Is it a righteous lie or just a lie?

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Character and integrity”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.” Exodus 1:19 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Is it a righteous lie or just a lie?”
 
Lying is a sin. The ninth commandment is perfectly clear about that. But is there such a thing as a righteous lie? In other words, are there times when lying is not just okay but even required and approved by God? Perhaps.
 
The theory of the righteous lie is based primarily on two passages, both from the Old Testament. In Exodus 1:19 the Egyptian midwives had been ordered by the Pharoah to kill all the Hebrew male babies at birth. But the midwives knew it would be wrong to do that and so they let the babies live. Then, when questioned by Pharoah as to why they didn’t obey his command they lied to him about it, and the Scripture then tells us that God rewarded them for saving the Hebrew babies.
 
The other example is found in Joshua 2:4-7 when the prostitute Rahab conspired to save the Jewish spies and then lied to the authorities about their whereabouts. There are a few other passages in both the Old and New Testaments which are sometimes pointed to as justifications for this idea of a righteous lie, but these two will suffice for our discussion this morning.
 
Proponents of the righteous lie theory argue that sometimes lies are necessary and are therefore approved by God (sort of a carve-out or special dispensation from the ninth commandment). They could be right. If you were a Christian in Germany in the late 1930s and you were hiding Jews in your basement, and the Nazis were at your door demanding to know if you were hiding Jews, morally you would be compelled to say “no”. Giving the Jews up to the Nazis would be a death sentence for them and it would be the wrong thing to do. Therefore, not only is it okay to lie about it, you are morally compelled to tell that lie.
 
Opponents of the righteous lie theory argue that even though your lie may have produced a good outcome, that still doesn’t make the lie itself a good thing or something approved by God. That’s the position taken by the conservative Christian website “Answers in Genesis” (owners of The Ark and the Creation Museum). They contend that if we read the righteous lie passages carefully, we will find that even though the intent and the actions of the midwives and of Rahab were good, and even though the outcome was positive, the passage still doesn’t say that the lie itself was approved by God. For Him to have done so would have made the ninth commandment conditional.
 
So, the question before us here today, as we consider our theme of being men and women with godly character and integrity is, “Is it ever okay to lie?” “Is there such a thing as a “righteous” lie that is condoned and approved by God?”
 
It’s not an easy question to answer but I will offer you some thoughts about it tomorrow.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

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