If a person lies, can they be trusted?
verbal communication, fraud and dishonest dealings they are also used in commercial settings to gain an advantage (Deut 19:14; Prov 6:19, 11:1). Fear and wanting to please are some reasons for lying but lying only compounds a problem – if a person is lying about something small, what else may they be lying about? It also brings guilt while the truth brings liberation and joy, even if it means owning up and facing the consequences. One of the 10 Commandments is, you must not lie or give false witness against your neighbour (Ex 20:16). The NT reinforces that honesty, ‘speaking the truth in love’, is essential for good relationships (Eph 4:15,25; Col 3:9).
There are two instances recorded where God overlooked the deception when other innocent people would have been killed if the truth were told: the Hebrew midwives lied to Pharaoh when he ordered the baby boys be killed at birth (Ex 1:19-21); Rahab in Jericho lied that the Israelites spies had left (Josh 2:3-6). However, God was very severe in His judgement when individuals lied to look good in the eyes of others and when lives were not at stake (except their own). King Saul, trying to justify his disobedient actions, lied to protect his own reputation, and from that time God said his kingdom was finished (1 Sam 15:3,13-23); Ananias and Sapphira claimed the gift they were giving was the full price of some land they had sold when in fact it was only part of it (Act 5:1-11).
Just prior to his trial, Jesus predicted Peter would deny knowing Him 3 times. Peter’s reply was “I won’t deny you”, and the other disciples said the same thing. Yet within a few hours of this bold declaration, Peter had failed. He realised what he had done and, in deep repentance, cried bitterly. He admitted he had lied and denied knowing Christ; by acknowledging his wrong he took responsibility or ownership of it (Mt 26:31-35,69-75). This was not the end of any future ministry; he was restored, becoming prominent throughout the NT church. This is another example of God’s righteousness – if we sin and truly repent God can still use us.
“God is not a man that He should lie. Does He speak and then not act?” (Num 23:19; 1 Thes 5:24; Tit 1:2). Lying is incompatible with God’s nature (there will be no habitual liars in heaven) but it is not so with Satan’s as he is the ‘father of lies’ (Jn 8:44; Rev 21:8,27). One of Satan’s greatest weapons is to bring into people’s minds thoughts of wrong belief such as ‘I’m not loved...there is no God…I’m useless’ etc. We are to use the powerful, positive truth of God’s Word to combat all negative lies.
Believing a lie empowers the liar. The truth is not threatened even if it is not good news.
If we claim to be in relationship with God yet our lives don’t show it, we are liars (1 Jn 1:6).
See also: Ananias and Sapphira, deception, false witness, honestly, speech, truth.