What Does the Bible Say About Lying: A Christian Study

by Derek Hill on August 8, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

All throughout the Bible, there are scriptures that discuss the topic of lying.  Some explain how certain people lied.  Others talk about the consequences of lying.  I would venture to say that lying can be one of the easiest of sins to commit.  One little sentence leaves the lips and all is well again.  We all fall prey to it on occasion and it sometimes creates more chaos then we could have imagined.  Other times you can get away with a little white lie (here on earth; not before the throne).  Lying is nothing new.  In fact, it is what introduced Adam and Eve to the very first sin.  So, let us start at the beginning after creation was complete.

What Does The Bible Say About Lying

Proverbs 6:16, 17 and 19 – There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue…a false witness who breathes out lies.

The Very First Lie

In Gen 2:16-17 God says to Adam, “you may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat it you shall surely die.”  Quick side note, creation was not finished here because God had not made Eve yet.  In Gen 2:18-23, the next passage, God then creates Eve from one of Adam’s ribs.  After this, creation was then finished.  In Gen 3:1-5 we are introduced to the serpent (Satan) and his very first temptation to Eve; now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘you shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  But the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  This is also where we are introduced to Satan’s greatest weapon, the half-truth.  Satan knew that they would not die right that second, but he did know that they would die eventually and that was not part of God’s plan.  Adam and Eve believed the half-truth.  They indeed did not die that day, but they still died.

Are All Lies Considered Sin?

By certain events in the Bible, I am saying no.  How can this be?  Let us look at two examples as I explain.  Exodus 1:16-21 starts with the king of Egypt saying to two midwives, “when you serve as a midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.”  But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king commanded them, but let the male children live.  So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?”  The midwives said to Pharoah (here is the lie), “because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”  So God dealt well with the midwives.  And the people multiplied and grew very strong.  And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.  The fear of God is why the midwives lied.  They knew that murder was wrong.  They didn’t lie for selfish reasons; they lied because they feared God.

Joshua 2:1-21 tells the story of Rahab the prostitute and how she lied to save two spies that Joshua had sent to check out Jericho and other local areas of the land.  Her lie came from the same position as the midwives.  Verse 8b-9a says, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you (the spies) has fallen upon us.  She feared the spies because they had God with them, thus this also makes her fear God.  Her lie also was not for selfish gain.  It was the fear of God that drove her to this decision.  Anytime a person lies for the honest, true fear of God, I believe they will not be held accountable for it.  It is those that lie for other reasons such as: selfishness, lust, greed and all sorts of other human endeavors that the lie becomes sin.

When a Lie Becomes Sin

Lies become sin when any tiny hint of selfishness is there.  Acts 5:1-9 is a perfect example.  Ananias and Sapphira were a married couple that sold a piece of their property.  They kept a portion of the money back for themselves but they wanted to look good in front of others, so they lied and said they were giving all of the profit to the church. In verses 3-5 Peter says to Ananias, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?  Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart?  You have not lied to men but to God.”  When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last.  Men in the church carried him out and buried him.  Later on Sapphira comes into the church knowing nothing about what happened to her husband.  Verses 7-10a says, after an interval of about three hours his (Ananias) wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.”  And she said, “Yes, for so much.”  But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?  Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”  Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.  Their lies were built around a false pretense to look like generous, giving people to the rest of the church.  God does not accept this behavior.

Other Verses About Lying

Proverbs 6:16, 17 and 19 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue…a false witness who breathes out lies.

Leviticus 19:11-12You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.  You shall not swear by My name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

Psalm 24:4-5He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

There are so many possible passages that could have been chosen for this article.  I encourage you to research further into the heart of God and how lying affects us and those around us through reading His Word.  I hope you have been blessed by God’s Word as you have read it.  He is worthy of all praise!

Looking for some more Bible studies?

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The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

 



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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack Wellman August 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm

I for one, Derek, am glad that the same standards about lying are not the same as they are today or the churches would be empty…AND the pulpits would be barren (including myself). Outstanding as always brother…and that is the truth! LOL <><

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Derek Hill August 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Amen Jack! I would not be here either! LOL! Praise be to God that He has given the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus’ blood on the cross to cover us completely.

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Robert Driskell August 9, 2012 at 9:13 am

Derek,
An excellent analysis of this issue. And you are so right when you said that lying is probably the easiest sin to commit. Let us all seek to be so close to God that lying becomes a thing of the past in our lives. God bless you, Derek.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Derek Hill August 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Thank you Robert. The half-truth is so easy to commit that we as humans don’t even realize it sometimes. To make lying a thing of the past would be amazing! I hope and pray that we all can learn to really look at what we say to others to see if it is full-truth. God bless you too sir!

In His Name Always,
Derek

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Scott January 27, 2013 at 6:38 am

I would be careful not to conclude so quickly that not all lying is wrong. Personally, I am uncertain about this issue, and you may well be right. But those passages you cited do not prove it. Just because the Bible did not explicitly say that what they did was sinful, that does not make it okay. The people in the Old Testament did a lot of things that God would clearly not approve of, but often it doesn’t explain that what they did was wrong. Again, I am not saying that you are incorrect in arguing that, because I’m not sure what the answer is. Nonetheless, the biblical examples you used do not prove or disprove the argument.

