An article in this months Christianity today magazine titled The Seven Levels of Lying, Sarah Sumner advocates a 100% “liar-less” Christianity (yes I know liar-less is not a word). There are no exceptions. Christians simply should not – ever, not even in the tiniest white way, not even for the most justifiable of reasons – lie.
Now if you are like me, you’ve already reacted in your mind. “Not even if lying will save your child’s life?” “Not even if your lively-hood is at stake?” “Not even to say things like, ‘sure it’s not an inconvenience to go to the store for you’ when in fact it is?” Sarah would say “nope, not even in those cases”.
Throughout the article she reminds us that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) whereas Jesus himself is “the Truth” (John 14:6), that God by his very nature is incapable of lying (Titus 1:2) because there is no darkness in him (1 John 1:5) but the Lord detests the act of lying (Proverbs 12:22). By these scriptural standards, it is Christlike to tell the truth and, well, anti-Christ to lie.
Contrary to God, the heart of humans is deceitful and desperately wicked, so much so that we cannot trust our selves (Jeremiah 17:9). Don’t lie, says Sarah, not even the small ones – at least not without immediately confessing it. Why? Because according to Jeremiah 17:9 we cannot trust our own hearts: our lies will escalate until we fully resemble the father of lies rather than the Christ of truth.
She points out seven discernable layers of lying:
1. You Lie
A single lie, like a light, can ignite a bonfire.
2. You Self Protect
To protect your lie, you lie.
3. You Develop a Habit of Lying
The little lies are now okay, so you begin to do it about trivial matters.
4. You Self Deceive
You begin to believe what you tell others.
5. You Rationalize
Now it is not just that you believe your lies are not lies, you begin to justify that as having a positive good.
6. You Develop Your Technique
As Sarah explains, “You start isolating statements, ignoring what was said in other contexts”, finding loopholes.
7. You See it as Your Duty to Lie
You make it your duty (to protect family or business partners or pastoral credibility).
Is There Ever A Right Reason To Lie?
Sarah is radical, she’d say no. Take two examples of heroes of the faith who lied: Rahad and Corrie ten Boom.
The scriptures commend Rahab for having great faith (Hebrews 11:31) but not for lying. Her faith was in risking her life by hiding the spy’s on the roof, trusting that the spy’s would be faithful to their word and save her and her family. She was commended. But in the process she lied, and did not fully trust in God. Do you think that had she told the truth, God would have abandoned them (Rahab and the spy’s) or do you think he would have delivered them?
Corrie ten Boom saved numerous people during World War II by hiding them in her home and lying to the Gestapo. But, says Sarah, “when she lied, she wasn’t imitating God”. Is God only able to work and deliver when people lie? Are we trusting in God or ourselves in moments of extreme situations where we feel the only option is to lie?
Sarah takes the layers in reverse. To avoid finding yourself in numbers 7, 6 and 5 you must avoid 4, 3 and 2 and the only way to do that is to confess your lie every time you do 1, and never let it go beyond that.
What do you think about this? Is there ever a good time to lie? Does God ever honor deceit?