Lying vs. Telling the Truth

People come up with a lot of reasons to lie, but there are even stronger reasons to tell the truth—always. Lying destroys relationships. Truth builds them.

Little white lies, big fibs, devious deceptions, outright falsehoods. How many lies does one need to tell to be classified as “a liar”? One, 10, 100? Lying seems to have become so common that many accept it as just the way things are and how they will always continue to be. But what happens to relationships, to society, to our character, when lying becomes a way of life?

What about you? Can you be trusted to tell the truth? Can others depend upon your word? When you speak, do others need to second-guess whether what you have said is truth, exaggeration or a lie?

Why do people lie?

Some people lie habitually to make themselves appear better than they are, thinking that telling an untruth will shine a more positive light upon themselves. Others attempt to lie strategically when they think it will benefit them, bring some advantage or get them ahead.

On the other hand, some lie when they think that it will bring harm to a rival. Others lie in a vain attempt to lessen the hurt others may receive from hearing the truth.

Still others have become very comfortable telling half-truths. They soothe their conscience, kidding themselves into thinking they have told mostly truth and therefore have not really lied—or at least not lied in a big way.

“I’m not a compulsive or pathological liar,” they reason. Sadly, they do not seem to realize that a half-truth is, at the same time, a half-lie. Can we build a just society if we hear the truth only 50 percent of the time?

Any time we lie and our intent is to deceive another, we are wandering away from truth and into troubled waters. Deception sets up an unstable relationship prone to upset and decay.

“What a tangled web we weave”

An old proverb by Sir Walter Scott states it well, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Deceivers often then find themselves having to construct a second, third and fourth lie to try to cover the tracks of the first lie.

Lying is a sin

But is lying sometimes morally right? No! While there may be many human justifications for lying, it is always wrong and always harmful.

First, lying is contrary to the basic character of God. The apostle Paul stated that an essential trait of the Creator God is that He always tells the truth—He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; for more on this, see our article “God Cannot Lie. Why Do People Lie?”). In fact, we learn that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). What would our relationship with God be like if we thought He was a liar? How could we ever have faith or trust in Him?

So that we may learn to be like Him, God has instructed us, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). The Contemporary English Version translates this verse, “Do not tell lies about others.” Paul also admonished, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor’” (Ephesians 4:25).

Lying destabilizes relationships between people and gives an unsure foundation that is difficult to build upon. By lying, we harm not just ourselves, but all those around us as well.Lying is such an important moral issue in God’s sight that He made it one of His fundamental 10 Commandments. Lying is no small casual matter to God! He is a God of truth, and He expects us to be truthful in imitation of Him and for the benefit of each other. You may be surprised to learn that “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). He will not grant eternal life to liars!

On the other hand, God is pleased with those who love the truth (see our article “The Love of the Truth”). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He offers us the belt of truth as part of the armor of God. He gives us the Church, which is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

Truth decay

What has happened to telling the truth? Have deceit, spin and misleading statements become commonplace in your communication? Lying destabilizes relationships between people and gives an unsure foundation that is difficult to build upon. By lying, we harm not just ourselves, but all those around us as well.

Once we have lost the trust of a boss or coworker, a friend or family member, it can be very difficult to rebuild. As Friedrich Nietzsche cynically put it, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

We are to speak truth because it is good for everyone. Truth-telling builds relationships—and eventually a society of stability, confidence and trust.

Honest reputation

While many people no longer hold truthfulness as an important value, it is our duty to personally practice it. Being a truth-teller must be part of our quest to become perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

Truthfulness is a value that we should strive to make a part of our character. Wouldn’t it be outstanding to be known as one who always tells the truth? Not in a rude, obnoxious or unfeeling manner, but wisely speaking truth for the good of all.

Even in stressful, difficult situations, truth should shine through us. Our goal should be “speaking the truth in love, [so we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:15; see our article “Speak the Truth in Love”).

Paul stated that we should wrap ourselves in truth. Wrapping ourselves in truth protects us spiritually in the same way that wrapping on a wide belt to cover our midsection protects our vital organs. “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth” (Ephesians 6:14).

How to stop lying

If you are a liar, now is high time to stop and turn your life around. Recognize that it is a problem. (It’s very easy to lie to ourselves that lying doesn’t really matter.) Determine to make being a truth-teller your future. Repent of lying and seek God’s help to overcome this sin. For a detailed, step-by-step approach, see our article “Seven Steps for Overcoming Sin.”

One of the truths of God is that He forgives liars and washes away their guilt when they repent and work to change their ways. Repentance includes choosing to strive to always live as Christ lived. That means seeking His help to live truthfully from now on. Consistent truthfulness can erase the stain of lies and deception from our character and reputation.

God wants this for you. Those who will eventually be a part of God’s Kingdom will be those who have learned to speak the truth from the heart (Psalm 15:1-2). No wonder John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4). Paul wrote that love “rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Why not begin today to model your life after the example of God the Father and Jesus Christ—a truth-teller!

For more information, see “Ninth Commandment: You Shall Not Bear False Witness.”

About the Author

Dave Myers

Dave Myers

David Myers holds a bachelor of arts degree in theology from Ambassador College and a master of arts degree in Christian studies from Grand Canyon University. He has taught the Bible as a church pastor for over 35 years in New York, Massachusetts, Texas and Ohio.

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