May 14, 1996
Youth leader and speaker Josh McDowell says that young people today usually agree that lying is wrong, but most of them are unable to explain why. I asked a young friend about this and she could only say, “It’s wrong because it’s wrong, that’s all.”
According to McDowell, parents often teach rules, such as “do not tell lies” but neglect to give any foundation that supports or explains those rules. Rules or precepts without reasons for them amount to legalism. We may teach that telling lies is wrong because it is immoral, but adding that principle is a no-no in today’s culture. Too many now insist that there are no absolutes, that truth is subjective and what is true changes relative to time and situation.
McDowell says people need to know absolute truth does exist. Not only that, truth is objective, universal and constant. It can even be tested. According to Webster, truth is “fidelity to an original or a standard.” Therefore, to test if something is true, all one needs to do is measure it by the original standard.
For instance, if you wanted to test whether a liter of milk actually contained a liter, you could take it to the place where standards for weights and measures are located. A careful comparison would show if your liter is truly a liter.
In the case of lying and other moral issues, the standard is the person, character and nature of God. He is the Original, the Creator of all things who made us in His image.
Even those who doubt the existence of God would say, if God did exist He would be perfect and true, not a liar or an immoral being. The Bible confirms this: “God is light; in Him is no darkness at all” and “...it is impossible for God to lie.”
We can safely measure truth by God because He is the author of it. Obviously, lying cannot pass the test. Not only are lies the opposite of truth but they, and the act of lying, are contrary or opposite from the Original Standard.
Also, McDowell suggests that children (and adults) need to know God’s purpose for precepts, such as “do not lie.” While most people think God makes rules to ruin our fun, in reality His precepts protect us from being harmed and from harming others. In the long run, lies are destructive. They ruin relationships, undermine trust, destroy confidence and produce emotional instability. God does not want us to experience those consequences.
One of our biggest difficulties is that immediate consequences from disobeying Him may not look so bad. People steal or do other illegal and immoral things but negatives are either delayed or do not happen, at least in this life. Today’s instant society finds long-term effects difficult to visualize and ridicule the idea of eternal judgment.
Faith in God can look at eternity. As the Bible says, it is “the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Faith believes God without seeing because sight has nothing to do with it. Faith is based on who God is and He stands firm as its foundation. Because God does not lie, we can believe what He says about the effects of lying and other wrongs.
In contrast, Jesus speaks of the fallen angel, Satan, as “a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Ultimately, lying is also wrong because of its source. Truth, and the reality of its nature, is good and right because of its source. It is grounded in the absolute and flawless character of God.