When You Are Tempted to Lie in the Cause of Truth

by Derek Brown

Few things are more compelling than when you are convinced of the righteousness of your cause. When you are certain that your position or campaign or viewpoint has the stamp of moral superiority, one will often stop at nothing to advance what they believe is right.  

This phenomenon is found all throughout our culture but is perhaps most clearly exemplified within our political system. Within these United States, people are broadly divided between two parties. In the attempt to gain a larger constituency among American voters, each respective party often appeals to the moral superiority of their ideas and policies as they challenge the opposing party and their “inferior” policies. Why? Because, regardless of their religious commitments, politicians recognize that people have a moral sense that, once persuaded, is easily motivated and difficult to oppose.  

Even those who support legalized abortion must frame their position as pro-choice in order to appeal to the “goodness” of their position: it is pro-choice not pro-abortion. A few months ago, New York Magazine published an article that argued that abortion is not merely a difficult choice that some women should be free to make; it is positive good to be celebrated. Recognizing that any admission of abortion’s undesirability leaves the door open to the pro-life argument, this abortion advocate is now taking the pro-choice position to its logical end in order to gain the moral high-ground.    

The example of abortion and the above journalist’s re-classification of what constitutes a moral good should ring sharply in our ears. We know that such a position is wrong and badly twisted. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Is 5:20). Thanks to God and his Word, we have solid ground upon which to make accurate moral judgments. Abortion is, at any phase of the pregnancy, the destruction of a human being. The pro-life position has the endorsement of the Creator. It is the righteous position.  

Ironically, history gives us examples of those who, believing they were on the side of the right cause, have fudged on the truth a little because they are persuaded that, in their unique case, the ends justified the means: better a little white lie to advance the greater good than let unrighteousness win. You can feel the force of this temptation: surely God cares more about the advancement of biblical truth than he does about a few fibs I might tell here and there to help people embrace the right teaching and position.      

But when we bump up against teaching or arguments that we know are wrong, does this give us an exemption when it comes to our integrity? When we see a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture, are we free to do whatever it takes to prove the validity of our position, even if it means misrepresenting our opponents or their opposing positions?  

No. A thousand times, no. James White says it well: “Christians are to be lovers of truth, and as such, should hold to the highest standards thereof. Misrepresenting others—even those we strongly feel are in error—is not an option for one who follows Jesus” (The King James Only Controversy 1995: 95). Christians should be marked by their resolute commitment to be truthful in every instance, even when it comes to offering evidence for their position and representing their opponents. 

Fact-stretching, historical fabrications, and straw-men arguments, even when used to advance the cause of Christ, are to be hated as much as the false doctrine we seek to oppose. Lies, no matter where they are found or how they are used, have their origin in Satan and have no place among Christians (John 8:44). Scripture is unswerving on this issue: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex 20:16); “Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit (Prov 12:17); “A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies” (Prov 14:5); “Therefore, put away falsehood, let each of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Eph 4:25); “Do not lie to one another” (Col 3:9).  

The cause of truth is only advanced by truth. While we may be tempted to grasp at short-term gains through a few “harmless” fibs here and there or a couple of unsubstantiated claims now and again, such expediency will ultimately hinder the advance of the gospel and harm our souls. 

Let’s make it our aim to always tell the truth, even when it’s difficult and inconvenient; even when it requires us to do the hard work of carefully representing our opponents and giving genuine evidence for our position. This the Lord will bless. “Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but whoever is devious in his ways despises him” (Prov 14:2).   

Photo by Jose Fontano on Unsplash

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