I hate lying. I don’t even like telling “white” lies. The only time I ever really lie is when I play the guessing game “True Lies” where you tell two true things about yourself and one lie, and the other person has to guess which is the lie. Other than that, I tend to avoid them. This is not to say that I’ll throw truth in people’s faces when it will hurt them. “You know, your dress is really ugly. Why did you buy that?” If they ask, I’ll try to soften my words, or perhaps deflect the question. But I generally avoid lying.
Why is lying so bad? I think the story of David, Saul, and the priests of Nob highlight two reasons.
First, when you lie, even if you think it won’t hurt anyone, it often does. I strongly doubt David expected Saul to wipe out the priests of Nob for giving him aid. David probably thought, “They’re priests. Even if Saul finds out that they helped me, he’ll believe them when they say they didn’t know I was running from him.” But Saul didn’t believe them, and so David was responsible for the deaths of 85 priests as a result.
We may not think our lies will not hurt anything. But there can be unintended consequences that you didn’t imagine when you told the lie.
Several years ago, I was working at a company that was having financial problems and would eventually go bankrupt. One month, our salaries came late. It was supposed to come in on Friday, but it came in on Monday instead. I actually didn’t find out about it until Monday because I didn’t check my bank account on Friday. The only reason I knew about it was our company wrote an explanatory note that I saw on Monday.
Anyway, my wife later asked me how work was, and I debated whether to tell her or not. “After all,” I thought, “We did get the money. It was no big deal.” But I decided to be honest and tell her what had happened. And when I did, she said, “Yeah! So and so told me about that yesterday.” Apparently one of my friends who worked for the same company asked, “Is Bruce alright? We didn’t get paid on Friday.”
When my wife told me she already knew, I thought, “Well, I guess it’s a good thing I told her after all.” And it taught me that even when I think someone doesn’t know the truth, they very well might. And if I don’t tell the truth, it could hurt our relationship. I kind of wonder what would’ve happened if I didn’t tell my wife. What would she have thought, especially when the truth came out and I could no longer deny it?
The second reason lying can be bad is that sometimes we end up believing our own lies. You see that in Saul’s case. Saul had no reason to believe that David was rebelling against him or trying to kill him. But he told so many people this in justifying his actions against David, that he actually started to believe it himself. And when his son Jonathan and the priests confronted him with the truth, he could no longer recognize truth as truth. He killed the priests and even tried to kill his own son as a result.
How truthful are you? Has lying become a convenient way to escape uncomfortable situations? Are you lying to yourself or to others to justify your actions? Even the smallest lies can come back to hurt you or others. So as Paul wrote,
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)