Is it Okay to Lie Sometimes?


Is it okay to lie sometimes?


“I know that Christians say that we should not lie.  The Bible tells us this.  But isn’t it okay to tell a ‘white lie,’ one that doesn’t do any harm?”


Lying and dishonesty is a subject relevant to our daily life.  The dictionary defines a “white lie” as “a minor or harmless lie.”  Sometimes “white lie” is used to mean a lie that is told to benefit others.  Defenders of “white lying” like to give examples that they assume proves their position.  They may say, “Suppose you were living in Germany during the Nazi regime and you were hiding a Jewish family.  The Gestapo pounds on your door demanding, ‘Do you have any Jews hiding here?’  Desiring to defend those hiding in your house, you answer, ‘Not at all officer!  We wouldn’t hide any Jews!’  This would be a ‘white’ or justified lie!”

Others would say that a “white lie” is fine when put into a difficult position.  Suppose your friend goes to a hairdresser and then meets you and exclaims, “I just had my hair styled!  Doesn’t it look great!”  How do you answer?  Do you tell her the full truth, “Friend, I’m sorry, but your hair looks terrible!”  Or do you say something to evade the blunt truth: “Friend, it really is different, isn’t it!”  This becomes especially perplexing when there is a Scriptural principle involved.  Suppose your friend went to the hair stylist and had most of her hair cut off!  She then greets you and announces, “I just went to the hair salon and got a wonderful hair cut.  What do you think?”  As a Christian, you know that a woman’s long hair is her “glory” and short hair would be a shame or dishonor (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).  In light of this, how do you answer—without causing offense?

Lying—especially so-called “white lying”—is exceedingly common in our world.  Whether it is to defend people, or to defend yourself, or to get yourself out of a difficult circumstance, people resort to lying.  And many of them don’t think anything of it for it is part of their nature.  As the earlier definition put it, these kinds of lies are thought to be “harmless.”

The Lord Jesus said that Satan “is a liar and the father of lies.”  He said that “there is no truth in him” and “whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature” (John 8:44).  In contrast, Jesus is called “the truth” (John 14:6), the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), and God is always true (Romans 3:4).  Jesus even prayed to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).  All of this means that we should be people of truth and should shun lying!  Why?  Because God “hates . . . a lying tongue” (Proverbs 6:17).  “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight” (12:22).  We must also remember that “all liars” will have their part “in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Instead of seeking to justify any kind of lying, it is better for the honest and truthful follower of Christ to find loving, amicable and gentle ways to deal with difficult, perplexing, and embarrassing questions.  Perhaps try to steer the question, comment, or situation to a different direction or even evade answering directly.  You don’t want to leave a wrong impression even by your demeanor, but you need not harshly hurt a person either.  Scripture says, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23).  Probably as friends, family, and acquaintances become familiar with your Christian convictions, they may not even bring up those perplexing questions.  Further, if someone comments on a subject that is difficult, often you don’t even have to respond verbally.

On the other hand, probably sometimes we do need to speak up and comment plainly on a subject, for we would never want to apologize for our convictions about God’s Word.  Jesus said, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).  There are times that we need to be “bold” in our statement of the truth (Ephesians 6:19).  If someone wants to know your views on abortion, premarital sexuality, sodomy, denominationalism, any false doctrine, clothing styles, music, public education, and similar matters, ask for wisdom as well as courage to speak forth the will and word of God in such occasions. 

The counsel of the apostle Paul is helpful: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).

Richard Hollerman


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