The sin of lying

by Mike Ratliff

Lying is the most prominent sin of mankind, and because truth is the most essential characteristic of Christianity, in Ephesians 4:22-29 which lists the remnants of the old man that are sins that are most likely to creep back into the Christian’s life, Paul mentions lying first.

20 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν, 21 εἴ γε αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ ἐδιδάχθητε, καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ, 22 ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν φθειρόμενον κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης, 23 ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν 24 καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας.
25 Διὸ ἀποθέμενοι τὸ ψεῦδος λαλεῖτε ἀλήθειαν ἕκαστος μετὰ τοῦ πλησίον αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐσμὲν ἀλλήλων μέλη. 26 ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε· ὁ ἥλιος μὴ ἐπιδυέτω ἐπὶ [τῷ] παροργισμῷ ὑμῶν, 27 μηδὲ δίδοτε τόπον τῷ διαβόλῳ. 28 ὁ κλέπτων μηκέτι κλεπτέτω, μᾶλλον δὲ κοπιάτω ἐργαζόμενος ταῖς [ἰδίαις] χερσὶν τὸ ἀγαθόν, ἵνα ἔχῃ μεταδιδόναι τῷ χρείαν ἔχοντι. 29 πᾶς λόγος σαπρὸς ἐκ τοῦ στόματος ὑμῶν μὴ ἐκπορευέσθω, ἀλλʼ εἴ τις ἀγαθὸς πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν τῆς χρείας, ἵνα δῷ χάριν τοῖς ἀκούουσιν. Ephesians 4:20-29 (NA28)

20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you heard Him and were taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off the old man, which pertains to your former manner of life, the one being corrupted according to the lusts of deceit, 23 and to be renewed by the Spirit controlling your mind, 24 and putting on the new man, the one according to God having been created in righteousness and sanctity of the truth.
25 Wherefore, having put off falsehood let each of us speak truth with our neighbor because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Let not the sun set on you anger. 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 The one stealing, let him no longer steal, but rather let him labor working with his own hands at something good that he may have something to share with the in need. 29 Let no corrupt work proceed from your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:20-29 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In v25 the word “falsehood” translates ψεῦδος (pseudos), “lie, falsehood.” It is from this word that we get our English pseudo (as in pseudonym, a false name). It means “the antithesis of the truth.” In 1 John 2:21, the Apostle John wrote to the churches in Asia that they knew “the truth” and “that no lie is of the truth. Think about it. I know that in our relativistic culture that that may a bold statement, but there is not even the slightest bit of truth in a lie, no “gray area” as is commonly believed. There is no such thing as a small lie.

A lie is “a statement that is contrary to fact offered with the intent to deceive.” There are two parts to that definition. A statement that is contrary to fact is not necessarily a lie. People can make appointments, but circumstances can prevent them from showing up on time or even being there at all. That is not a lie because the one delayed was not trying to deceive anyone. However, if the attempt is being made to make people believe that you will do something that you have no intention of doing or vice versa, then that is a lie because that is intentional deception.

Such things as kidding, fictional stories, figurative language, and not saying something out of politeness are not lying. However, there are many things that are lying: blatant falsehoods, exaggerating or embellishing a story, cheating (because you are saying you did something on your own when you didn’t), betraying a confidence, making excuses for wrong conduct, telling a half-truth, plagiarism, boasting, flattery, false humility, hypocrisy, false promises, and obfuscation in order to deceive, no matter the motive.

Lying is a universal vice as it at the core of man’s fallen nature. Christians are not immune, but God does give the victory to those who confess and repent.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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