Righteous? Lying
by Lindsey L. Hurd (Really)

Once upon a time four brothers decided to go on a trip. They told their big brother about their plan and asked if he would like to join them. He said no, he didn’t feel like going yet and told his brothers to go without him. However, as soon as they left, their brother packed his bags and followed them in secret.

Why did this man deceive and lie to his brothers? What type of man would do such a thing? Do you know who this man was? It was Jesus, and this story can be found in John 7:2-10.

My purpose in this article is to prove that lying is not automatically a sin by showing examples where God commended lying in certain circumstances and even lied Himself.

There are differing opinions about the sinfulness of lying. One example can be found in the case of Exodus 1, where the midwives refused to kill the Hebrew babies as Pharaoh commanded. When confronted by Pharaoh they lied, saying that the babies were born before they could get there. Exodus 1:20, 21 says, “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.”

On the one hand, John Calvin writes, “In the answer of the midwives two vices are to be observed, since they neither confessed their piety with proper ingenuity, and what is worse, escaped by falsehood. . . . Wherefore both points must be admitted, that the two women lied, and, since lying is displeasing to God, that they sinned. . . . Nor is there any contradiction to this in the fact that they are trice praised for their fear of God, and that God is said to have a rewarded them; because in his paternal indulgence of his children he still values their good works, as if they were pure, notwithstanding they may be defiled by some mixture of impurity. In fact, there is no action so perfect as to be absolutely free from stain; though it may appear more evidently in some than others. . . . Thus, though these women were too pusillanimous and timid in their answers, yet because they had acted in reality with heartiness and courage, God endured in them the sin which he would have deservedly condemned.”

R. J. Rushdoony responds to Calvin saying, “Calvin would have had the midwives not only tell the truth to Pharaoh but also make a witness of him, converting the audience into a kind of testimonial meeting. Not only would such a witness by two women have been impossible at a royal audience, but it would have been immoral in the terms of Christ’s word: ‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.’ (Matt 7:6)

“Much else in Scripture militates against Calvin’s belief that the women should have witnessed to Pharaoh. According to Solomon, ‘He that reproveth a scorner getting himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee,’ (Prov. 9:7,8)”

The “anti-lie-ists” will argue from scriptures such as Lev. 19:11, Prov. 6:16-9 and 12:22, Col. 3:9 and, John 8:44 to assert that all lying is a sin. These seem either to be talking of it as one of the greatest abominations (“seven are an abomination to him. . .a lying tongue,” Prov. 6:16, 17), one of the attributes of Satan (“for he is a liar and the father of it,” John 8:44), or telling Christians not to lie to one another (“neither lie one to another,” Col. 3:9).

However, the only significant place in the Bible where someone lied and was punished by God is found in Acts 5, the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Unlike the other “liars” in the Bible, they lied to God. God did not require them to sell their possessions and give the money to the apostles. They did it because all their friends were doing it and because they wanted to look righteous. They did it to satisfy their flesh.

On the other hand, there certainly seems to be plenty of scriptural evidence for “righteous” lying. In Joshua, chapter 6, Rahab hid the spies that Joshua sent into Jericho (1st deception). She then lied to her government and sent them out another way while the spies lay hidden on her roof (2nd deception). While most Christians excuse her act as that of an immature believer, scripture seems to indicate otherwise. Hebrews 11:31 says that. “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” James 2:25 says, “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” Both scriptures suggest that Rahab’s actions showed faith - faith which is the gift of God.

In 2 Kings 6:18 - 20, Elisha asked the Lord to blind the equestrians and charioteers who had come to capture him at the orders of the king of Syria. When blinded by God, Elisha told them that he would lead them to the one they sought. But instead, he led them into Samaria, to the King of Israel. Then he asked God to open their eyes. Instead of being slain by the King of Israel, Elisha asked that the King give them food and water. Here God seemed to support Elisha in his deception.

In Judges 4, the Israelites fought for deliverance from the Canaanites and God delivered the Canaanites into Israel’s hand. But Sisera, captain of the Canaanite army fled to the tent of Heber, because there was peace between Jabar, King of Canaan and Hebar. Jael, Hebar’s wife promised Sisera safe refuge in her tent from the Israelites. However, when he fell asleep, she drove a stake through his temple. In other words, she lied to him. In chapter 5, Barak and the prophetess, Deborah praised her as, “Blessed above women. . .”

Moreover, it is also recorded where God has told someone to lie or deceive. In Exodus 3:18, God commanded Moses to request of Pharaoh permission to worship three days in the wilderness. Clearly, the sacrifice wasn’t the real reason for their leaving, and although Pharaoh refused, it was still obviously a deception. In 1 Samuel 16:2, God instructed Samuel to take a heifer as an offering with him to Bethlehem specifically so that Saul would not suspect that Samuel’s true reason for going was to anoint David as King.

If that’s not enough, there are occasions where God Himself is deceptive! In John 7:2-10, Jesus' brothers suggest that Jesus go to the Jew's feast of Tabernacles so that his disciples could see his works (for they did not believe in him). Jesus said, "My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. . . Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. . . But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret." Also, in Ezekiel 14:9, God says. "And if the prophet be deceived when he that spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him and destroy him from the midst of my people Israel." Similarly, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 states, ". . . And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: . ."

Modern teaching would have these people tell the truth and let God handle the rest. Yet is this not the same counsel Satan gave Jesus: “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, ‘He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee:’ And, ‘In their hand they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou shalt dash thy foot against a stone.’ Jesus answering said unto him, it is said, 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God (Luke 4:11, 12).” So it appears that “righteously” telling the truth to the murderer about the whereabouts of your children (as in the case of the midwives), and then expecting God to zap him with a bolt of lightening could actually be considered tempting God. Worse yet is to do so and allow the murderer to fulfill his desires.

I think that as we look at all these situations we learn that while man looks at the outward appearances, God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Proverbs 17:20 say, “He that has a deceitful heart finds no good. . . .” Obviously Ananias and Sapphira had a deceitful heart because they found “no good” and died for their sin, whereas God rewarded Rahab, the midwives, etc. . . Obviously these other people did not have a deceitful heart and God rewarded them by allowing them to find good. David asked God “who shall abide in thy tabernacle, who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” And then answers his question saying, “. . . .and speaketh the truth in his heart.”(Proverbs 15) It appears that the one who lies in his heart is more apt to be guilty than the one who lies aloud but with a heart for obeying and serving God.

There a two types of people: Covenant keepers and Covenant breakers. Between these two groups, at the fall of Adam, God put a dividing line of antithesis that separates these two groups. This antithesis is one of the foundation facts of our Christian faith. To erode the antithesis is to erode the faith. Christians today have forgotten this, having erased the dividing line by believing that even though these people aren’t Christians, they’re still “good” people. We ignore the fact that since they are Covenant breakers, they are the enemies of God (Romans 8:7, Romans 5:10). We hear, “. . .Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.(Mat. 5:44)” as if to support that we should treat God’s enemies the same as God’s friends. But here is an example of how God really treats his enemies, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not. . .(1 Sam, 15:2,3).” This is just one of the many examples of how God and his chosen people (the Israelites) treated Covenant breakers.

While it is apparent that God requires His people to be honest and truthful in their heart toward God and his people, it is also clear that there can be situations where faithfulness and loyalty to God and His people is more important in the eyes of God than satisfying our own law of self-righteous honesty. Christians are to come to realize that we, as allies of God are fighting a spiritual battle against the Covenant breakers, the enemies of God.

Not convinced?  Perhaps you would find the thoughts of a real live modern day martyr interesting.  Click Testimony to go there.



Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas

EST. 01/01/01