White Lies

Little “white lies” have been the subject of some discussion lately. That innocent description conjures up thoughts of slightly bent variations of the truth. “Sorry I’m late; traffic was a bear.” “Thank you for the gift. I love it.” “Yes, that outfit does make you look thinner.” Harmless, right? The implication of our understanding of a white lie is that it is sometimes ok to not tell the truth. Maybe we want to spare someone’s feelings, or maybe we think the other person would not understand or accept our honest responses. Whatever the case, our society has deemed these little falsehoods as harmless.

We, as Christians, must be cautious about subscribing to that way of thinking. A white lie is still a lie. “God can’t stomach liars,” says the writer of Proverbs. “He loves the company of those who keep their word.” In fact, both the Old and New Testaments offer prohibitions against lying. The writer of Leviticus asserts that if you are striving to be holy, as God is holy, then “Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t deceive anyone.” This message is reinforced simply and to the point when the Christians in Colossae receive this order: “Do not lie to one another.”

None of these prohibitions set out to quantify the nature of the lie. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Don’t lie, unless it’s to spare someone’s feelings.” Jesus never teaches us that it’s ok to lie if it helps us out of a little jam. When we lie for those reasons, or because we think another person just won’t understand or accept the truth, we are still lying. And, Jesus tells us, when we lie we are aligning ourselves with the devil, “a liar and the father of lies.”

It is true that telling the truth is not always easy. If it was, we would not have such a familiar and convenient way of justifying our falsehoods (a little white lie never hurt anyone, did it?). The truth is that a lie is a lie is a lie, and God cannot abide lies, white or otherwise, period. Every lie is counted as sin, and whether we can go a day, or even an hour, without lying, we can never escape the fact that while we may brush off the occasional fib, we are still engaging in an act which hurts our relationship with God and with one another. While we should always strive to tell the truth, at the very least we cannot deceive ourselves into thinking that any lie is okay.