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“I’m fine”…and other lies we tell

In Canada we don’t have Nazis at our doors asking whether we’re hiding Jews. And yet we still lie. When a telephone solicitor calls we tell him we “can’t talk right now” whether we can or not. The waitress asking “How are you?” is given an “I’m fine” whether we are or not. And children who want to play with Mom or Dad are told “later” whether there will be time then or not.

No lives are at stake and no one is in danger; our lies don’t save anyone. So why do we – Christian folk that we are – lie like this?

Half truths?

We lie because at the time it seems the quicker thing to do, and because the “half-truths” we’re telling seems harmless enough. We lie because we doubt the sincerity of the people around us: “He can’t really want to know how I’m doing, can he?” And when we lie often enough, then the lying spills out of us as a matter of habit.

There is a temptation to dismiss these “little lies” as harmless. However the Bible is quite clear about the overall need for honesty and the value of truth in our day-to-day lives (Col 3:9, Lev. 19:11-12). We find that the very character of God prevents Him from ever lying (Num. 23:19) and indeed Christ is so inseparable from honesty He is called “the truth” (John 14:6). So if we want to imitate Him then we too should be concerned about honesty.

Half trusted

Consider also the damage done from our ordinary lies. One example: how many parents make a habit out of lying to their kids? How many of us make promises we can’t keep and making threats we don’t carry out? When a parent’s “yes” doesn’t mean “yes” and our “no” doesn’t really mean “no” how can we be surprised when our children don’t accept anything we say as the final word? Experience has taught these kids that Mom and Dad’s “no’s” are at best half-truths, because half the time a bit more badgering will result in a favorable “yes.”

Now, in some instances we may not be able to deduce the harm caused by a bit of deception – who gets hurt when we lie to a telephone solicitor? But consider the harm that comes from the fact that if we are not habitually honest we all too easily become habitually deceptive. Sin separates us from God (and would do so permanently but for the grace of God) so we should never dismiss any sin as inconsequential.

An experiment

If you don’t think you lie, consider this challenge, taken from Diane M. Komp’s book Anatomy of a Lie: carry a small notebook with you to tally every time you lie, or are tempted to lie, and ask yourself “why?” Keep this up for a week, or even just a day, and if you may well be astonished at how often you are lying, and how often it is for no discernable reason at all!

Of course becoming more aware of our sin isn’t any sort of place to stop. Now that the need for repentance is clear, go to God, ask Him for forgiveness, and ask Him to help you speak the truth in big things and small.


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