There’s a Proverb for That: Liar, Liar, Plants for Hire*
The research into how much we all lie to one another is as prevalent as it is condemning. When it comes to lying, the book of Proverbs is not impressed.
People have been lying to each other for thousands of years. Evidence? A wisdom book written nearly 3,000 years ago addresses the consequences of, and God’s disgust with, lying.
“That’s pants on fire, Patrick*”
In the sophisticated and biting social commentary found within an episode of the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, the humorously dim-witted Patrick Star skewers the familiar rhyme about dishonesty by instead saying, “Liar, liar, plants for hire.” When corrected by the momentarily uppity SpongeBob, Patrick then retorts, “Well, you would know, liar.”
It’s easy to slip up and lie occasionally for a variety of reasons, even when we strive to be truthful. There are the so-called “little white lies” to make sure we don’t hurt someone’s feelings. We also have the whoppers to get us out of trouble when scared. Then there are the lies that have just enough truth in them for us to justify them as not actually being lies. The common thread? Our nose and seared conscience grow with each one we let slide.
It’s very hard for the truth to set us free when we twist, abuse, distort, neglect and run away from it (John 8:32). If those who love and practice a lie are not welcome inside the gates of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14-15), there must be a pretty good reason to stay truthful. And, yes, there is a proverb for that.
Proverbs and implications
1. Proverbs 12:22: “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.”
Pretty simple really, right? God delights in those who strive to tell the truth, even when it may be uncomfortable or require a few more seconds to use adequate tact and gentleness. He conversely hates a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:17) and a false witness who lies (verse 19). Why then is it so hard to get this right? Perhaps it is because lying is so common and accepted. How many people in our world could be described as haters of lying (Proverbs 13:5)?
Implications: We should bring back the disgust and abominable connotation of lying that the book of Proverbs so clearly expresses. Not by calling out every liar we notice (there aren’t enough hours in the day), but by focusing on ourselves. When we lie, God absolutely hates it. We have to remember that in order to break the seduction that pushes little white lies into “alternative facts,” ultimately leading into such unpleasant terrain as Holocaust denial, Darwinian racism and meaningless Christianity.
2. Proverbs 17:20: “He who has a deceitful heart finds no good, and he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil.”
Though lying may be commonplace, even the most secular people of our world get annoyed by pathological lying. No long-term good can come from this trait in people. They will eventually fall into evil and alienate themselves from everyone around them. Though what is gained by deceit may taste sweet for a time, pretty soon it will taste like gravel because the consequences will catch up with them (Proverbs 20:17).
Implications: Every time we let something we know is a lie sit without setting the record straight, we need to reconsider. The hit on the conscience and the slide toward inevitable problems—are they really worth it? God is always willing to forgive and help those who repent of lying. However, refusing to repent will keep us on the downward moral path that will lead to other kinds of evil.
3. Proverbs 26:28: “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”
Perhaps this proverb illustrates the main reason lying is called an abomination throughout the Bible (with many instances within the book of Proverbs): The God of love knows that lying is hate in action. When we lie, we are saying that the recipient of our lie and/or the object of our lie is not important enough to us to be told the truth. There is no love in deceiving another person.
There is no love in deceiving another person.Consider some of the lies associated even with Christianity, such as telling kids Santa Claus is real, teaching that Jesus was born on Dec. 25 or claiming that an ancient fertility festival represents His resurrection. All of these lies confuse people about the true Jesus and misrepresent Him. These lies show love to no one.
Implications: We should consider telling the truth as an act of love to everyone we come in contact with: our children, spouse, friends, coworkers and even strangers. We must strive to speak uncomfortable truths with tact and gentleness, rather than rationalizing that a lie will work out better. It may in the short-term, but usually only for ourselves—not for the ones we are supposed to love and esteem better than ourselves.
Plenty more where those came from
Over 25 proverbs address lying, and from the few covered in this post, the theme shouts out loud and clear: God hates lying because it significantly damages both the liar and the ones being lied to. So the next time spouting some “alternative facts” or outright propaganda seems easier than telling the truth with tact and gentleness, remember there’s a proverb for that.
For more insight about lying, read “Ninth Commandment: You Shall Not Bear False Witness,” “Lying vs. Telling the Truth” and “Speak the Truth in Love.”
* A skewering of “pants on fire.” If this title doesn’t make sense, you probably haven’t watched many children’s TV shows. Read the blog post for an explanation.