Is It Always Wrong to Lie?

David Daleiden investigated, and exposed, Planned Parenthood by posing as someone interested in purchasing baby body parts.

That is to say, he lied to Planned Parenthood.

Others have lied similarly: for example, Corrie ten Boom lied to the Nazis about keeping Jews.

But doesn’t the Bible say things like:

  • Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are His delight. Prov. 12:22
  • He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. Psalm 101:7

Then there is the Ninth Commandment,

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Were Corrie and David wrong to lie to the Nazis and to Planned Parenthood?

Let’s look at the commandment again.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

“Shalt not bear false witness”: This encompasses more than words, and thus is broader, and yet more nuanced, than “lie.”

Suppose a mom assigns her son to study schoolwork in his room. He goes to his room with the school book, but he disobeys her and does something else.

Once he hears his mother’s steps approachiing, he grabs the school book, and when she opens the door, she sees him studying.

He is bearing false witness without having spoken a word.

Note: The question, Do Christians always owe everyone the truth? is not one I am answering on behalf or defense of the so-called “little white lie” spoken when someone faces a question such as “Does this outfit make me look fat?”

Other Scriptures also address lying. Let us look at Genesis 42:6-24:

And Joseph was the governor of the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth. 7 And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them.

Joseph intentionally deceived them: “made himself strange unto them.”

He also accused them: “Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come,” in verses 8 and 12.

They protested, and said they were twelve brothers, from a man in Canaan, and that their youngest brother was with their father, and that one of them was dead.

Joseph told them that in order to prove they weren’t spies, he would imprison all of them but one, and that one would have to fetch the youngest brother, “that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies.“ (v. 15)

Joseph first bore false witness by hiding his identity. (He knew them, though the passing of time would have changed their appearances, but they could not recognize him.) He also bore false witness by speaking through an interpreter (recorded in v. 23), deceiving them about his linguistic knowledge. He also bore false witness by accusing them three times of being spies.

Why did he do this?

Who were his brothers? Were they his neighbors in the sense of Jesus’ parable?

His brothers were liars — thieves — and murderers.

We learn this in Genesis chapter 34. A Canaanite man, Shechem, raped Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, and then he and his father, asked if Dinah could be Shechem’s wife.

Jacob’s sons lied to the rapist. “And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully,” (Gen. 34:13a) and told Shechem Yes —as long as every male in the whole town were circumcised.

Shechem and Hamor agreed to have this done.

But, once all the men were circumcised, Simeon and Levi came upon the city and “slew all the males”—a wholly unjustified massacre. One could find some justification for capitally punishing a rapist—but the other men in the town had not raped Dinah.

After reclaiming their sister, “the sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled Dinah their sister...The sons took all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.”

For this, their father Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “Ye have troubled me to make me stink among the inhabitants of the land...

Genesis 37 outlines the rest of the brothers’ wrongdoing:

  • their “evil report,” which Joseph brought unto his father (v. 2)
  • their hatred of Joseph because he was Jacob’s favorite, and because of his dreams (vv. 3-11)
  • their conspiracy to slay Joseph
  • their sale of Joseph into slavery (vv. 25-28)
  • their slaughter of a beast to cover Joseph’s coat with blood and their lie to their father (vv. 31-34)

So up to the point when his brothers sold him as a slave, Joseph had spoken and acted truthfully with his brothers.

And here, he did so no longer.

The very last time Joseph saw these corrupt men, they had been conspiring to murder HIM, and compromised by selling him into slavery.

So when they came to Egypt without Benjamin, how could he know that they hadn’t done some evil to Benjamin? Their words could not be trusted, and so he bore false witness against them to test them.

He put them into prison for three days (v. 18). On the third day, he said that if they were true men, one of them had to stay behind in prison, and the rest could carry the corn for the famine to their houses. “But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die.”

The next few verses are shed much light on the matter:

21 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother [Joseph], in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.

22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child, and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. 23 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter. 24 And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.

