Our Bible verse for today: “So then, have I become your enemy because I have told you the truth?” Galatians 4:16 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Speak the truth, but do it in love.”
A couple of weeks ago, during a time of discussion in a Bible study group, somebody asked the question if a lie is always wrong, and if the truth must always be told. The answer isn’t as obvious or as easy as you might at first think.
First of all, a lie is always a lie. Either something is true or it isn’t and if you say something that isn’t true, then you have told a lie. But is a lie always wrong? And does the truth always need to be told?
The ninth commandment clearly instructs us not to lie. But in the Bible we do find examples of a lie being told and evidently it was not a bad thing. In Exodus 1:15-22 the Pharaoh ordering the Hebrew midwives to kill all the Hebrew infants at birth. The midwives didn’t do it and when Pharaoh demanded to know why, they lied to him. They told him that the Hebrew mothers kept giving birth before the midwives could arrive and kill the baby. From the context of the passage it’s clear that the midwives were deceiving and misleading Pharaoh. And yet in the passage we also find that God honored and blessed the midwives for their actions.
Likewise, in Joshua chapter two we find the harlot Rahab hiding the Jewish spies in Jericho and then lying to government officials about it. And in this case too, she was honored and blessed by God for doing so.
Those are examples of what is sometimes called a “righteous lie”. It is lying for a righteous purpose. A more modern example would be if you lived in Europe during the Nazi holocaust and you were hiding Jews from the Nazis. If a Nazi officer shows up at your door demanding to know if you know where the Jews are hiding and you say “no”, but you really do know, you have told a righteous lie, and it was a good thing rather than a bad thing. However those are rare cases. The overwhelming evidence of Scripture is that lying is wrong and there is almost never a justification for it.
The other question is whether or not the truth has to be told if you could instead simply remain silent. For instance, if your very overweight spouse has lost ten pounds and is convinced she looks better already, but you know there really is no noticeable difference yet, do you have to tell her there is no noticeable difference or can you simply compliment her on the fact that she has lost ten pounds and let it go at that? I would say that sometimes remaining silent is the better part of wisdom, and just because something is true you don’t necessarily need to volunteer that information in every case.
Perhaps sometimes a “righteous” lie is in order. At other times it might be better to simply remain silent rather than saying something that does not necessarily need to be said. But most of the time, speak the truth when the truth needs to be spoken but be sure to do it in love.