Ever since you were small, your parents hammered into you that all lying was bad. Bearing false witness rates its own Commandment from God. I still feel the shame of weasel lies I’ve told in the past, and I try my best to work with my kids to help them tell the truth.
But... I don’t think you can say that every untruth is a sin against God. (Does that make me sound like a moral relativist?) When the Hebrew midwives told Pharaoh a lie, they were saving lives. When Rahab lied to the pursuers of the spies, she was aiding God’s agenda. Jonathan lied to save David’s life. The Bible seems to speak approvingly of these actions.
It struck me the other day that a lot of what we term politeness is a benign form of lying. We address letters to difficult people with “Dear ____,” but they are not dear to us in any way, shape, or form. To some we say, “It’s been a pleasure…” when it’s not been a pleasure. We’ll say, “I don’t mind…” when we do, in fact, mind a lot. We say, “Glad to be of help” when in fact we are thinking, “Thank God that’s over.” We say, “Nice to hear from you” when we are thinking, “Hope she doesn’t call for another ten years.”
I guess what makes this pleasing to the Lord is that it’s not really bearing false witness, but rather a form of expressing a lofty goal that we are striving for. They aren’t really lies, but practice dialogue that is appropriate to servants of the Servant. So even though I’m thinking, “I want to stay here on the couch with my book,” I will say, “Need help with those packages? Glad to help.” “No, it’s no bother at all.”
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