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What's so Bad About a White Lie?

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What's So Bad About a White Lie?

MP3 Audio (4.62 MB)


What's so Bad About a White Lie?

MP3 Audio (4.62 MB)

A concentration on just one of the Ten Commandments, the ninth commandment and discover 6 points to learn.


Well good afternoon to everyone. It is a privilege to be here today on this occasion. I would certainly like to thank the ABC choir - that was beautiful. It is amazing how much music so few people can put out. It is really delightful. They sang last night also, and very inspiring on both occasions. It certainly adds a great deal to the services.

Try to image just for a moment what a different place this world would be if just one of the Ten Commandments was kept by all of mankind-just one kept perfectly out of the ten. Perhaps we could imagine what a different place this would be if there was no murder in our society, or maybe how nice it would be to do away completely with adultery. It's in the news a lot these days. What if everyone truly honored his father and mother? Wouldn't it be nice if no one ever stole from his or her neighbor? Not to mention, of course, honoring God and keeping the Sabbath day holy, if everybody was keeping the Sabbath at this time. Well, today I want to concentrate on just one of the Ten Commandments, the ninth commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." In other words, don't lie. 

Once again, in the news a lot these day, people won't tell the truth. Let's study the subject during the time we have for the split sermon. We'll see that each of us is guilty when it comes to the ninth commandment, and we need to be on our guard as a result; and so, I've titled this sermon, "What's So Bad About a Little White Lie?"

Stop and think for a moment about this commandment. If mankind was able to eradicate even this one sin, we know what a better place this world would be, don't we? Even our children, perhaps, will listen up and learn some things and learn to improve along these lines as well. 

1. Lying in our society today.


I have six fairly short points about lying for us to look at today. The first one is, lying in our society today. Let's look at lying in our society today because society goes to great lengths to find out when an alleged criminal is lying or not. Sophisticated equipment is used to see if he is telling the truth. We've all heard of the polygraph. Let me read to you a quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica on the subject of the polygraph. It's actually under the heading of "lie detector." It says, "Lie detector. Also called polygraph. An instrument for recording physiological phenomena such as blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration of a human subject as he answers questions put to him by an operator. These data are then used as the basis for making a judgment as to whether or not the person is lying." So it's called a "lie detector." "Used in interrogation and investigation since 1924, the lie detector is still controversial among psychologists and not always judicially acceptable." See, even man's most sophisticated technology cannot really determine whether or not the person is telling the truth; and, therefore, it is generally not even admissible in court. We don't have a way of always knowing whether someone is telling the truth or telling a lie. This complicates and confuses our lives; and many, many safeguards have been introduced into our legal system to try to find out the truth.

Think for a moment how simple the O. J. Simpson trial would have been if he was asked to tell the whole truth. You know, that trial went on for months and months, with millions and millions of dollars being spent on it. "Did you kill your wife and her friend? Yes or no?" If he answers yes, you've found your killer. If he answers no and he's telling the truth, then you can start to look elsewhere for the real killer. When you find him or her, you ask the same questions. Simple! 

Our legal system would be just a fraction of what it is now. Even lawyers would have to tell the truth. No one would be taken advantage of by another person in this way. "Were you speeding? Yes or no?" "Did you hit your wife? Yes or no?" "Did you steal your brother's toy? Yes or no?" "Did you steal a cookie out of the jar?" "Did you finish your homework?" "Did you pay your taxes honestly?" "Did you assault the teenager at school? Yes or no?" You see, if everyone would just tell the truth, things would be a whole lot simpler in our society today. 

Lying is much more prevalent than most of us realize. It has infected all parts of our lives. To give you an idea of just how widespread bearing a false witness is, I have some dictionary definitions here of "lying" from Mirriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. You know, it's one thing to tell an outright lie, but people try to get around it in so many ways in their lives. 

"Lie," says Miriam Webster's, "marked by or containing falsehoods. To make an untrue statement with intent to deceive. To create a false or misleading impression. To bring about by telling lies." To "equivocate" implies using words having more than one sense so as to seem to say one thing but intend another. "Palter" implies making unreliable statements of fact or intention or insincere promises. "Fib" applies to telling of a trivial untruth.

