Question:

This question is about lying.

Is lying in all views, such as white lies or small lies, a sin? Is there such a thing as using a lie to help someone? I can't think of a good example now, but I do hope you know what I mean.There are also lies about even the tiniest of things, such as in a relationship when one ask another is he or she OK and they answer "yes," so that the other person will not worry when in fact the answer is "no." There is also the idea of "twisting the truth."

As I was typing this question, I came to believe that lies lead to more lies until you get caught in the end. Do you agree? It happened to me last week, and although I asked God for forgiveness, not to mention looking in your site for topics like repentance and forgiveness, I can't shake the feeling of the consequences I will have after lying.I don't know what the other person will do after knowing that I lied to him, but I do pray he will give me a second chance. By the way, the lie is not about a relationship, it's work related. I have uncertain feelings that I may be fired. Not only that, but people will certainly look at me differently. Is this a consequence that can never be fixed? I don't know what the next work day will hold, but my boss would like to speak to me concerning this. Do you think such things will cause people look at you differently, such as not trusting you anymore? Or will the trust will not be the same trust as before? Or maybe trust is just hard to gain, yet easy to lose.

I hope you understand my questions. I asked God for forgiveness and I do hope He had forgiven me.


Answer:

"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).

There is no such thing as a good lie. As one friend recently pointed out, even a lie given to protect another's life means that you don't trust God to handle the situation.

Like all misspoken words, once they leave your mouth, they cannot be recalled. The consequences remain. You can gain forgiveness by changing your behavior and attitude toward lying. God gladly forgives because He wants you to live righteously. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). It should not be a matter of hoping that God forgives. Faith demands that we trust God's promises. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).

You may gain the forgiveness of those you lied to in the same way: humbly tell them that you mislead them and that you are sorry. There I can't say with certainty that forgiveness will be given because men are fickle creatures; men don't always do as they ought.

For more on this topic, see: "Little Lies" and "It Was Only a Small Fib."

Ok, after reading your articles, I began to think that even the smallest things can become lies. For instance, at the work place, you are feeling down for some reason because you have an argument with the family before going to work, and yet you have to appear cheerful in front of the clients. Is that like lying to yourself about how you truly feel or are things like these a different idea? When you don't say what you truly feel or if you want to just to make things right for another person, it becomes a lie, right? Feelings are not dependable if that's the case.

Emotions are never trustworthy.

People often think that the only way to be honest is to tell someone everything they know or feel. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), but there have been many things that God has chosen not to tell us (e.g. Acts 1:7). Leaving somethings a mystery is not lying, it is just restricting the flow of information. As an example, God's plan was to save mankind by His Son's death on the cross. That plan was not fully revealed in advance. Why? "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (I Corinthians 2:7-8). As a matter of fact, it is wiser to say less that you think. "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back" (Proverbs 29:11).

Let's use your example. Does your customer want to hear about your troubled home life? Will you gain his business crying on his shoulder? Most likely not. So for your business sake and your relationship with your customer, you hold those feelings back because they are not productive in that environment. "A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart" (Proverbs 18:2). When you are having coffee with your girlfriends and someone asks how are things at home, that is a better time to express those feelings.

"He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive" (Proverbs 17:27-28).

A wise person thinks about who needs to hear before saying what is on his mind. There are times it is best just to keep silent. "Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, for it is an evil time" (Amos 5:13). Sometimes things are so bad that you are best off not trusting anyone with your secret thoughts. "Do not trust in a friend; do not put your confidence in a companion; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom" (Micah 7:5).

If someone asks, how is your day, then give them a brief, but accurate, summary: "Fine so far," "Better since I got here," "Not as well as I would like." If they really want to know more, they will ask. Yet, knowing that cheerfulness makes other people feel better, to give another a smile even though you are aching inside is saying that the other person is more important than you are to yourself. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (Philippians 2:3).

I see, this is truly an eye opener for me. So telling someone how you feel may not always be good. No wonder some people appear to be tactless, even though they are saying the truth. Can I say it is like knowing what to say or do at the right place and at the right time?

By the way, I never hear the word "joke" or a word related to that in the Bible. I know it is somewhat dumb but jokes can also mean a half lie and a half-truth. God does not play games, but we see how much people have changed morally now.

You do have to consider the time. "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: ... A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4).

You are correct that some jokes do involve telling half-truths. But not all jokes are the same. Some people make jokes out of crude things. "But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks" (Ephesians 5:4). Some people try to cover up insults or lies by claiming they were just jokes. "Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, "I was only joking!"" (Proverbs 26:18-19).

But this doesn't mean all humor is bad. There are many humorous events in the Bible. For example, the King of Syria learned that the prophet Elisha was telling his war plans to the King of Israel and decided to plug this leak permanently. They surround the town Elisha is staying, but then God strikes them with blindness. Elisha then offers to lead them to where they needed to go and brings them into the middle of the capital city of Israel before the king. He then has the blindness lifted. Talk about awkward situations! (II Kings 6:8-20).

Just recently I had a friend get mad at me for trying to help him get out of a drug addiction. One of things he said as he left was, "I don't ever want you to rescue me again!" It took months, but he finally has seen the truth and is coming out of his addiction. For a long while he would not see me, but the other day he agreed to meet with me. Five minutes before we were to meet, he called me to say his car broke down and he needed someone to take him to an auto parts place. I told him that I would come and get him since I wasn't that far. The whole time I smiled. God had me "rescue" him again.

The Bible is filled with irony and puns. There are many ways to express humor without stooping to lies or crudeness.