These brothers had “gotten away” with everything they had done—they had never been brought to justice for their slaughter and spoil of that city, nor had they been punished—because they had lied about it!—for selling Joseph into slavery.

Their consciences were convicting them: they knew that justice was coming to them. “We are verily guilty concerning our brother...therefore is this distress come upon us.”

Joseph was actually treating his brothers the same way that God treats unrepentant liars.

For example, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12:

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” [emphasis added]

Psalm 18:25-26 put it this way: “With the merciful Thou wilt show Thyself merciful; with an upright man Thou wilt show Thyself upright. 26 With the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure, and with the froward Thou wilt show Thyself froward.”

Scripture tells us that God shows everyone the truth (Romans 1:19-20). Clearly, many reject the truth—over and over again—and devise and perpetuate lies. Scripture tells us that when God deals with the rejecters of truth, He might begin to withhold truth from them.

Therefore, we who are saved are not obliged to give the truth to the lost if giving the truth would make us an accomplice to evil. Joseph was not obliged to give his brothers the truth, because if they had done some evil to Benjamin, he was not going to give them the truth (or feed them during the famine).

“But Joseph is only one example,” you might say.

Then let’s compare Scripture with Scripture.

1. Exodus 1:15-21

The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah. He told them that when they did their job, “if [the baby] be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives “feared God,” and saved the baby boys alive.

Displeased, the king of Egypt called them, and asked them why they had saved the boys. The midwives responded, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.”

The passage concludes: “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that He made them houses.”

If God disapproved of the midwives for lying to Pharoah, where does any Scripture show it?

2. Joshua 2:1-5

Joshua sent two spies into Jericho. The spies came to the house of Rahab the harlot, and lodged there. The king of Jericho was informed that the spies were in the land, and the king sent to Rahab, saying,

Bring forth the men that are come to thee...for they be come to search out all the country.

Rahab hid the two men, and then answered the king with not one, but FOUR whoppers:

  • “I wist not whence [the men] were” (i.e., didn’t know they were spies from Israel)
  • “When it was dark, that the men went out,”
  • “Whither the men went I wot not”
  • “Ye shall overtake them.”

Was Rahab deemed abominable for the lies of her lips? Far from it! She appears in Hebrews 13, verse 31: By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that beleived not, when she had received the spies with peace.

We must also remember that being a spy entailed deceiving others. I have heard Christians condemn Rahab’s lies to the Jericho king, and say that God used her in spite of her lying, and that Hebrews is praising her only for becoming a believer. (Kind of splitting hairs when Hebrews specifically praises her for receiving the spies with peace; and her reception of the spies—hiding them and all she did to protect them—involved those four big lies.) But, these same Christians never criticized the spies themselves for living deceitfully.

3. Judges 4:17-21

For twenty years, Jabin, the king of Canaan, oppressed the Israelites, and the captain of Jabin’s host was a fellow named Sisera. Deborah, a prophetess, and Barak, a military leader, gathered ten thousand men from the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali to fight Sisera and his host.

God gave the victory to the Israelites: “and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.”

But Sisera fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was peace between Jabin and Heber. Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said, “Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not.“

When he came into the tent, she covered him with a mantle, and he asked her for a drink, because he was thirsty. She gave him milk, and covered him, and he told her, “Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, ‘Is there any man here?’ that thou shalt say, ‘No.’ ”

Sisera fell asleep, and Jael took a nail of the tent, and a hammer, and went softly unto him, and “smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground.”

Jael lied to Sisera: she had told him to fear not. Yet Deborah and Barak, in Judges 5, sing a song with highest praise for Jael: Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Knite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.

4. 1 Samuel 16:1-2

This gets really interesting: God instructs Samuel to bear false witness to protect his life.

And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take a heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD.

5. 1 Kings 22:19-23

(the sister passage is 1 Chronicles 18:13-22)

And [Micaiah] said, “Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right hand and on His left. 20And the LORD said, ‘Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’

And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. 21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ 22 And the LORD said unto him, ‘Wherewith?’