So all these little things are under the heading of "lie." Do you see how many different ways a person can lie? Even using one word that may have two meanings so as to mislead somebody. Note some synonyms from the ever-trustworthy Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus under "lie." Roget says lie can mean "to equivocate, falsify, fib, palter, prevaricate, beguile, deceive, delude, misguide, misinform, misinstruct, mislead, distort, exaggerate, or misstate." 

So you see how many ways there are of just stretching the truth a little bit, all these different ways of lying. I know I'm guilty of doing this. It's easy to tell a white lie because, after all, it's for the best for ourselves or for someone we're trying to protect, right, just to stretch the truth a little bit? To exaggerate, maybe, a bit? You see, lying in our society is very widespread and goes deep into everything everybody does. It's not just outright lying on purpose. It's just the way people live is stretching the truth.

2. What does God say about lying?


Let's look, number two, at what God says about lying. What does God say about lying? Because it's pretty straightforward. There is not too much gray area when it comes to this because God says, "Don't lie," period! There are no ifs, ands, or buts. Stretching the truth or exaggerating maybe pushing the lying envelope over the limit as far as God is concerned. As Roget said, "to distort, misinform, make believe, misstate, or string along," is to lie. Let's go straight to the source on this subject and turn to Deuteronomy, chapter 5, and let's read verse 20. Like I said, we'll go straight to the source. Deuteronomy, chapter 5, and verse 20.

Deut. 5:20 - You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

That sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? Now, we're all familiar with the cute stories that parents tell their children about the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy. Do you think that's stretching the truth just a little bit? Lying to our children has become an accepted practice. Even an acceptable practice, something you're expected to do! But it even goes further than this. We find it infecting most aspects of human life. So imagine this, the thought and possibility that everyone in the whole world would always tell the truth, would never bear any kind of an even small false witness. It's almost overwhelming, if you could think just how far that would go. It would profoundly change the way our whole society operates. Unfortunately, that's not the case right now; and often we can't trust what our neighbor says. Maybe our friends don't always tell the truth to us. 

The Bible, the scriptures we have here on our laps give some pretty stern warnings about lying. Look over in Proverbs, chapter 6, for example. Proverbs, chapter 6, and we'll read verses 16-19.

Prov. 6:16-19 - These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.

Lying is mentioned twice. It gets top billing here in these things that God really hates. You have to wonder why does He hate it so much to list lying and a lying tongue twice. Well, I'll tell you why. It's because it is so directly opposite to God's nature. It's the opposite of what He is. And He lists it twice as things that are an abomination to Him, things He hates! God is trying to impart some of Himself into us through the power of His Holy Spirit. Our consciousness should begin to be like His consciousness when His Spirit is working with our spirit in our minds. If God hates lying, then so should we, if we are becoming like Him as His people. His Spirit will convict our heart and mind when we slip up. We'll want to do better and become more like Him and have His mind and His character.

Titus, chapter 1, let's read verses 1 and 2, if you'll turn over with me to Titus, chapter 1. Here we read, as Paul writes to Titus, right at the very beginning as he addresses the letter, Paul says:

Titus 1:1-2 - Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life...here's where our hope is, and what are we depending upon? ...in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began...

Thankfully we can believe this, that we are offered eternal life, because God doesn't lie. Look at Hebrews, chapter 6, if you go forward a few pages. Hebrews, chapter 6, verses 17 and 18:

Heb. 6:17-18 - Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

So we've just read twice now that it is impossible for God to lie, and our very eternal life can be based upon that. We can believe that. We can have faith and trust in the hope that is set before us because God doesn't lie. What He says, He will do. We can believe it. 

These are some of the most encouraging words in the scriptures. Our very hope in salvation rests upon the fact that God has promised eternal life to mankind and will not go back on those statements. God's promise of salvation is not a half-truth. It is not an exaggeration in the least. It is not an overstatement. He's not stringing us along. It's not a distortion or a fabrication of some kind. It's truth. We can rest assured that everything God says is true. We have 100 percent confidence in this, that God is not lying when He says that if we do what He tells us, we can live forever. That's mankind's dream, isn't it? Mankind thinks he's going to go to heaven and live forever as an immortal being. That's what mankind tries to do, tries to prolong life. Well, God says that what mankind generally understands is wrong, but He does promise us eternal life through another means. We can live forever, and it's not a fabrication. God does not falsify or fib even just a little bit or tell a little white lie or partial untruth. He doesn't beguile or deceive or delude. God doesn't misguide us. He doesn't misinform, maybe, just a little bit. He doesn't misinstruct or mislead. He doesn't distort or exaggerate or misstate. No, what He says is true; and our friends, family, and fellow human beings should have the same trust in us, that what we say, they can believe, because we are becoming more like God. 

