This is our third Sunday on the 9th commandment. We have spent so much time on it because the lie … the false witness is the tell tale sign of bad character. If you show me a bad person I will, more often than not, show you a liar.
That the West embraced the warning of the 9th commandment is seen in its Literature.
Pinocchio, is one of the most famous liars in children’s literature. And though Pinocchio is redeemed at the end of the book, his redemption means the end of his lying.
When we consider one of the most popular Novels of the 20th century we find the chief villains being liars. In Tolkien’s story Tolkien presents to us Gollum, Grima Worm-tongue, Sauraman, and even Boromir as false witnesses. In contrast the Heroes of Tolkien’s works are those who are true to their promises … true to their word regardless the cost.
In the Three Musketeers the Leading Lady is a Liar and a Seductress who comes to a bad end.
In Jane Austen’s North Anger Abbey she gives us John Thorpe as the liar par excellent
Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist gives us Fagin and a gang of liar and thieves.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gives us the liar Moriarty and the one love of his life the dissembling Irene Adler
In History it is the great Liars that we despise
Lyndon Baines Johnson
All this to say that the West has been deeply influenced by the prohibition against false witness.
Of course it was a lie told that led to the 2nd greatest historical event in the fall of mankind and it was Jesus Christ as the Truth who undid the 2nd greatest historical event by giving us the greatest historical event in His death and resurrection.
The Scripture explodes with the prohibition against lying / false witness
Leviticus 6:1-4, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour…or hath deceived his neighbour…and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein: Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty,”
Leviticus 19:11, “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.”
Job 11:3,5, “Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed? But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;”
Job 13:4, “But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.”
Job 24:25, “…who will make me a liar, and make my speech nothing worth?”
Psalms 24:4-5, “He…who hath not…sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD,”
Psalms 31:6, “I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD.”
Psalms 31:18, “Let the lying lips be put to silence;”
Psalms 40:4, “Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.”
Psalms 52:2-4, “Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah. Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.”
Psalms 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”
Psalms 59:12, “For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.”
Psalms 62:3-4, “… ye shall be slain all of you…they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly.”
Psalms 63:11, “…the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.”
Psalms 101:7, “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.”
Psalms 109:2, “For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.”
Psalms 119:29, “Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.”
Psalms 119:69, “The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.”
Psalms 119:163, “I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.”
Psalms 120:2, “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.”
Proverbs 6:16-19, “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”
Proverbs 8:7, “For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”
Proverbs 10:18, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.”
Proverbs 12:19, “The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”
Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.”
Proverbs 13:5, “A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.”
Proverbs 14:5, “A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.”
Proverbs 14:25, “A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.”
Proverbs 17:4, “A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.”
Proverbs 17:7, “Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.”
Proverbs 19:5, “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.”
Proverbs 19:9, “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.”
Proverbs 19:22, “The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.”
Proverbs 21:6, “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.”
Proverbs 26:28, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.”
Proverbs 29:12, “If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked.”
Proverbs 30:6, “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”
Proverbs 30:8, “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:”
Isaiah 28:15,17, “Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement;…for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:…the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.”
Isaiah 30:9, “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:”
Isaiah 32:7, “The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right.”
Isaiah 44:24-25, “…I am the LORD…That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad;”
Isaiah 59:2-4, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. For…your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness…they trust in vanity, and speak lies; ”
Isaiah 59:12-13, “For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.”
Isaiah 63:8, “For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.”
Jeremiah 7:4, “Trust ye not in lying words,”
Jeremiah 7:8-9, “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye…swear falsely…and walk after other gods…?”
Jeremiah 9:3, “And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:5, “And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.”
Jeremiah 14:14, “Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.”
Jeremiah 15:18, “Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?”
Jeremiah 16:19, “…Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.”
Jeremiah 23:14, “I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies:”
Jeremiah 23:26, “How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;”
Jeremiah 23:32, “Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.”
Jeremiah 27:10, “For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish.”
Jeremiah 29:23, “Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.”
