to expect to be lied to; we do nothing to combat it. In fact, in some countries, it is culturally accepted to lie. God, however, does not see it that way. The Bible has a great deal to say about lying. Our first reference to lying, or deception, is in the story of Eve and the serpent. First references in scripture are very important. Here is the conversation.
Serpent: “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1) (He caused Eve to question what God said, the truth.)
Eve: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Genesis 3:2-3) (As Eve related what God said, she added to the truth. Here is what God actually said: 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surelydie. (Genesis 2:16-17)
Serpent: “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5) (The serpent took God’s word, which Eve had added to, and discredited it. He told Eve that she was being kept away from something; he created a desire in her for something she was not supposed to have.)
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6)
This first reference to lying encompasses all there is in deception and lies. Truth is questioned; truth is added to (think of the telephone game); truth is replaced with reasoning (if this, then that); truth is sacrificed for one’s own desires.
Jacob, the Deceiver, stole the blessing from his brother Esau. (Genesis 27:1-29) His Uncle Laban later deceived Jacob over working for Rachel for seven years but giving Jacob Leah instead at the end of that time. (Genesis 29:15-30) Laban also deceived Jacob in his wages ten times over the years. (Genesis 31:7)
When God gave Moses the Law, He addressed lying, deception, tale bearing, and false witnesses multiple times.
Exodus 20:16, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Exodus 23:1, Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
Exodus 23:7, Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.
Leviticus 6:5, Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering. (See all of Leviticus 6:2-6)
Leviticus 19:11, Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.
Leviticus 19:12, And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.
Deuteronomy 5:20, Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Deuteronomy 19:16-19, If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; 17 Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; 18 And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; 19 Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.
Perhaps, however, the greatest indication of God’s thoughts regarding lying and deception are found in Proverbs.
Proverbs 6:16-19, These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
God will not tolerate lying. We may try to gloss over it, thinking that it is not a big deal. Judgment of the liar may not be swift, to our minds at least, but judgment will come. When you lied to your parents your lies eventually were exposed. You then received the punishment, not only for the original infraction, but also for the lie. Our all-seeing, all-knowing Heavenly Father will enact judgment. How can we know this? Because of His Word.
Psalm 5:6, Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing [lying]: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
Proverbs 19:5, A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.
Proverbs 19:9, A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.
Proverbs 21:28, A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly.
Proverbs 26:27, Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
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