As God's Spirit works in our minds and as He begins to impart His character to us, you and I should start to abhor lying and untruths. God's nature, the fact that He cannot lie, should grow to become a part of us, too; and, of course, eventually, when resurrected to spirit life, we'll do it perfectly. Until then, we keep trying and working and improving. And so, you see what God's word has to say about lying.

3. The end result of lying.


Let's look at number three, point three, the end result of lying. If you are a habitual liar, where will that get you? We can read in the book of Romans about those men who have changed the truth of God into a lie. God allowed these people to be given over to a debased and reprobate mind, and this is the opposite mind to what we have with the Holy Spirit, because with God's Spirit, we have a sound mind. The end result, of course, of lying, if not overcome, is death. There will be no liars in God's kingdom, as we can find in Revelation 21:8. No liars in God's kingdom. And that means even someone that is always telling little lies, always stretching the truth just a little bit. You know, God does not allow for that in His plan. In fact, Christ told John that incorrigible liars would perish in the lake of fire. It's serious business to God. We must overcome lying and respect God's commandment in this regard.

Proverbs, chapter 21, let's go back to Proverbs for a moment. Turn back there with me to Proverbs, chapter 21, verse 23 and verse 28. 

Prov. 21:23, 28 - Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles. But notice verse 28 here. A false witness shall perish...

You see, somebody who is always misleading people doesn't have a big future, if you could look at the overall scheme of things. However, the opposite is something most wonderful. The Proverbs also paint a beautiful picture of how wonderful nicely chosen words without deceit can be. If you go over to Proverbs 25, and you read verse 11:

Prov. 25:11 - A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

And so, a false witness shall perish; but if you do what is right in what you say, it's like something very precious. In our society today, it really is something very precious. It's hard to find. 

Now, in Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 23:

Prov 15:23 - A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!

So our tongue can be used for good and bad, but when our tongue is used for something good, it is a wonderful thing. But when we lie, when we stretch the truth, when we distort, when we deceive, that only leads to death. The false witness shall perish. So the end result of an incorrigible liar, someone who will not change from that, is the lake of fire, eventually.

4. The power of the tongue.


Let's look at number four, the power of the tongue, because we mentioned that it can be used for both good and bad. Unfortunately, often it is used for more bad than good when it comes to what we say. I'd like to have you read a passage with me that the apostle James wrote, in James, chapter 3. It's a very powerful passage that reinforces to us the strength that our tongue can have, and it's so important that our words do not carry deception or mislead people. It may be a very small member in our body, but a most powerful one; and as we concentrate today on speaking truthfully, read this worst-case scenario passage here, about how bad things can get if you are not able to control what you say. James, chapter 3, we'll read verses 1-14 here:

James 3:1-2 - My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man...you know, this is an awfully difficult thing to do, not to stumble in what you say...able also to bridle the whole body. If you can control your tongue, that little thing in your mouth, then you can control your whole body, is what he is saying. If you can get that under control, you're on the road here. 

Verses 3-4 - Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 

Verses 5-14 - Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. This is looking at a worst-case scenario here, someone who really cannot control his tongue. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.

Of course, these were extremely stern words that James was writing here, addressing a major problem. Do you notice a breakdown of these thoughts outlined by James? I noted five subheadings in this passage. First of all, the tongue is small but very significant. Secondly, the tongue is combustible. Third, the tongue is an unruly beast, he says. {Fourth}, the tongue is poison. And fifth, the tongue is double-tongued. And so, if you can't control your tongue, you've really got a problem. 

Our tongue must be bridled; and, as we know, this begins before the words actually come out of our mouth. It begins in our mind, doesn't it? That's where the thoughts start, before our tongue actually says anything. Our tongue can be a powerful tool, an instrument of great good, like apples of gold in settings of silver, very precious; or it can cause great harm, as we just read. But we need to heed the warning given by Paul in his epistle and be careful to bring every word we speak into captivity. Remember that verse? Bring every thought into captivity so that what you say, then, is appropriate. Words we speak begin as thoughts, and our thoughts have to be controlled. God's Spirit working in us helps us have this control. Of course, we have to pray for it, pray for God's Spirit to work with our spirit, that we may be careful in what we say. And this leads us into not bearing a false witness, not misleading people in what we say.