Ezekiel 13:8, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD.”
Ezekiel 13:19, “And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?”
Ezekiel 13:22-23, “Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life: Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.”
Ezekiel 22:28, “And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.”
Ezekiel 24:12, “She hath wearied herself with lies, and her great scum went not forth out of her: her scum shall be in the fire.”
Daniel 11:27, “…and they shall speak lies at one table; but it shall not prosper:”
Hosea 4:2, “By swearing, and lying…they break out and blood toucheth blood.”
Hosea 7:3, “They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.”
Hosea 10:13, “Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.”
Jonah 2:8, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”
Micah 6:12-13, “…the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins.”
Nahum 3:1, “Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies”
Zephaniah 3:13, “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth:”
Zechariah 8:16, “These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour;”
Zechariah 13:3, “…Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: ”
Malachi 2:6, “The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips:”
Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…false witness…These are the things which defile a man: ”
John 8:44, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
Acts 5:3, “…why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, ”
Acts 26:25, “But he [Paul] said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.”
Romans 1:24-25, “…through the lusts of their own hearts…Who changed the truth of God into a lie,”
Romans 9:1, “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not,”
2 Corinthians 11:31, “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.”
Galatians 1:20, “Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.”
Ephesians 4:25, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”
Colossians 3:9, “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;”
1 Timothy 1:9-10, “…the law is not made for a righteous man, but…for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;”
1 Timothy 2:7, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not)”
1 Timothy 4:2, “Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;”
James 3:14, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.”
Titus 1:2, “…God…cannot lie, ”
Hebrews 6:18, “…in which it was impossible for God to lie, ”
1 John 1:6, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:”
1 John 2:4, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
1 John 2:21, “I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.”
1 John 2:22, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.”
1 John 2:27, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”
1 John 4:20, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
Revelation 2:2, “…thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:”
Revelation 3:9, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which…do lie;”
Revelation 21:8, “…and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone:”
Revelation 21:27, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Revelation 22:14-15, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are .. and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
Speaking personally, and I think my children would bear this out, the greatest offense in her household was a lie told.
In Seminary I had a professor tell the members of a Class on counseling that, “I can help anybody but a liar.”
And so the Catechism says,
“but that I avoid all sorts of lies and deceit”
Here of course there is a hint that there are different types of false witnessing.
Different types of Lies and deceit
The Proper Etiquette Lie
Every culture has rules of politeness. You’re a guest in a home and you’re asked if the bed was comfortable. You know that one of the children slept on the floor so you could have their bed. And so even though you found the bed uncomfortable you saying something like, “I slept like a log.” Or when someone asks, “Do you like my new hat?” Now we may have not realized that the thing on their head was a hat but we don’t answer by blurting out, “No, its ugly.” Someone may put your baby in their face and say, “Isn’t she a beautiful baby?” You may not think so but you don’t say that. Proper etiquette is not deception none with the intent to harm the good character and honor of our neighbor.
There is the exaggeration false witness
We often see this as parents. Two of our children are arguing and one of them comes to present their case to us and, while not outright lying about their case, they tell the story in such a way that the offense of their sibling becomes a bit larger than it really was.
There is the Jester false witness
These are the untruths we tell with no intent to deceive. This is not lying because there is no intention to deceive.
Yesterday we were playing Frisbee Golf and Jake Woods found a Frisbee in the brush. Knowing he had found a unclaimed Frisbee I claimed that was the Frisbee I had just thrown and was looking for and thanked him for finding it for me. Everyone knew I was yanking his chain.
There is the incomplete truth false witness
This is the false witness that finds a husband telling his inquiring wife when she wonders why he was so late in coming home from work that he went out for a drink with the guys after work without telling her that the drinks with the guys were at a men’s club.
There is the “add zest to the story” lie
There are people who can not live without drama in their life and so when life becomes tedious and boring they begin to add zest to their life by lying. The lie is not huge but it is definitely colored to make the story and life more interesting. I have tried to teach my children, precisely because life is anything but drama free, to try and be masters of the famous English understatement. The English could speak to one another in reference to the London bombings as being “a bit of a row last night wasn’t there?”