And he said, ‘I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And He said, ‘Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.’

23 Now, therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.” [emphasis added]

6. 1 Kings 3:16-28

Two harlots came before the throne of Solomon. Both of them had recently given birth to a son. One of the harlots said:

“This woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son.”

The other harlot denied this: the situation was vice versa. HER son was the living one, the other’s was the dead.

Solomon saw that it was a “she said, she said” situation. So he commanded, “Bring me a sword.” They brought a sword. And he went on, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.”

The mother of the baby, who yearned for her son, said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.” But the one whose baby had died said, “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.”

Solomon’s command — “Divide the living child in two,” — was actually a lie. He was not going to murder the baby. His lie was a lie detector itself.

(This poignant account also drives home another truth about parents who love their children: A father who loves his child will give give up the child to another if the child’s life depends on it. This is why, in Communist regimes, parents have been willing to let their children leave them in order to flee to freedom.)

And That Isn’t All...

Other examples include II Kings 6:11-14 & 18-19, when Elisha lied to the Syrians, and Jeremiah 38:14-16 & 24-27, when Jeremiah lied to the princes who sought to kill him.

David deceived others many times when he was fleeing for his life from Saul. (Note that hiding yourself, as David did, all on its own, is deception.)

In 1 Samuel 21, David went to Ahimelech the priest, and the priest was afraid, and asked, “Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?”

And David answered, “The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I sent thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place.”

David asked Ahimelech for food, and received the showbread—which was not lawful for anyone to eat but the priests.

Centuries later, Jesus Himself would refer to David in this situation as an example of righteousness (Matthew 12:1-5, Mark 2:23-26, Luke 6:1-5). And the reason the priest gave David showbread was because David had lied. If the priest had known that David was fleeing from Saul, David would not have gotten the food.

Note first of all that when David hid himself from Saul, he was deceiving Saul by cloaking his location.

When we examine the Psalms, we have even more evidence that David was in fellowship with God during this time that he was deceiving Saul and others to save his life.

“When Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill [David],” David wrote Psalm 59. When “the Ziphims came and said to Saul, Doth not David hide himself from us?” he wrote Psalm 54.

When “Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech,” David wrote Psalm 52.

When David “changed his behavior [pretended to be crazy] before Abimelech, who drove him away,” he wrote Psalm 34. When David “fled from Saul in the cave,” he wrote Psalm 57.

All Scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit. If David had been disobeying God throughout this time, he would not have been sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and would not have been writing sacred texts.

Remember also that the Sixth Commandment is, “Thou shalt not kill,” but Christians who say it is always wrong to lie have never condemned the ancient Israelites for killing their enemies (as God had instructed) when they came to the Promised Land.

These Christians will condemn David for lying to men who would have murdered him, but they have never condemened David for killing Goliath. But if David had lied to Goliath, they would condemn that.

“It was wrong to lie to the Nazis, but not wrong to kill them.” How is such a position not ludicrous?

What’s the Takeaway?

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

In the case of Corrie ten Boom’s lies to the Nazis: the Nazis believed that the Jews were mongrels, a lower form of man to be exterminated.

To tell the Nazis that someone was a Jew was to tell them, “Here’s someone who is a lower form of homo sapiens who needs to be exterminated.” That is a false meaning of the word Jew. When the Nazis asked Corrie ten Boom if the Jews were there, the morally correct answer was “No.”

Ultimately, the phrase “against thy neighbor” is key to keeping this commandment.

Who were Corrie ten Boom’s neighbors? The Nazis, or the Jews?

Who were David Daleiden’s neighbors? Were they unborn babies, or were they Planned Parenthood baby-killers?

Is It Always Wrong to Lie?

David Daleiden investigated Planned Parenthood by pretending to be interested in baby body parts. That is to say, he lied. What does Scripture say about this? ...Continue Reading→