I was reminded this week of how intrinsic lying is to the fallen human nature. First, there was the story of the global warming scientists who manipulated and destroyed climate and temperature data in order to support their position that global warming is getting more and more severe and will eventually destroy the planet if drastic steps are not taken to curb human activities that allegedly cause the increased temperatures. Their emails, which were leaked to the media, revealed that they systematically did all they could to prevent viewpoints which contradicted theirs from ever being presented or published, and deliberately manipulated the data to make it appear that their position was the correct one. Of course, there were billions of dollars in research grants at stake from which they would benefit if they were successful in convincing the world's governments that they were right.
Then there was Tiger Woods, undoubtedly the finest golfer who has ever picked up a golf club. He is a man who seemed to have it all--over a billion dollars in earnings and endorsements, a trophy wife, and the finest life that wealth can buy. He is a man who outwardly seemed to be in complete control of his life and his golf game. But he was living a lie. He was cheating on his wife and when discovered, he lied to cover his sin until he was faced with incontrovertible evidence that revealed to the world that he was lying. Only then did he admit the truth.
Lying has been a part of a corrupt nature since the Garden of Eden. Satan lied to Eve, telling her that she and Adam would not die if she ate of the fruit (Gen. 3:4), even though God had clearly said that they would (Gen. 2:17). Shortly thereafter Cain lied to God about murdering his brother (Gen. 4:9), and the same pattern of lying and deception continues to be seen throughout the book of Genesis. Abraham encouraged Sarah to lie about being his wife in order to save his own skin (Gen. 12:10-20), Jacob and Rebekah lied in order that Jacob would receive Isaac's blessing rather than Esau (Gen. 27:19), and Joseph's brothers told their father that he had been killed by wild animal rather than admit that they had sold him into slavery (Gen. 37:31-34). In fact, in addition to these examples, there are no less than five more incidents of lying recorded in the book of Genesis alone (Gen. 18:5, 20:2, 26:7, 29:18-24, 39:17). You can easily find many more examples throughout the rest of the Scriptures. Jesus bluntly said that lying originates from Satan and those who are characterized by it are his children (John 8:44).
At the same time, the Bible is clear about God's requirement that men and women be honest and truthful under all circumstances. In the list of the seven deadly sins found in Prov. 6:16-19, lying is specifically mentioned in two of them. Prov. 12:19 says, "Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment." Prov. 19:5 proclaims that "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape." A few verses later in Prov. 19:9, Solomon reiterates the same idea with these words: "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will perish."
For the believer, lying is never sanctioned. Eph. 4:25 tells us, "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." Col. 3:9 says, "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices." In other words, since we are a part of the same family and are new creatures with a new nature which does not practice sin, we are to stop lying and tell the truth.
I think a lot of Christians today have adopted the world's perspective that lying isn't really a big deal. But God doesn't see it that way. In His infinite mind, it is a very big deal. It is so important because He Himself never lies and is incapable of doing so (Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:18). Since we are called to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1), lying is not to be found in a believer's character. Jesus said that we are to "let [our] statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil" (Matt. 5:37). In other words, we shouldn't have to take an oath in order to confirm the validity of what we are saying. We should be so characterized by truth-telling that those around us will know that they can implicitly trust what we are saying.
Think about this issue in your life. Do others know that everything you say can be trusted to be the truth? Or are you characterized by fudging the truth; stretching it to fit the circumstances you are in so that you look good, avoid getting into trouble, or profit from the outcome? Psalm 15 describes the righteous man who will dwell with God, and one of the things which characterizes him is that "He swears to his own hurt and does not change" (Ps. 15:4). In other words, he tells the truth, even if telling the truth will mean difficulty for himself.
I recognize that this is a high standard. But I'm not the one who set the bar this high; God did. Everyone of us has failed in this area; sometimes very badly. But those of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ must turn from this sin and live godly lives which are characterized by truthfulness. Not so that we will be considered to better than others, but so that when others are amazed at our honesty (and believe me, they will be), we will be able "to give an account for the hope that is in [us]" (1 Peter 3:15).