For the Drama Queens among us life becomes a game or a stage performance and the “added zest” keeps the stage performance interesting.
Abraham Kuyper said that the world of fantasy is bigger and more interesting than the real world. Everyday life bores us and so the drama queens fall to using “zest” to make it a glorious performance.
We all are tempted to give accounts of matters that zest things up. And in some situations there is no harm in that. However, in other situations there is harm done by the drama queens among us.
Then there is, what might be called, the “lie of necessity.”
And we want to spend just a little time with this one because it is an open question as to whether or not this is a false witness.
This is commonly thought of as not lying against my neighbor but for my neighbor or for self preservation.
The common example would be Lying to the Communists in the former Soviet Union in order to protect a Christian that they are trying to seize and harm. Is it lying in order to protect someone else?
The Scriptures have several examples of this kind of lie.
A.) The midwives Shiphrah and Puah let the baby boys of Israel live after birth, contrary to Pharoah’s command. And yet they are spoken of as fearing God and as being blessed by God because of their attitude (see Exod.1:15-21).
B.) Rahab spoke falsehood in saying to the king of Jericho that she did not know where the spies were (Josh.2:4-6) and she is praised for her faith (Heb.11:31). Her faith was made complete by these works (Jas.2:25).
These women performed a service to their neighbors by means of the lie of necessity.
C.) Elisha in I Kings 6:19 in order to escape the Kings wrath.
In Church History Athanasius did something like Elisha in I Kings
Athanasius was asked by his pursuers, “Where is Athanasius?” He answered, “Athanasius is not far away; with a little effort you can find him.”
D.) Likewise Abraham and Isaac, perhaps in order to protect their lives, pretended their wives were their sisters in Egypt — (Gen.12:11-20; 20:2-18; 26:7-11).
We find nothing in these accounts that faults these actions. Indeed in one instance God blesses Abraham as a result of these actions.
E.) Then there is the deception of Military deception
The Lord recommended such tactics in Joshua’s battle against Ai and in David’s fight against the Philistines (Josh.8:1-26; 2 Sam.5:22-25).
The Catechism teaches on this commandment
“that I defend and promote, as much as I am able, the honor and good character of my neighbour.”
Now we cannot defend and promote the honor and good character of my neighbor if by telling the truth to someone who is seeking to attack not only their honor, character but their very life, my telling the truth leads to their unjust death.
So, we might form a principle that lying is acceptable when it is engaged in, in order to protect the life of the judicially innocent.
Having said this I want to let you know that the majority report of the church throughout her history rejected the lie of necessity.
Augustine argued, against the lie of self-preservation by noting that while you may die bodily, at least you won’t die in the soul.
He went on to argue that loving our neighbor as ourselves is not achieved when we sacrifice our own eternal salvation to save the temporal life of our neighbor.
And so, I am disagreeing with the majority report of the Church on this issue. I do think Scripture gives us a principle where lying is commended when it is done in pursuit of the protection of the 6th commandment.
This idea is in keeping with other Commandments that themselves allow for exceptions. The 6th commandment does not allow us to murder but we know from elsewhere that some killing is allowed (self-defense). Children are to honor their parents but we know that if parents are seeking to compel them to be disobedient to God that they must obey God rather than man. A lie of necessity, like these, is permitted, but only in dire circumstances — when life is at stake, either our neighbor’s or ours.
However, we must give a word of warning here. Once we open this door, given the reality of our sinful nature, there will be the temptation to invoke this “escape clause” as justification for lying. It seems unlikely that many of us will ever be in a situation where we must lie in order to protect someone’s life or our own life.
Lying and taking the fifth
Silence requirements of some professions
One thought on “9th Word … Types of Lies”
Bret, I have had this theological discussion with many and I agree with you. Many do not as you pointed out about church history.