Rev. Eriks is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado.

Our society accepts lying as a normal part of life. People lie when they fill out their tax forms. Employees lie on their job applications. Salesmen “stretch the truth” (i.e., “lie”) about the products they sell. Companies falsely advertise by promising a great deal in bold print while printing disclaimers in such small print they can be read only with a magnifying glass. Politicians make campaign promises they never intend to keep. Criminals lie in the courtroom to keep themselves from punishment. Speeders lie to police officers in an attempt to escape receiving a large fine. Recently, executives of major corporations lied about the worth of the company to stimulate the stock prices. And in the end, employees of these companies lost thousands or even millions of dollars while these executives walked away with millions. When lying affected their pocketbook, then people finally expressed their outrage.

The lie is found in so many different forms. When a man lies, he might deliberately speak what is the exact opposite of the truth. For example, a murderer may be caught with the smoking gun at the crime scene with a motive for the murder. He knows that he committed the crime. But when he is asked in court what he pleads, he responds, “Not guilty.” Or when a man lies, he might slightly distort the truth. There will be some truth in what he says, but it is slightly twisted for his own advantage.

Many in our day lie about what God’s Word teaches. When men teach that God loves all men and desires to save all men, they lie. The standard of truth in this world, Holy Scripture, clearly teaches that God loves only those whom He chose from all eternity in Jesus Christ. The teaching that the Son and the Holy Spirit are not co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father is a lie. Scripture clearly teaches that God is one in being and three in persons. Not only is doctrinal lying heinous, but living the lie is also a terrible sin. I John 1:6 speaks of this lying: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” The man lies who claims to be a child of God, but lives constantly in sin without confessing that sin and turning from that sin.

These lies arise from sinful motives. Some lie because they do not trust in God. For example, Abraham lied when he and Sarah fled to Egypt to escape the famine in the land of Canaan. Abraham told Sarah to tell the Egyptians that she was Abraham’s sister and not his wife, because he was afraid Pharaoh would kill him to take Sarah to be his wife (Gen. 12:10ff.). Others lie to save themselves from punishment and ridicule. Children will lie so that they do not receive the spanking they deserve. Some lie deliberately about the neighbor so that they might climb up in the eyes of men upon the ruined reputation of the neighbor. Still others lie to receive something they want. For example, Ananias and Sapphira lied to obtain recognition and praise for their gift to the church (Acts 5:1-11).

What does God say about lying? God speaks clearly in His Word about lying especially in the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 6:16-19, lying is declared to be one of the seven sins which the Lord hates. Proverbs 12:22 says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.” In Proverbs 19:9we read of God’s great anger against those who lie: “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.” God’s hatred for liars was manifest in the harsh punishment of Ananias and Sapphira. God struck them down dead for their lie (Acts 5:3-5). The ninth commandment of God’s law, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” forbids the sin of lying. The Heidelberg Catechism explains that the ninth commandment calls us “to avoid all sorts of lies and deceit, as the proper works of the devil.” From all these passages it is clear: God hates lying! God punishes those who lie. Therefore, it should not be found in the lives of God’s people.

Does God hate all lies? Does not God in His Word approve lying in some instances? The instance that seems to support the idea that God approves of some lying is when Rahab lied to the soldiers who came to her home in Jericho looking for the Israelite spies. Rahab hid the men and told the soldiers that the spies had left the city already. Yet, Scripture calls Rahab a woman of faith (Heb. 11:31James 2:25). The argument goes that good came from this—the Israelite spies were kept alive. And Rahab’s motive was pure. She was concerned about God and His people. We cannot deny that her motive was good. The conclusion reached from Rahab’s lie is that circumstances determine whether or not a lie is pleasing in God’s sight. If the motive is pure, then the ends justify the means. God looks down on some lies favorably from His judgment seat. Circumstances must dictate when to lie and when to tell the truth.

But Scripture declares that all lies are sin. It is certainly true that God used the lie of Rahab to save His people. But this does not make the lie right. We interpret Scripture with Scripture. The passages listed above must be applied to the actions of Rahab. What does God, in His Word, say about lying? Lying is sin. All the passages in which God speaks about lying teach us that lying is always wrong. There are no exceptions.

It is certainly true that God used Rahab’s lie for the good of the spies, Israel, and Rahab. God works all things for the good of His people, even sin (Rom. 8:28). Scripture is full of examples of God using sin for good. Just look at the cross of Jesus Christ. Wicked men crucified Jesus. God does not excuse the sin of these wicked men because He accomplished our salvation through this event.

