Is It Ever Okay To Lie?

The author of an article published in Time magazine made a very valid point concerning the ninth commandment when he said, “The injunction against bearing false witness, branded in stone and brought down by Moses from the mountaintop, has always provoked conflicting emotions. On the one hand, nearly everybody condemns lying. On the other, nearly everyone does it every day.”

Most people would say lying is wrong unless, of course, they are the ones telling the lie. However, is it ever right to tell a lie? Someone might say, “Of course it is, if it spares someones feelings.” What about when your wife asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?” Should you tell the truth in love, or bend the truth a little in order to avoid hurting her feelings? What about the age old argument of hiding Jews from the Nazis in Germany during WWII? The soldiers come to the door and demand to know if there are Jews in the house. The owner of the house says, “No sir, there is nobody here but us.” Some would contend that by lying the owner of the house achieved a higher moral purpose; saving the lives of their neighbors.

Many attempt to support this idea from passages like Exodus 1:15-21.
15Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as 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.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

It appears that God blessed the Hebrew Midwives because they lied. However, does God’s morality change depending on the circumstances? Proverbs 12:22 says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord..” If this is true, then how can there ever be a situation in which lying lips are pleasing to the Lord?

One way to understand the story in Exodus is to remember that God accomplishes His plan in spite of our sin, not because of it. Just because the Bible records the unrighteous acts of people, doesn’t mean it condones those actions. The wonderful truth is that God uses fallen, sinful people to accomplish His will in the world.

“God accomplishes His plan in spite of our sin, not because of it.”

Even though we should not lie, that doesn’t mean we have to say everything we are thinking. There is a time to be prudent, wise, discerning, and silent. However, when the time comes for us to speak up, let us strive to be truthful, for the glory of God.


2 thoughts on “Is It Ever Okay To Lie?

  1. Lindsey says:

    Thank you for this reminder.


  2. Julie says:

    So what should one say in those situations? I detest lying, and do try to word my way around things. “Hun, do you like the casserole?” “You know, I’ve never had anything like it! I love that there are these tomatoes in here! Those are so tasty. I’ll have to try that!” etc. Give a roundabout answer that affirms SOMETHING, and so is pleasing to them without me lying to them. But if I get a birthday present, and I secretly think, “Why would they buy me this? I’m dropping this off at Goodwill on my way home. It’s shocking things this hideous exist.” And they ask me, “Do you like it?” The answer is YES. I do not lie on principle; but surely I’m not going to look my grandma in the eye and tell her, “No! I don’t like it!” when she bought me this thoughtful gift. That would be extremely rude, and completely against charity.
    With the sample situations you gave perhaps you could avoid the question and answer something like, “You look nice.” But she will probably repeat, “But do I look FAT?” And the same with the Nazis at the door. One could hardly stay silent or beat around the bush then. To me, in these situations wisdom and prudence would lead me to honestly think I should answer dishonestly.


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