LIE NOT ONE TO ANOTHER
T. PIERCE BROWN
I just heard an excellent sermon on the dangers and sinfulness of lying. It is probably one of the most prevalent of sins committed by Christians, and needs the strongest condemnation we can give it. I hesitate, therefore, to even write an article that would seem to take issue with some statements usually made about lying, for we have enough persons who are trying to excuse some form of lying. However, the desire for accuracy and truth prompts this article.
Before we can discuss lying properly, we need a correct definition of it. There are those who define lying as “not telling the whole truth”, or “one may lie by being silent”. These are imprecise uses of words, and may cause much confusion. In the first place, it is doubtful if you can tell the whole truth about ANYTHING, for the simple reason that you do not know it all! In the second place, neither God’s law, nor any standard of morality of which I know demands that we tell the whole truth about everything.
The proper definition of lying is telling an untruth with intent to deceive. It may be wrong in some cases to keep certain information from a person, or to allow them to be deceived, but it is not necessarily lying. If you are driving in a fog toward a bridge that is out, and you ask me how far it is to a city just beyond that bridge, I may tell you that it is 2 miles without telling you the bridge is out. I have sinned against you, but have not lied. An author may write a novel that has stories in it that are not true. He has told “untruths,” but was not attempting to deceive. Some teach that repeating gossip that is not true is a lie. That is not necessarily so, but that does not mean that the gossiper is not sinning.
When Jesus said in John 7:8, “I go not up yet to the feast” and then in verse 10 it says, “Then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret” it seems evident that He did not reveal the whole truth in verse 8, allowing them to think he was not going up to the feast. He did not lie, for he was not then going up to the feast. He was under no obligation to tell them that he was going up later.
Let me clarify a point. To tell part of the truth is not the same as to tell a partial truth. A part of the truth is the truth. A partial truth is part truth and part lie and is a sin. This is not just a play on words, but is a distinction which God makes. God himself authorized Samuel to tell part of the truth (1 Sam. 16:2), but never authorized ANYONE to tell part of a lie!
If you are asked where you are going, and you tell the person, “I am going to the grocery store”, when you are planning to go the grocery store, drug store and post office, you have not lied. If he infers that you are going ONLY to the grocery store, because he thought you implied it, that is his problem. But if you say, “I am going to the grocery store, then straight home”, you have told a partial truth, and have lied, for “then straight home” was a lie.
Even pretending that something is so when it is not so is not necessarily a lie. An actor on a stage is not necessarily lying. (He MAY be, but not simply because he is acting a part). A boy who gets on a stump in the woods and pretends the trees are an audience to which he practices speaking is not lying, although he is pretending. Of course one MAY tell himself an untruth with intent to deceive, and thereby lie. A man who tries to get himself to believe that his adulterous relationship is not a sin when he knows it is may be lying to himself. John suggests that a man may lie, and apparently deceive himself into thinking the lie is the truth. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Just be careful you do not lie. Be careful that you always tell a person any truth it is his right to know. Do not be too disturbed if you do not tell everyone the WHOLE truth about everything. You are under no obligation to tell a man, “Your face looks to me like a dried up prune”, or, “I think that necktie you are wearing is atrocious.” You have no right to lie to him, but you do not always need to try to tell him the whole truth about your feelings.