I remember this one time being in a bible study with a group in Ukraine and we were looking carefully at the Ten Commandments. And we stepped upon the place where we are commanded not to lie. Someone from the group actually disagreed that it was always wrong to lie and that sometimes we need to lie in order to do good. In explaining this he said a saying that people use in our day to try and justify this theory: there are ‘white’ lies and ‘black’ lies.
A white lie would be if someone had for example: a birthday party organised. But they must not tell to the person whose birthday they are preparing, nothing so it can be kept as a secret. If the person asks if something is happening; (for if you are like me I am one of those people who finds it hard to keep secrets simply because of the expressions I make on my face;) we say to them ‘no nothing is happening’. That is what people call a ‘white lie’. A black lie is when someone does not tell the truth and gets away with it. Maybe by committing a crime without anyone knowing. A black lie would also be false witnessing, when someone misrepresents God and teaches lies about the Bible and about salvation.
So people believe this theory and go on feeling confident to lie when they are asked a question. And they are professing to be Christian. Which is why I have my concerns for writing this. I understand that there are certain situations which must be difficult to decide what to do especially in life and death situations.
But a Christian must never try to lie, even if they believe it is for a good cause. God commanded that we must not lie and be liars. There is no such thing as a white or black lie, but simply a lie. A lie is a sign of dishonesty to God rather than honouring Him. I can’t find a justification to make for a ‘white lie’ to be honest with you.
The Bible nowhere justifies lying as good nor approves it in any way.
Examples from the Bible that ‘approve’ lying.
However there are rare occasion that we do see in the Scriptures, that for the good of others, some had to conceal the truth from the enemies of God. But some have ended up telling a lie. For example we see it Exodus 1:16,19, the midwives lied to Pharaoh and did not kill the babies which they were commanded to do. Rahab in Joshua 2:3-6 did not betray the two spies that Israel send; so they may not be caught. As we read:
‘And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, “Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.”
And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, “There came men unto me, but I wist not whence where they were.
And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.”
But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax which she had laid upon the roof. (Joshua 2:3–6)
Obviously the text show that Rahab lied to the men who were going to arrest and kill the spies if they knew these men where in the home. Later she believed in God and she was delivered from the attack of Jericho. But the fact is that she lied and that must bring some serious questions in mind. How can we justify lying? Does God accept lying? If she lied should we follow what she has done as an example a wise decision? Again, personally, I do not see any way that Bible can justify Rahab’s lie and the midwives call it right.
For the scriptures are most explicitly clear on this issue, lying lips are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 12:22). God himself cannot lie (1 Samuel 15:19, Titus 1:2) and thus, logically, He cannot approve of lying either. Otherwise, that would contradict His Holy nature as God who cannot lie and approve falsehood.
Before we continue with Rahab I would like to point out something.
Doubting the Sovereignty of God.
The issue with ‘white lies’ is that people who lie in this way, doubt the Sovereignty of God. In order to understand this we must ask this question: can anything stop the Sovereign power of God’s decree or plans in our lives? Can evil overcome it? Does not God use all things, even the things which we see as evil, for good? (Romans 8:28) Even our suffering in this world? Does not God know what is evil and what is good?
Because ultimately what one does when they do a ‘white’ lies is put into question the Sovereign plans of God. They don’t believe that God knows how horrible and how terrible it is in the situation that they are in and so they doubt God to save them or help them and they allow a lie instead, to replace God’s trust. I believe that God could had saved Rahab and the spies without her telling a lie.
Notice that the Bible concerning Rahab did not approve for her ethics of lying, but was commended for her faith in God and her hospitality for the spies, nothing more (Hebrews 11:31). Now is it possible that Rahab’s faith was as strong as a new-born believer’s? If we think about it in that sense; then it is understandable why she would lie. Her faith was not the faith of a mature believer. She was still shaped by the cultural corruption and ethics around her. It is possible that before meeting the spies, she never worshipped God with other believers. Now in those circumstances, it is understandable to see why she lied and believed it would protect the spies. What can we learn then from Rahab’s actions?
Dr. Macarthur wrote the following which I found helpful:
‘The point is that Rahab’s faith, undeveloped as it was, immediately bore the fruit of action. She “welcomed the spies in peace” (Hebrews 11:31)—meaning that she not only hid them, but also implicitly embraced their cause. She thereby entrusted her whole future to their God. And the proof of her faith was not the lie she told, but the fact that “she received the messengers and sent them out by another way” (James 2:25)—when she might have handed them over for money instead. The lie is not what made her actions commendable. It was the fact that she turned down an easy reward, put herself in jeopardy, and thus staked everything on the God of Israel. Nothing but faith could have made such a dramatic, instantaneous change in the character of such a woman.’ (http://www.gty.org/blog/B140813/is-a-lie-ever-white)
Another thing to add also: personally, I have learned that one does not need to say something in order to answer. Sometimes, people can tell it just by looking at us. Sometimes it is wiser not to say in order not to lie. Depending on the circumstance off course. But the main aim is not to allow ourselves to lie even though our old self believes it will bring to any good. If we are God fearing people then we ought to fear God and respect His command to us not to lie. In fact, we are given instruction by the Scripture not to allow or yield ourselves to be comfort to the system of this age (Romans 12:2). As Christians, we live differently and believe differently from the rest of the world which follows the pattern of falsehood. They take what is evil good, and good evil. Thus, we are commanded to separate from such influences and to be purified.