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Derek January 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

Thank you for your comment Scott. This article was a challenge for me and I thought and prayed about it concerning the issue you have brought up. With much thought and study, I felt led to write it. The words I wrote definitely were God inspired. The passage about the midwives from Exodus, especially reaffirms what I had written. Exodus 1:17 says, “but the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.” You see, the midwives were put into a position of either murdering infants or protecting them. They chose to protect them “and because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” (Exodus 1:21) God rewarded the midwives for protecting the male infants, so I honestly believe that God was okay with the lie that kept his children alive. God would never reward someone for sinning, that is why I feel confident in what I wrote. I hope this helps you understand where I was coming from and I thank you again for your thoughts. God bless you.

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Scott January 28, 2013 at 7:26 am

Derek, I understand your point about the midwives, and I appreciate you replying to my comment. I am not here to be a critic or incite conflict, but I am interested in this subject and enjoy discussing it. It is true that the midwives protected the infants out of their fear of God. They courageously defied Pharaoh in order to obey God, and God rewarded them for it. But at no point does the text say that the lying is what God rewarded them for. They did the right thing by not killing the infants, but they didn’t have to lie to Pharaoh about it. They could have boldly confessed to him that they did not (and would not) murder those children (certainly, he might have had them killed or otherwise punished, but since when should the people of God fear death?). I cannot say that I would have done anything different in their situation; I would have lied through my teeth if it would save those children. But that does not make deceit okay. As I stated in my reply to Jack’s comment below, I believe that one should always opt for the lesser of two evils, but the lesser of two evils is still an evil. Now, let me reiterate that I understand where you’re coming from, and I am not entirely certain of where I stand in this matter. But as firmly as I believe that lying may be the most moral choice in some circumstances, the fact remains that that does not make that lie moral. Moreover, even if you are 100% correct and lying is okay if the motives are pure, the passage from Exodus 1 does not state whether it was right of the midwives to lie; it states only that fearing God and not killing the infants was the right thing to do. There is no statement either way about lying in that text.

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Derek January 28, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Hey again Scott. I appreciate your thoughts here. I think that Robert said it best when he posed the idea of the definition of lying. “Bearing false witness” is different than protecting your children from a murderer by lying to the murderer. I understand what you are saying though. Actions come from the heart. Either you lie to fulfill your selfish desires or you lie to stop another person’s sinful desires. The motives are different for sure. The midwives were motivated from the heart for their fear of God. I thank you for your honesty in your comments and i always enjoy discussion on anything that I write. God bless you.

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Jack Wellman January 27, 2013 at 9:31 pm

There were people who lied during the Nazi Regime where they hid Jews. The higher moral principle of the sanctity of life made lies a lesser of the evils because which is the greater sin? Lying or telling the truth so that innocent Jews would die? Derek hit the intent perfectly. They lied, not for selfish intent or gain but to protect life.

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Scott January 28, 2013 at 7:03 am

Jack, I understand what you’re saying. Like I said in my original comment, this is an issue I have been wrestling with for some time. And if I were in that situation, I would most certainly lie to save the lives of those Jews. I agree wholeheartedly that lying in that situation would be the lesser of two evils. What we have to keep in mind, however, is that the lesser of two evils is still an evil. Just because lying would not be as bad as handing them over to be slaughtered, that doesn’t mean lying is okay. Perhaps God does not mind, since the motive is pure; I would certainly like to think so! And whatever the case, His grace covers a multitude of sins. But we cannot view sin as circumstantial. We cannot view sin as something that is only wrong some of the time. We have to remember that just because something is the lesser of two evils, that does not mean it is no longer evil. To reiterate, my point is this: 1) that lying would be the best thing to do in that situation, and 2) that that lie would still be a sin.

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Michael August 13, 2013 at 1:09 am

Lying is a sin. There is no differentiation between lying. With all due respect, in my opinion, “lying” was not the motive that drove the midwives to protect the newborn male babies. It was their fear of GOD. Instead, the midwives “lied” to Pharaoh to save their own lives.

I may be wrong, but this is how I understood it. Thank you.

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Derek Hill August 13, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Hello Michael. I think maybe you missed part of my article. I actually said “The fear of God is why the midwives lied” in my article. I agree with you on that, but the fact remains that they indeed lied. If you read the whole story in context, the midwives were protecting the babies. The midwives’ lives weren’t in danger. Had they allowed the babies to die, the midwives still would have remained alive. Does that make sense? The only one in harms way was the babies, so the lies were told to protect the babies from being murdered. If you get a chance read through it and seek wisdom from God. He will always reveal the truth when you seek it. Blessings on you, sir!

