An Advent Christian minister in the Northwest asks a question which he has encountered in pastoral counseling. “Is it ever okay (from God’s perspective) to lie?”
* * *
One of the Ten Commandments forbids bearing “false witness” (Deut. 5:20). Jesus himself commanded his followers to be so known for truth-telling that oaths are wasted on them (Matt. 5:33-37). Paul admonishes believers always to tell the truth (Eph. 4:25). John reminds us that “we know him who is true, and we are in Him who is true” (1 John 5:20). The Bible closes with a warning that liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). In light of such scriptural teaching, I do not know how anyone can seriously say that lying is ever “right.”
On the other hand, people who live in a fallen world sometimes have to determine the lesser of two evils. Rahab lied to the Jericho authorities after hiding the Israelite spies, and by doing so she saved the spies’ lives and ultimately her own family’s (Joshua 2:1-21). Did she make the right choice? Apparently so, for she considered and acted in light of the larger good and the smaller evil. Corrie ten Boom’s family faced the same decision in lying to German soldiers while hiding Jews from the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied Holland. One might face a similar choice when confronting a violent or abusive individual today.
No, lying is never “right,” even though there might be rare times when it seems clearly the lesser of two evil choices. In such limited situations — which involve the protection of human life, for example, and not merely avoiding personal pain or obtaining personal pleasure or profit — the person who lies still needs to ask God’s forgiveness for having done something which, in itself, is never inherently right.