Culture is influential. Some of what we believe to be true is influenced by the environment around us. We may deem that something is right or wrong simply because the people around us hold to a particular view. This cultural influence threatens to devour the Holy Spirit’s influence that ought to govern our lives. What the Bible explicitly states to be wrong, we may be tempted to deny, because in today’s culture it is deemed acceptable. One of these things is lying. How do you view lying? Do you have a zero-tolerance policy on lying? Or do you divide lies into big or small? White or otherwise? How we view and deal with lying tells us a lot about what we view about God.
Cambridge Dictionary defines the word lie as “something you say that you know is not true”. This definition is partly right. Where this definition falters is that it neglects the condition of the human heart apart from God. We do not primarily lie because we want to hide the truth, we primarily lie because we do not know the truth as a result of our sinful nature. John 8 gives us the clearest exposition of this point. At the beginning of John 8, Jesus declares that He is the light of the world (John 8:12), which confirms the multiple Old Testament prophecies which stated this (Exodus 25:27, Leviticus 24:2, Psalm 27:1, Isaiah 9:2). The Pharisees took issue with Jesus’ statement because they judged wrongly (John 8:13-19). Jesus later identifies why they judged (concluded) wrongly, because of the condition of their hearts (John 8:39-41). And this is ultimately why we lie. We lie not merely to obscure the truth; our hearts don’t have the capacity to receive the truth. To speak the truth means to identify with the Light and to say what God says has a preeminent place not just in my head but in my heart (John 8:31-32).
Truth Over Lies
The battle between telling the truth and lying is really the battle of freedom. The reason why we lie is that we believe we can get, with a lie, what Jesus promises we can only get with the truth – freedom (John 8:32). Those who default to lying expose the nature of their heart – fallen. Their idea of freedom is too small. To paraphrase John Piper, you’re not free if the decisions you make today will not make you eternally happy. When we decide to lie, we often think of the consequences that we will face and rarely the consequences that others will face because of our lies. The reverse is also true. Perhaps, due to the condition of our hearts, we are blind to the freedom that is available on the other side of telling the truth.
The antidote for a corrupt, lying heart isn’t telling the truth, but the Gospel. Telling the truth is good but can’t change the heart that seeks to enthrone lies when the truth is inconvenient to tell. We need the Gospel that tells us that the condition of our heart is corrupt and fallen due to sin and there’s nothing we can do to change that. Therefore, we need Jesus who lived, died and resurrected for us- who doesn’t mend our heart but gives us a new one. With this new heart, our perception of lying changes. We realise to lie is to identify with Satan, whose nature is to lie (John 8:44). Instead, our desire is, to tell the truth, because when we tell the truth we declare that our allegiance is to the light and that we are free. When we tell the truth we declare that since my security is in Christ, I need not fear the consequences of telling the truth. If you’re struggling with lying today, turn to Christ. There is no lie that you have told that can’t be forgiven by Jesus.