There are some jokes that you know a preacher is going to tell. Like whenever he goes through a list like the ten commandments. Almost as if it’s a duty forced upon him he’ll tell the joke, “All of you that didn’t raise your hand and confess to lying—just told a lie.” The congregation dutifully chuckles as if they’ve heard the joke for the first time.
But are they lying with their fake laughter? I’m asking this just to point out that we can get distracted about lying and try to justify our lies as if a good portion of them are actually for the sake of others and advancement of the kingdom.
Here are six reasons why I usually lie. And you do too. If you try to tell me different, I’ll call you a liar:
- To impress people—whatever I like about myself and whatever I think I need to exaggerate about myself to cause you to like me and have a positive view of me. Whether I lie about how much I can bench press, my skills at computer programming, my knowledge of an iPhone, the number of people I’ve dated, the grade I got on a test score, the funny thing I said (but really only said in my head). I lie because I want to impress you.
- To escape consequences—probably the most frequent reason we lie is to save our tails. It’s obvious in small children, but only because they aren’t as good as us at hiding it. If we think we are going to get in trouble for something we will craft really big stories to get out of it. Adlai Stevenson is correct, “Lying is an abomination to the Lord and a very present help in times of trouble”.
- To keep peace—this is very often the reason for our silence. This is the same reason why I am sometimes silent in sharing the gospel—I want to keep peace. It’s also sometimes why I tell a lie rather than a truth when somebody asks me a very serious question. I lie and tell them what they want to hear rather than the truth.
- Malicious slander—when I am sinned against I can be tempted to slander. I can be responsible for telling a lie or spreading a lie about someone that I do not like. I do this because for revenge sometimes, but sometimes I do it to make myself look better, to build a falsely close relationship with someone else, or just because it seems fun.
- Denial—if lies continue to go unchecked eventually they spiral down into a calloused denial. It gets so bad that I really do not even know that I am lying. I even believe my own lie. I think it’s truth but it’s not. So, I live in flat out denial.
- Callous habits—eventually I develop the habit of lying rather than the habit of telling the truth. It’s usually not those big lies but those little white lies. Those lies that are just cutting the corner and only leaving out a few details. We get into patterns of surface relationships, surface conversations, and before we know it a good portion of our world is revolving around a lie.
At root in our lying hearts is idolatry. Lying is an attempt to change reality. How much more idolatrous can you can get than to stare reality in the face and attempt to reconstruct a reality of our own making?
I also believe that John Piper is correct when he says,
“…when Paul says that the old nature is corrupt, he means (among other things) that the old nature is a liar. And this means, then, that the corruption of lying comes from the desires of deceit. Very simply this means that the reason we lie is because we have desires that we shouldn’t have, and the reason we have them is because we are deceived about what is truly desirable.”
In other words the way to fight lying is to be satisfied in reality as God has created it. If we truly find Him and His ways desirable then we won’t be so tempted to construct false reality of our own.