The Lying Tongue (2), By Femi Aribisala
Even small, seemingly innocuous lies, can have devastating consequences.
Jesus says: “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:11). Out of the mouths of men come lies upon lies.
As the “father of lies,” the devil tells the first lie in the Bible. He tells Eve that if she eats God’s forbidden fruit, she will not die as God had warned: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5).
This lie is classically demonic. It is a lie embedded in the truth, making it a half-truth. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and they did not die physically. As a matter of fact, Adam lived to the ripe old age of 930 years. Moreover, their eyes were opened and they became aware that they were naked for the very first time. They also became like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:22).
However, they died spiritually when they ate the fruit. They were immediately alienated from God; the source of life. In effect, the devil used the truth to deceive them by mixing it with falsehood.
This is a favourite strategy of liars. If everything they say is a lie, they might not easily be believed. So they mix the lie with the truth. Thus Paul says: “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Liars are artful dodgers. If you ask them a question, they will avoid giving you a direct answer and try, instead, to sidestep the truth. One way of doing this is to answer a question with a question, in order to avoid answering it. Or, they may pretend to be offended by the question and might even turn it into a quarrel.
An example of this approach in the scriptures is when, knowing that Cain had killed Abel, the Lord asked him: “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain, of course, would not admit that he had killed him. So he said: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:8-9).
This is a deceitful attempt to skirt the truth by questioning the legitimacy of the question. This makes Cain’s answer a lie because he deliberately avoids admitting his sin. If he were to be truthful, he would have said: “I have killed him.”
Overtaken In A Lie
Sometimes, our intention is not to tell a lie, but then we find ourselves in difficult situations and circumstances that incline us to tell lies. Often we feel justified in doing this because we say it could not be helped. We are also prone to rationalise this further by believing this kind of lie is innocuous. So, “God will understand.”
David was on the run from Saul, who was out to kill him. He sought refuge in the city of Nob and went to see the high priest, Ahimelech. The priest was surprised to see him and wondered why he had come all alone by himself.
David did not want to disclose that he was on the run from the king. So he told him a lie: “The king has sent me on a private matter. He told me not to tell anybody why I am here. I have told my men where to meet me later.” (1 Samuel 21:2).
This lie might seem innocent enough. However, David’s white lie led to Saul’s killing of 85 priests and the destruction of the city of Nob. Unknown to David and Ahimelech, Doug the Edomite observed the proceedings and reported it to Saul, who then took vengeance on the city and the priests. This tells us that even small, seemingly innocuous lies, can have devastating consequences.
Fear of Man
Sometimes, we tell a lie because we are afraid of the implication of telling the truth. The lie, then, is intended to be a defence. However, wisdom, and not falsehood, should be our defence. (Ecclesiastes 7:12). Since God is truth, it is not wise to tell a lie.
The only wise God must always be our defence. We must trust him to get us out of trouble and not rely on our own deceitful devices. Solomon warns: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25). David says: “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).
If you fear God, you need not fear man. If you fear man, you cannot fear God: “The LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear.’” (Isaiah 8:11-13).
The fear of man nearly shipwrecked the faith and ministry of Peter. Because he was afraid, Peter denied Jesus three times on the trot and lied that he did not even know him. Had it not been for the grace of God, which prompted Jesus to intercede to God on Peter’s behalf beforehand, Peter’s ministry would have been destroyed, for Jesus says: “He who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:9).
Lying To Conceal Sin
We often lie to conceal wrongdoing. People tell lies in the bid to get out of trouble, but lies actually get us into more trouble. By lying, another sin is added to the sin we are trying to conceal. This is because lying itself is a sin. God says: “Woe to the rebellious children, who take counsel, but not of me, and who devise plans, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin.” (Isaiah 30:1).
Liars often have to tell another lie in order to protect a lie. Then they have to tell another lie, to protect the protective lie. And on it goes; one lie leads to another lie, then to yet another one. In short, lies compound lies and compound sin.
We tell lies in order to deceive. But liars are also being deceived because every lie is told in the presence of the all-knowing God, who cannot be deceived. Accordingly, Paul says: “Evil men and false teachers will become worse and worse, deceiving many, they themselves having been deceived by Satan.” (2 Timothy 3:13).
Contrary to the delusion that we can get out of trouble by telling a lie, it is the truth that gets us out of trouble. Jesus says: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). This is because lies imprison us in our sins, but truth sets us free.
God has decreed that: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13). Lies can never cover sin. But love: “will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:9).