We should learn something about ourselves from this argument. We would like obedience to God’s law to be determined by the situation. By nature we desire to decide for ourselves what is good and evil. We want our sin to be excused by the circumstances. But never is obedience to God’s law determined by the situation. Proudly we would like it if we were the final court of appeal in matters concerning God’s law. But we are not. The objective Word of God is the final court of appeal.

We come to the conclusion that lying is always sin. This does not mean telling the truth is easy. It would not be easy to speak the truth if we were in Rahab’s situation. But Scripture declares the truth: the fierce anger of God rests upon the man who lies. Therefore, lying must be completely cut out of the life of the child of God. We must speak the truth in love.

The anger of God burns so hotly against lying because of the antithesis between the truth and the lie. God is Truth. The sin of lying does not originate with God, for He is truth in Himself. God Himself is the standard of all truth because He is truth in Himself. God loves what corresponds with reality, of which He is the Judge. There is no lying in God. Therefore, God hates the lie and loves the truth. God demands of man that he speak the truth.

The lie originated with Satan, the father of the lie, and not with God or with man. God created Adam in His image to know the truth and to speak the truth as God’s prophet in the world. With a lie, Satan tempted Eve to disobey God. Satan told Eve that if she ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Satan lied to Eve, and Eve became a partaker of that lie when she ate the fruit. Because the lie originated in Satan, Jesus says in John 8:44, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it.”

By nature we are liars. Apart from God’s grace we can do nothing but speak the lie and believe the lie. By nature, man hates the truth about God and about Jesus Christ. How clearly we see this in our own children. Our children do not need to be taught how to lie. Lying comes naturally to them. Soon after they are able to respond with “yes” and “no” our children lie. We cannot stop this lying in our children any more than we can keep ourselves from lying by our own efforts. Sinners are lying addicts. Speaking the truth goes against our sinful natures.

The only way we can be delivered from the sin of lying is by the work of Jesus Christ. In Him alone is found forgiveness for this sin. When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of His people, He died for all the lies His people tell. We know there is forgiveness for the sin of lying in the way of repenting of this sin. We must repent.

But how is it possible for us to turn from this sin? It seems too difficult. The possibility of turning from this sin cannot be found in man, for he is a liar by nature. The possibility is found alone in Jesus Christ, for He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Christ enables His people to know the truth. He reveals the truth to His people through the preaching and the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of His people. Believers receive the spiritual strength from Christ to speak the truth in love. Man is completely unable to tame his own tongue in regard to lying. Man has been able to tame dogs, horses, and lions, but not his own tongue. He is unable to keep himself from lying. The only one who can give the strength to refrain from lying is Jesus Christ, in whom we have been made children of the light.

Because we are children of the light, we must not lie. As children of Satan, the wicked lie. They are children of the darkness. Therefore they lie without blinking an eye. Children of Satan lie to theirparents without any remorse. Husbands and wives of the darkness lie to each other. But children of the light, who have the victory over sin, shine by speaking the truth.

Positively, our calling, according to Ephesians 4:15, is to speak “the truth in love.” This means we must speak the truth about God. God demands that we confess the truth about Him before the world. We must speak the truth about God to those who hold to the lie. We must witness to the truth about God by our lives and with our mouths.

God calls us to the truth about the neighbor and with the neighbor in love. In Ephesians 4:25 we read, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.” This means we do nothing but speak the truth. When we speak the truth, our motive must be pure. It must be done in love. This is important because we can speak the truth in hatred. The ninth commandment forbids speaking the truth in hatred. When someone else sins, we may not recount that sin to another. This is sin because it hurts the brother or sister. In these instances, we must keep our mouths shut. Or we can approach a brother about his sin and speak the truth about that sin, but do it in such a way that we rub it in his face and look down on him for it. This is not speaking the truth in love, but in hatred.

Speaking the truth in love means that we seek the spiritual good of the neighbor. For example, when a believer or unbeliever walks in sin, we go to the neighbor in love seeking his spiritual good. We go to the brother desiring that he might repent of that sin.

The world today knows nothing of speaking the truth in love. The world is becoming darker and darker in its lying. Lying is expected in society. The devil and the world would love for us to join with them in their sin. And often we do join the world in this sin. Pray that God will show us when we lie, because you and I often lie without thinking. Pray that God will enable you to speak the truth in obedience to His Word.

There is great urgency for us to speak the truth in love. This is our calling as those who are the prophets of God in Jesus Christ in the world. We must speak the truth to the glory of God. Let us reflect that we are the children of the God of truth. May the truth always be found upon our lips.