by Rusty Miller
"Buy truth, and do not sell it" (Proverbs 23:23).
Of all the things God desires most, none has suffered more in recent times than honesty. The lie is no longer something to be scorned; in fact, "everybody lies" is the most common excuse heard when someone is actually caught in a lie.
As with all sin, man has even tried to rename lying. A recent book, Creative Excuses for Every Occasion, refers to "minor untruths," calling them "social lubricants." A "social lubricant" is a lie such as telling someone, "That's a beautiful dress," when actually, it may be hideous. It is still a lie.
Still, there seems to be agreement among most that there are "little lies" as opposed to "big lies." Apparently, a big lie is a reason to call someone's integrity into question, but a little lie is not. It could be asked, how do you tell the difference?
A better question might be, does God differentiate?
Clearly, Old Testament teaching decries lying of any sort, beginning with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:16). The Law of Moses also taught, "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another" (Leviticus 19:11). David sought God's help in ending wickedness: "Let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol. Let lying lips be dumb, which speak arrogantly against the righteous with pride and contempt" (Psalm 31:17-18).
Solomon too discussed the Lord's hatred of lying (Proverbs 6:16-19). And when writing of the lovingkindness of the Lord, Isaiah said, "For He said, 'Surely, they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely'" (Isaiah 63:8). Nahum, in his prophesy against Nineveh, had this accusation against its inhabitants: "Woe to the bloody city, completely full of lies and pillage" (Nahum 3:1).
What of the New Testament then? Jesus taught against lying, even identifying the source of all lies. "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44).
Paul cautioned Christians to "Speak truth, each one of you with his neighbor" (Ephesians 4:25), and "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices" (Colossians 3:9). And John, at the end of scripture, in Revelation, writes of the end of ". . . all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8), and says of the gates of heaven, "Outside are . . . everyone who loves and practices lying" (Revelation 22:15).
Surely, the Bible's view of lying is clear from just these few passages. There can be no excusing the liar or his practices.
One of the most common defenses of lying is of the lie which "doesn't hurt anyone." The idea is that, since no one is hurt (as in our beautiful dress example above), the lie cannot be considered that bad. This is what some would characterize as a little lie. Is that God's view?
One of the most famous examples of lying and the punishment of liars is of a lie which, seemingly, "didn't hurt anyone." In the fifth chapter of Acts, the early church is bringing the proceeds of land and houses sold, placing the money at the feet of the apostles. Ananias brought his money, leading others to believe he had brought all, when in fact he had kept back part. While Ananias might have been accused of selfishness, it is the lie of which Peter convicts him, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God" (Acts 5:3-4).
Ananias fell dead at Peter's words (Acts 5:5). Later, his wife Sapphira is convicted of the same lie, and she too falls dead (Acts 5:7-10).
The lie of Ananias and Sapphira "hurt" no one. No one save God. We must understand that God hates lying (Proverbs 6:16), and that to Him, there are no little lies. When the wise writer advised, "Buy truth, and do not sell it," it was more than just a slogan. His advice is as needed today as it was then, for little lies and social lubricants will send liars to hell.