5. Imagine how it could be.


Point five, just imagine how it could be. Just imagine, like we did at the beginning, how it could be. Young people today are learning to steal and lie in an immensely organized fashion. Not only are they stealing articles by the thousands from stores, shops, schools, and even churches, but they regularly organize an intricate system of cheating on tests and exams. It is a very big problem in our society today: cheating. Because it is generally looked on without too much alarm, this practice is really growing at an unprecedented rate. What the young people may not have been told is that cheating is taking a score or grade illegally. It's stealing or lying about one's base of knowledge being covered in a test or an exam. But students do it all the time. They find a way around tests, cheat, and then lie about what they really know. 

The shop keeper who uses false weights and measures or a poor quality of material or workmanship to deceive the public is just as guilty of breaking the commandment as a common thief. He's trying to get something more than a legitimate return for his product. Viewing illegal profits he hopes to receive is trying to get that extra something for nothing, and only God knows how many cases of people stretching the truth or lying about their product there is on this planet today. 

One of the great commercial sins of our age is the common practice of false advertising. The consumer is led to believe that a certain pill, for instance, will cause him to lose weight or gain weight, increase his potency, restore his thinning hair, or whatever the case may be. And in many cases, the statement that is advertised is a direct, willful lie, without any doubt. The manufacturers know it {the product} is going to have little or no effect on the person; and, in many cases, the victims of these gigantic frauds are not only robbed of money, but they're robbed of health, happiness, and peace of mind. You see, many a respectable businessman and community leader has only attained his position largely through mass deception. He got where he was or where he is by not telling the truth. Look at the scandal that invaded the White House. The President and Mrs. Clinton were engaged in a fight to protect themselves from jail time because of deceit and lying through their business dealings over the decades. It went way back, lying and cheating. This is the age of the sophisticated lie, the double-standard of morality, the Watergate syndrome. This is the age of respectable-appearing lawyers, industrial leaders, union leaders, governmental officials, and college professors perjuring themselves on the witness stand, and even before the United States Senate, as the tobacco industry lied to the face of the government questioners, outright lies, just a couple years back.

The Christ we serve, our elder brother, our High Priest, thoroughly condemned the hypocrites of His day whom you could not believe. I wonder what He would say about our generation today? The hypocrisy, the lying, the mis-truths. The ninth commandment protects every upright and decent man in guarding his reputation; and perhaps there is no more despicable lie than that of slander, the lie invented and spread abroad with intent to harm one's fellow man and his reputation. A thief may take some material goods which can be replaced, but a false witness who slanders may rob a person of esteem and reputation in the eyes of his fellow man, and chances are slim that when you have been slandered that your reputation will ever be fully regained. 

Imagine if the truth was told completely in our day and age. The immediate value of being able to rely on a man's word would not only guard every decent man's reputation and eliminate millions of hours wasted investigating every situation, but would also prevent unworthy men from ever being placed in high positions of responsibility. It would literally clean up our society. In the field of industry and business, think of the tremendous benefit that would come to the public if each company would honestly tell the truth about their product and honestly seek to serve the consumer's real needs. The effect of this would be literally astounding. 

Think of a society where each brand of toothpaste and breakfast cereal, for example, was not just an imitation or a needless variation of another cereal but was truly the best of its particular type, honestly priced and truthfully advertised. Even when they advertise all the vitamins and minerals they put in cereal, you find out that they just go right through your body and don't do anything. That's just a gimmick. Apply this to every phase of our society and you get something near utopia just from this one commandment being kept. Imagine the blessings that would come if our entire population obeyed just the ninth commandment. It would affect all of us because we are brothers and sisters together in this world and in this Church. 

Notice Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 25. Paul wrote to the church there at Ephesus:

Eph. 4:25 - Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor...here it is being written to the Church. I guess they had a problem with lying, too...let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.

You see, we are all brothers in this together, so why stretch the truth in what you say? It's interesting to note that Jesus Christ Himself was murdered as a result of a false testimony levied against Him by His neighbors, His brothers. We are all members, one of another, in this Church and in this society. Why hurt one another like that? Christ's death resulted from the lies that were told about Him. We are members, one of another, here in what has been called the "global village." We all affect each other.

