Does God reward lying? We should always seek truth
In a 2014 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll people were asked, “Should you always tell the truth?” Only 56 percent said, “Yes.” The truth has been taking a beating over the last 20 years, as polling numbers indicate Americans are more and more willing to lie to get what they want and stay out of trouble.
I have always insisted that lying is always a sin, and we should not lie. The Bible’s ninth commandment states clearly, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). Remember, these are commandments, not suggestions.
To that response the ethical situation has been posed, that if you were sitting in a room when a man enters with a gun and asks where your brother is, he’s going to kill him, what would you do? The obvious answer is we would lie to protect our brother. This ethical dilemma did not occur in a vacuum. That is, the hypothetical brother told many lies, cheated or stole to get to a place where you have to lie to protect him from a murderer. Since we live in a fallen world, lying is a reality we have to live with, but that doesn’t make it right.
Then we have the intriguing challenge to this ethical truth posed by the Hebrew midwives in Egypt (Exodus 1) and Rahab in Jericho (Joshua 2). The midwives lied to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, who wanted them to kill all the Hebrew male children at birth. They declare that “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive” (Exodus 1:19). God blesses them with big families because they “feared God,” and by implication they feared God more than they feared Pharaoh.
Again, Rahab lies to her king about Hebrew spies that have snuck into Jericho. She hides them until they are safe to leave Jericho, and tells her king they had left the city when they had not. Her and her family are not only rescued from certain death, but she is listed in the lineage of Jesus, thus receiving a great reward for what she did. In both of these situations has God not rewarded these women for lying?
I believe I can still claim that lying is always wrong. Like the hypothetical brother, these women found themselves in a scary situation because we live in a fallen world. So, the words they used seemed to merit the need to lie to protect newborn children in the first situation and spies in the second.
However, I believe God rewarded these women, not for their lying words, but for their actions and faith. They acted out of obedience to God. Rahab told the spies she believed in God, and was saving them as a sign of faith (Joshua 2:11). The same is true of the midwives who feared God more than they feared Pharaoh.
One of the reasons the Bible is a timeless truth is that it gives us very real-life situations to deal with, and that is especially clear here. In these situations, God rewards their actions and faith, even though their fears moved them to lie. In other places God rewards his people who not only acted in faith, but also showed even more trust in God by telling the truth. The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3) shows us their courage to trust God whether God saves their lives or not.
One final thought, we can trust that the Bible is always true. When it appears that the Bible is contradictory we should dig in, and find the answers that God wants us to find, so we will know the truth God is trying to reveal. When we struggle with the truth of scripture the problem is not God’s, but ours to resolve. The search for a resolution will yield a deeper and more mature faith.
I invite you to gather some people together and raise the questions of truth and lying I pose in this article. Then when you think you have found solutions check out I Kings 22, when God sends a lying spirit to Ahab to bring about his death. Do not stop digging until you find an answer that affirms the truth of scripture.
To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.com.