When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.
In chapter 20 of the book that bears his name, Jeremiah complained to God:
O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. (20:7)
On Sunday nights our adult Bible study at Providence Church is in the format of a exposition of chapter (e.g., 2 Samuel 16 on 2/11), which is followed by a time of Q&A. In my mind, it's during Q&A that you really earn your money as a teacher. That's a time that separates the men from the boys.
This week the issue of whether or not it's okay to lie to your enemies came up, since Hushai lies to Absalom in 2 Sam 16.
The issue is this, sometimes you see God's people lying for what they perceive to be good reason and not being explicitly reprimanded or punished. For example Rahab was actually praised for her actions (Heb 11:31), though it entailed lying.
As well, there are numerous passages that state pretty clearly that on occasion God deceives His enemies. Is it ever okay to lie? Are there some instances where it becomes the lesser of two evils? Is it always forbidden?
The issue becomes complicated when we note passages where God certainly appears to intentionally decive His enemies.
My favorite passage of such intrigue is 1 Kings 22:13-23 where God ensures false prophets will tell the king to go into battle where he will be victorious, but God wants him to go into battle to smoke him. The following interchange brings this to bear:
18And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?" 19And Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20and the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. 21Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, 'I will entice him.' 22And the LORD said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.' 23Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you." (ESV)To those who refuse to love the truth, God will bring punishment in the form of a delusion so that they believe what is false in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12:
11Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (ESV)Are we allowed to deceive our enemies? What about as a punishment or recompense for their sin/wickedness? What about in warfare? Can a Christian wear camo to conceal his position? Can a Christian playing running back deceive the linebacker into thinking he's going right, only to juke him outta his socks by going to the left?
The classic example is always where you're at the door to your home in Nazi Germany and you're asked if you're hiding Jews in your house. You are. What do you say?
Scripture says that God does not lie (1 Sam 15:29; Titus 1:2) nor even change His mind (Num 23:19). So, God is not a liar.
But ... God does deceive His enemies and God uses the sinful actions of wicked people to accomplish His purposes (cf. cross of Jesus, Acts 2:22-24), though He is in no way the author of evil.
That being said, I'm not quite ready to take the next step (though perhaps it be logical) that we are allowed to lie ... circumstances permitting.
I've heard it said that evildoers don't deserve the truth. That is true, but who does? Nobody deserves the truth, except God, who is truth (John 14:6).
Now, that doesn't mean I give full disclosure to the Nazis, but at least in theory I think I should not lie to them. I can certainly see me getting more than a bit Clintonesque on them, however.
Q: Is there any Jews here?
A: Hmm. I guess that depends of your definition of "is," now doesn't it?
Further, perhaps we have to ask, like Pilate, "What is truth?"
I know some wise and learned humans would differ with me on this, but I'm having to give God line item veto on how He does things. When push comes to shove, I may tell the Nazis that the Jews are hiding at the end of a long walk on a short pier, but my goal going in would be to do whatever I could to avoid lying.
But ... does that mean I can shoot 'em instead? Your thoughts?