Is It Ever Right To Lie?


by Allan Turner

The question of truth and lying pervades all that is said or left unsaid within our families, communities, and working relationships. In this study we will be answering the question: Is it ever right to lie? Conduct seems to indicate that many believe it is right to lie, at least on certain occasions. Professors exaggerate the excellence of their students on recommendations for employment, physicians lie to their patients, parents lie to their children about such things as adoption, social investigators use deception while trying to uncover medical and welfare fraud, the police and journalists lie and deceive in order to expose crime and corruption, and even Dr. Laura, under the pretext of offering moral advice, frequently tells people to lie in order to avoid what she considers to be more serious problems.

Conditioned To Lie

We find ourselves living in a society that actually conditions us to lie. Our employers ask us to lie for them on many occasions. For instance, the secretary who "covers" for the boss when he doesn't want to be disturbed and the salesman who makes claims for his product which are not true are both lying. Many times our "embellishments" on job recommendations for friends and acquaintances are nothing but lies. I suppose it is possible that the Christian might try to convince himself that these little lies are not really important enough to worry about. But God makes it clear that "all liars shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).

Telling The Truth Is Not Easy

Of course, telling the truth is not the easiest course of action to follow. On the contrary, telling the truth is often difficult, and frequently places us in circumstances that are quite unpleasant. The following information was related to me by a Christian who retired from the military as a Lieutenant Colonel and serves to illustrate just how difficult it can be to tell the truth, even for a Christian trying to do what is right. Job advancement and retention in the military depends on an evaluation report made by one's supervisor. Form DA67-7, 1 January '73, U.S. Army Officer Evaluation Report called for officers to be rated as OUTSTANDING, SUPERIOR, EXCELLENT, EFFECTIVE, MARGINAL, and INADEQUATE. Although most of us would find it nearly impossible to distinguish between OUTSTANDING, SUPERIOR, and EXCELLENT, experience had taught Army raters that anyone rated less than OUTSTANDING would be at a great disadvantage and would probably become a likely candidate for discharge.

Such an inane rating system coerced most to be somewhat less than truthful while actually creating even greater ambiguity as to the true qualifications of those being rated. Imagine the difficulty caused the Christian who objected to the rating system as being totally ridiculous, and the extra work he had to undertake to amend each rating to reflect what he believed more accurately mirrored the qualification of those he was assigned to evaluate. On top of this, add the realization that his rating of a fine officer somewhat less than OUTSTANDING, although he explained in writing his reasons for doing so and actually recommended him for advancement—might result in the officer not being promoted to a position he was clearly qualified for and, in fact, might actually cause the officer to be thrown out of the service. What would you have done?


  Is It Ever Right To Lie?