Thou Shalt Not Lie… much

Ethics is complicated I reckon.

Lying, killing, stealing are all off limits in the big 10 and for good reason.

But this morning as I was reading Exodus Ch 1 I read the story of the Egyptian midwives who refused to kill the Hebrew babies and then told Pharaoh it was because the Hebrew women were too quick in childbirth… Sounds like a porky to me!!

Then verse 20 says that God was kind to them because of this.

Or you could take the case of Rahab who hid the spies and lied about having them in her home. When it all hits the fan she gets out alive… because she lied… to protect the spies.

Does God have one rule for some and another for others?

I remember my mother in law told me of a simulation game she was part of to help people understand the implications of dire poverty. She was faced with the choice of ‘let my baby starve to death or enter prostitution to survive’…

So much of life is the lesser of two evils or the doing of what would usually be bad to achieve what is good.

I think its why ‘black and white’ people leave me so cold.

Life is much more complicated than that.

27 thoughts on “Thou Shalt Not Lie… much

  1. But then there is the question are there anythings that are black and white? Is Jesus the only way to the Father? Is the bible inerrant? Is it sometimes okay to kill people? Oh wait forget the last one, we already decided that is was infact okay to kill people if you do it in love.


  2. I reckon some things are black and white.

    I’m not so sure we can always tell what they are.

    But in the absence of absolute certainty we can only live with some level of certainty, so we make decisons about what we feel is black and white as best we can…

  3. Bonhoeffer has an interesting section in his Ethics about the example of a boy whose father is a known drunk, but it’s right for him to deny it when asked that question by a teacher — the boy’s loyalty and relationship to his father comes above the literal truth of the situation. The Hebrew word for truth (from which we get Amen) has a lot to do with faithfulness (especially when applied to God) as well as what we would recognize as factual truth. I don’t think it’s an issue of one rule for some and another for others; it’s a matter of what does it mean to be faithful to God and the people around me (especially the people of God) in this situation. That’s different than our western notions of “black and white” or truth and lies.

  4. I agree Maria. I heard a bloke speak years ago on the difference between our understanding of ‘truth’ and the biblical notion of ‘troth’.

    Troth being a biblical principle based around an understanding of the committment to a relationship and honouring others.

    Being truthful is after all about trust, and I reckon I’ll earn more trust by honouring people with troth, even if it means that I need to fudge the truth to do it.

  5. Some things are black and white (Poverty is bad. Genocide is evil). Most things are not.

    I’ve been pondering on this for a while and I keep getting drawn back to the command to love God and to love our neighbour. When we lie to another person, we are not respecting the Imago Dei. When a person listens to us, they place a trust in us. When we talk, we are talking to someone who is made in the image of God. When we lie, we disrespect the image of God.

    However, in the examples you used I see that the lie is not the real issue. The real issue is how we treat the image of God. The people in the Exodus story lied to protect the Imago Dei.

    I think more things are permissible than we recognise when it comes to the essentiality of loving our neighbours – loving and honouring what is made in the image of God.

  6. Good point Lance and actually there is more than just a little difference. Bearing false witness causes a direct harm to another person – potentially even death under the legal system of that time. Telling an untruth would possibly have consequences but the motive may not necessarily be malicious. I think the commandment against false witness exists because of the issue of malicious intent.

    I sometimes wonder if the interpretation of the bible has lost some of the subleties of the Law established by Moses such as the difference in the way the law treats those who are fornicators and those who are adulterers.

    In that case also the issue relates to harm to others. Use of the bible in development of the Western legal system has perpetuated some of the shallower interpretations of Mosaic law.

    The next question is – Is it ok to lie if you mean well by the lie?

  7. What about creative truth telling?

    Like the wife says, do I look like I have gained weight? Now the truth is, “yeah, about fifteen lbs, but don’t worry its all in one spot, your bottom”

    But instead you say, “well if you have, you have put it in all the right places, because you make me as hot as a thai curry”

    You see she has put on weight, and you don’t really acknowledge it, but say if there is any weight gained it is in the right place, meaning her rump, and thats the right place because it cushions her self while sitting in front of the tv eating chocolates. And when you say she makes you hot, you mean, hot under the collar because she spent four hundred dollars on new clothes that will actually fit.

    I think I am going to immediately regret posting this


  8. On the subject of lying/deception, Jesus was on a bit of a dodgy wicket when he told his brothers he wasnt going to the feast… and then did. (John 7)

    The big thing is surely the false witness aspect…



  9. Rev,

    Don’t go to Jenny Craig!!! I went there and lost my personality.

    Now, is that, just a joke? Or is it a joke as well as a lie? Not a joke and straight out lie? Whatever it is, it is not the truth – I did not go to Jenny Craig – but when I heard it I laughed.

  10. Rev, that’s a crack up.

    Bouncing out of the prostitution comment (and the general question of ethics as it relates to survival!) – and I fully understand why women in dire poverty would do that – but for believers where does trusting God come in? Do we believe Jesus teaching not to worry about what we’ll eat and drink and wear (spoken into a context of poverty), and that we should look to God and God will look out for us? It seems that is a word for the poor as well as a warning to the rich. At least we should give him a go!

  11. 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

    24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?

    28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

  12. It’s too bad you don’t believe in God, Grendel. You’d make a great teacher for many on how to live a godly life.

    Alex, that’s an awesome observation about trusting God in relation to ethics (how we decide to live). When I think about how many girls and young women make the “choice” to prostitute themselves out of survival or simply because they don’t know another way of life, I pray for ecclesias to be so involved in all neighbourhoods that they would love women enough to the point that those women wouldn’t have to make that choice.

  13. I think the passage is mixed between two messages – one is trust in God, but the other is don’t worry about worldly things like food and drink – there is no ethical direction from that as such and while in our society I would agree that there are options other than prostitution in many cases, I have also seen places where options are far fewer.

    Where there is no welfare system, no charity and high levels of crime or conflict, women have throughout history been left with only their bodies as tradeable items.

    This is desperately sad.

    It is also no longer a moral dilemma for me – if in order to stay alive, or keep her children alive, prostitution is her only option, then I cannot feel anything but compassion.

    I also acknowledge that there are those who are prostitutes by choice rather than need – how much choice they actually have could be a topic of furious debate but in Australia I would hope we can offer women and men a way out of prostitution.

    For those who prostitute themselves so that their children can live – they are making a sacrifice of love that most of us are not worthy to criticise.

  14. Grendel, I really like you

    or at least the words that appear on my computer screen with your name attached to them.

    I find it hard to moralize to others when I have so many choices myself. I hope to continue to live a community ethic that empowers people to live without these tragic compromises.


  15. Pingback: Thou shalt not…. or shalt thou? | Kouya Chronicle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *