When it is Acceptable to Lie

In our relativistic society we are constantly bombarded by those, even among the religious, who proclaim that lying is not such a big deal; and it is certainly acceptable in certain situations and for certain purposes. Men have often brought forth hypothetical situations in which the only “option that makes sense” is lying, but though such a perception might be there, the reality is much different.

Nevertheless, let us consider for a moment that such arguments may be correct. There are times where it would be acceptable to lie. Consider some of those occasions with me.

It is acceptable to lie… when personal selfishness overrides concern for the souls of others. This attitude says, “What I need is most important and it does not matter what my actions may cause others to do.” Such was the attitude of Abraham when he and Sarah went to Egypt and he asked her to claim she was his sister, not his wife (Gen. 12:11-13). Abraham was afraid of losing his life because someone might desire his wife and was willing to do whatever it took to remain in good health. However, his actions did not take into account the impact his lies would have on the souls of others. If God had not stepped in, Abraham would have allowed another man to commit adultery with his wife, all for the sake of a perceived problem that was not even a reality. Abraham’s selfishness caused him to ignore the well-being of others for the sake of his own insecurities. When people put themselves first, they often find lying an acceptable solution, even if it is to the detriment of others.

It is acceptable to lie… when physical health usurps spiritual health. This occasion is often seen when one is more worried about losing their life than losing their soul. David exemplified this attitude when he came to Ahimelech the Priest in the city of Nob (1 Sam. 21). David was on the run from Saul after the events that brought the king’s jealousy down upon David’s head. Instead of seeking help with honesty and sincerity, David lied to Ahimelech and told him he was on an errand from Saul and needed provisions (1 Sam. 21:1-3). Because of David’s lies, Ahimelech could not make an informed decision and helped David, receiving for his actions his own condemnation and execution at the hand of Saul (1 Sam. 22:17-19). David’s lies were told out of fear for his physical life, but they failed to take into account the effect they would have, not just on Ahimelech and his people, but also on his own relationship with God. When David hears what has happened, he knows he is to blame, and recognizes the consequences his actions brought upon the people of Nob. Many would lie to save their own lives, only to put in jeopardy their own souls and the lives of others; but when living is all that matters, lies are always acceptable.

It is acceptable to lie… when treasures on earth are deemed more valuable than treasure in heaven. This mentality focuses on one’s ability to retain physical possessions. Ananias and Sapphira certainly serve as a model example of this characteristic. They wanted to keep some of the wealth from the property they sold for themselves (Acts 5:1-2). This was neither wrong nor condemned. The problem came when they lied to man and God about what they had given to the apostles. Their desire for treasures on earth, coupled with the desire for notoriety, caused them to lie to try and receive physical abundance and recognition. Unfortunately their desire for the physical treasures of men’s riches and men’s praise caused them to forget the loss of eternal treasure they would endure, but the judgment and consequences were swift and eternal. Is not this what people do when they cheat on their taxes and lie to get out of paying debts? The focus becomes wholly about physical wealth, never about the consequences spiritually.

In reality, the only time man finds it acceptable to lie is when he has become too focused on this earth and its goods. Every time an individual tries to speak of an acceptable occasion for lying, he shows by word and deed that his focus is only on the physical, never the spiritual.

God has been adamant that liars will not be found acceptable, nor will they receive the eternal rewards of Heaven (Rev. 21:8). Therefore, no matter what man may say, Christians must recognize that the number of occasions that will occur in life where lying is acceptable will equal the number of occasions where we have no choice but to lie: namely, zero.

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