6. Our responsibility.


Let's look at our final point, number six, which is our responsibility, our responsibility. In our own personal lives, we need to learn the importance of telling the truth, believing the truth, and living the truth, because the very character of our Father in heaven can be imparted to us through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives to us His nature, the nature of God; and this nature begins to replace our nature and our spirit as we overcome ourselves and our sins. It helps us become more like Him, and He cannot lie. God does not stretch the truth one little bit to beguile or deceive or to misstate, and we must be careful not to base our lives on any kind of a series of lies, whether personal, political, religious distortions, any kind of untruth. 

Let's turn to John, chapter 8, and read verse 31. It's an important scripture for all of us who seek freedom from the pains of this world, those who truly want to be free and not to be in bondage. 

John 8:31-32 - Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." 

It's the truth that can set us free-of course, the very truth of God, which we can believe. In our personal speech, we must guard our words carefully. We must never forget that a man is only as good as his word. You've heard that before. If a man becomes a habitual liar, it is very difficult to help him. And, unfortunately, anything he says or does may simply be another deception. It gets to the point where somebody, you know they lied about one thing, then you don't really know whether you can believe them when they say they had nothing to do with somebody's disappearance. You know, once you get down that road, it's pretty hard to turn that person around. 

One of the best attributes of God's character is that He is truth, and this truth can make us free. If we couldn't rely on God's word, there could be no real assurance of forgiveness from our past sins. And, of course, we would also have no confidence in obtaining help from our Father in heaven when we have a need, or of any future reward of eternal life. We might as well give up now if you couldn't believe what God told us. When God says our sins are forgiven upon repentance, we can thankfully really believe that; and He forgets about them and we move on. 

It's interesting to note the very opposite of God's character. It comes from, as you know, Satan the devil. Christ exposed Satan for what he really and truly is in John, chapter 8. It's right here, back a page or so. John, chapter 8, verses 43 through 45. You see, we've just been reading about the truth and the truth setting you free. Just read down a few more verses and see where Christ was leading with this. It was in John 8, now verse 43:

John 8:43 - Why do you not understand My speech? He was talking about the truth, right? Because you are not able to listen to My word.

Verses 44-45 - You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 

You see, Christ was really setting the record straight here about what the problem was with those He was dealing. Of course, Satan the devil began with that first line in the garden of Eden with Eve, and he's the father of all lies. He's a murderer from the beginning. It's interesting to see here Christ relating murder and lying together. It's so destructive. You can assassinate somebody's character through slander and lying. You may as well kill him. You see, those who follow Satan in his refusal to live by the truth, which can set you free, have a terrible fate awaiting them. 

Let's now read the scripture I referred to earlier, in Revelation, chapter 21, verses 7-8, because it carries a tremendous amount of weight on this subject. Revelation 21:7, first of all, here's something we can believe:

Rev. 21:7 - He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. There's our promise of eternal life, once again, that God gave us. 

But then: 

Verse 8 - But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Some people think just telling a lie or two once in awhile is no big deal. Do you see what it's listed with here? All of the other sins and abominations? God hates lying because it's the opposite of what He is. Satan is a liar, the father of it, a murderer from the beginning. God cannot lie. He just cannot stretch the truth, even just a little bit. 

Society goes to great lengths to find out when an alleged criminal is lying. Sophisticated equipment is used to see if they are telling the truth or not. And even the most sophisticated technology cannot really determine whether or not a person is telling the truth. Lying is much more prevalent than any of us realize. It has infected many parts of our lives, and the thought and possibility that everyone in the whole world would always tell the truth is almost unimaginable; but one day, they will. You and I are in training at this very moment. We should be setting the right example now, as God's people being led by His Holy Spirit; and so we bring every thought into line and be careful what we say to one another. The whole world is not rid of lying yet, no matter how hard we'd like to imagine it; but we can start to make a difference in our personal lives now. 

In our own personal lives, we need to learn the importance of telling the truth, believing the truth, and living the truth. The very character of our Father in heaven can be imparted to us through the power of His Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives to us His nature by which He cannot lie. This nature begins to replace our nature as we overcome ourselves and our sins and become more like Him. Remember, there are no little white lies in God's sight. He doesn't tell white lies. Half-truths, distortions and deceptions are condemned throughout God's word. Jesus said, "Thy word is truth," in John 17. Let us live by that inspired word that we may inherit life in the kingdom that is based on what is literally true and right. This is the message of the ninth commandment.