Robert January 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

I think much of the confusion about this stems from the lack of a proper definition of lying. What does the phrase “bearing false witness” mean? The sin of lying lies in the motives behind the one telling the lie. Can we really believe that God would call it a sin for us to lie to a murderer intent on killing our children, whom we have hidden in the closet? Scott, I too took a long time forming my thoughts on this subject. I pray God will guide you to the truth, and the peace that comes with it. This is a delicate subject, but one that every Christian needs to come to grips with.
God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Priscy February 3, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I really understand what Scott is heading to and I neither agree nor disagree with him. The bible says in Jeremiah 32:27 “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”, nothing is absolute difficult for for Him to deliver the midwives from the punishment of the King if they had spoken the “truth” and same thing applies to Rehab. There is one thing for sure that we human can’t understand fully that is the ways of God, it might be that it was the holy spirit which made the midwives and Rehab save the innocent souls through their lies, has anyone thought of this by any chance? One thing we have to understand is that every sin is a sin therefore before we act we need to ask the holy spirit to take control so that our actions might seem like sins in the face of human but they would be perfect in the eyes of GOD the creator. Lets remember He said His ways are not our ways.
Peace be with you all,
Priscilla

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Derek Hill February 3, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Hello Priscilla. Thank you for your comment. I will say the same thing as I said above. In both stories, the lies that were told were not for the individual’s selfish motives at all, but because they feared God. If the fear of God is your foundation for lying to save someone from a tyrant or murderer than it isn’t for your own pleasure or benefit, but it is to honor God because of the fear that you have for Him. I hope this makes sense. God bless.

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anonymous May 28, 2013 at 7:59 pm

If you lied to someone about something and you regret should you go back and tell them the truth after asking God for forgivness?

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Derek Hill May 28, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I would say yes because as Christians we are supposed to make things right with others. If this is a fellow believer, they may be mad at first, but the Holy Spirit will convict them to forgive you. If this isn’t a fellow believer, it will show how genuine your faith is. You could have said nothing at all. It may plant a seed in their heart that God can grow. Seek God in prayer and see if He thinks the same way as I have suggested. If not, then definitely go with what God is saying. I hope this helps. God bless you!

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marie mallory June 24, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Derek,
Are you still checking this feed? Let me know please … I’d like to get your thoughts on some issues about lying.
Thanks!
Marie

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Derek Hill June 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Hi Marie! Yes I am here for any questions you have. Blessings!

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hurt December 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Can you help me with something.
My husband came home from work on his birthday and told me his co worker had bought him a latte. I said oh that was nice.
Later i see a conversation on his cell phone between him and a woman I had never heard about and in this conversation (Karen)he thanked her for the coffee. I learned from this conversation she was a co worker and also a girlfriend years ago but now lived in another state. The next evening I asked my husband, who did you say gave you a latte yesterday? He said Dianna, my co worker. I told him had read the message and knew he was lying to me. He said I wasn’t lying Dianna actually handed it to me. He refuses to admit this was a lie or deceitful. My feelings are hurt. I now wonder what else I don’t know about.
Also in this conversation she said I always think of you on your birthday you know women don’t forget anything, he replies, yes, I’m reminded of it daily. I feel double betrayed. Isn’t this half truth a lie?

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Derek Hill December 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Hello Hurt. I am sorry to hear about what is going on. The fact is that if any part of a statement is untrue, than it is a lie. The “half-truth” is the greatest weapon that Satan uses. They sound so true and innocent, but they are full of poison. I encourage you to forgive your husband and maybe seek some marriage counseling. You seem concerned about other things that may have happened and counseling can help you work through these things, but your husband must be willing to go and he must be willing to be 100% truthful with you and the counselor. I hope this helps. Most importantly, stay connected with God. He will sustain you through the biggest storms in life.

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Greg Tegman December 10, 2013 at 9:11 pm

I am now 56 and have had major fear problems and am very frightened in general. I doubt I am a Christian. How can I stop this once and for all? Greg Tegman, Everett WA

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Derek Hill January 9, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Hey Greg. You only need to know if you truly believe in Jesus Christ and that He died on the cross for you. If you believe this and have given your life to Him to try and live your best for Him you can be assured that you are a Christian and that you are saved. So sorry for such a late response. Fear is a tool of the devil and he wants you right where you are right now. He wants you to be afraid, but Jesus has already won the war! No need for fear! God bless!

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anonymous January 8, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Interesting topic. I regularly go teach Bible in a country where Christians are imprisoned and tortured for their faith. Whenever I go there, I frequently have to lie, because as an invited guest of the local underground church, it is my responsibility to protect the local believers. Also, the local believers sometimes lie in order to protect me and my work there. The question of when does God allow people to lie takes on another dimension in restricted countries.

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Jack Wellman January 9, 2014 at 6:44 pm

I think the author would agree with you on this. To save human lives is the higher moral purpose so God would allow a person to lie if a human life were at stake and I believe the author, whom I know well and love dearly, would agree.

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Derek Hill January 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Hey Anonymous,

Yes, Jack is right. If you are protecting the lives of others by lying, that is ok. The point of when lying is bad is when it is brought on by selfish human desires. You are doing this to keep fathers and mothers with their children. I praise God for your bravery in the mission field as it has to be very strenuous at times. Thank you! God bless!

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