When is it Right to Lie?
Election time is upon us. Campaign ads flood our radios, TVs, and Facebook accounts attempting to sway voters toward a candidate or at least away from the opponent. Analysts will quickly find many of these ads to be full of blatant, outright lies or at the least misguiding information. Unfortunately, that surprises no one; after all, they’re politicians. But surprising to me is the reaction of some of their supporters. They claim to follow their candidate despite the egregious and purposeful deception in their campaign. These apologists will defend lying politicians saying, “All politicians do it,” “It’s not hurting anyone,” or “It’s for the greater good that this candidate is elected.”
These positions show a few flaws in our view of lying and morals in general. The one easiest to refute is the idea that the majority is always right. Even our kids learn from an early age that following one who does wrong does not make it right from the classic “would you jump off a cliff” example. Jesus supports this idea in Matthew 7:13-14. Revealed there is the truth that most people will not be saved; put another way, most people will choose to do wrong. No matter what the majority does, we must “do that which is honest” in this life (II Corinthians 13:7).
Another increasingly popular view toward lying is that it is harmless and in fact can prevent pain. How should we react when answering a question honestly can hurt someone’s feelings? As is the case with all of our questions dealing with life and godliness, God’s Word has the answer (II Peter 1:3). Proverbs 27:6 wisely states, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Realize that not all pain is bad. We have a need to be told when our actions are wrong lest we are truly ignorant of or are pretending not to see issue (James 1:22-25). Repentance can be a very painful process. Consider David’s tearful confession we read about in Psalm 51. Preventing pain has never been justification for lying.
The consequences of lying can become quite terrible like in the account of Jacob and Esau beginning in Genesis 25. Even before birth these brothers struggled against each other. Ultimately the family was torn apart because Rebekah lied to Isaac by disguising Jacob as Esau so that he would receive the blessing of the firstborn. Esau’s fury was so great that he sought to kill his brother, causing Rebekah to beg her son to leave home for his own life’s sake (Genesis 27:41-43). Lying played a great part in breaking up this family and can certainly do harm in our lives if we continue in this wicked practice.
Many lie, claiming it is for the greater good. These “little white lies” are viewed as innocuous because of the apparently good motives behind them. Can anything good come from evil? “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:11). The answer is no. While the Bible teaches that Christians can take bad situations and make them better (Romans 8:28), no verse teaches that evil should be done to bring about good. This would cause a man to be double-minded and serve two masters (James 1:8; Matthew 6:24). Satan wants Christians to justify lying by claiming it for the greater good because it leads to destruction.
Revelation 21:8 teaches that all liars will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Goodness, mercy, and righteousness are never served by something that is wicked. It is never right to lie—even if you are a politician.