Lying to Appease
God is pretty clear about his expectations on truth telling.
In war time, it is acceptable to deceive God's enemies for the sake of saving God's people (see Ex 1:15–22, Jos 2, 1Ki 22:19–23, etc.). Other than this very limited example, deception and lying is absolutely off the cards.
From lying in court, to cheating in business, to misleading people about what God has said, it is all sin and an affront to God.
"You destroy those who speak lies;
the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man" (Ps 5:6).
You can understand why lying is so abhorrent to God. If lying is permitted, then we can have no confidence in anything anyone says. Communication becomes useless. The story of the boy who cried wolf proves that point so clearly; who will listen to you if you often mislead them?
How could we have confidence in what God says if we didn't know when He's telling the truth? Thankfully God is the source of truth! So that means when He makes promises or tells us about things that have happened, we can take Him at His word.
God's people should be the same. When when we make business transactions, when we testify about something we saw, or when we make promises to one another we should be able to trust that what people say is the truth. This was even more important before the days of digital records and smartphone cameras and written contracts, because you could only rely on someone's word.
Now a place where truth telling is essential is in our relationships. We cannot verify what a person thinks in their head, or feels in their heart. As victims of gaslighting know, it is hard to nail down what somebody said one time in private. In order to have healthy, trusting, functional relationships between people, they need truth to prevail.
You might be saying "Of course! Yes and amen. This is self evident!"
Well, there's one way in which we are tempted to lie that is not as obvious as it seems.
What is it?
Lying for the sake of peace.
Sometimes we can fall into the trap of lying to appease people we value.
It doesn't seem like a big deal in the moment. Let's say a friend is upset with you for something you said. You didn't mean to hurt them and you stand by what you said, but the temptation is to apologise anyway.
In this circumstance, apologising would be lying. If you didn't intend any harm and you don't retract what you said, what are you saying sorry for?
If you do say sorry, when you're not sorry, you're lying. You're telling a mistruth.
Husbands and wives face this temptation too. When there is strife because of one thing or another, it is important that we be truthful even when there is relational discord. You may feel the need to say something that is not strictly true in order to end the discomfort and disunity between you.
But think about what that says. If a husband apologises for something when he actually has no need to apologise then:
a) he is practicing lying to his wife,
b) he's willing to compromise God's standards to meet the standards of other people,
c) and, he's demonstrating he can't be trusted to defend anything or anyone if he can't even defend truth in his most important human relationship.
If the other party is demanding an apology or concession over the truth when none is needed, then they are the one who is sinning. Your pandering will not help them come to terms with what they need to face.
This kind of lying amounts to flattery - telling people what they want to hear as opposed to the truth. Flattery is ultimately self serving, because it tries to make your own life easy by smoothing the way with people around you. Despite how flattery may sound, it is actually not showing love to people, it is deceiving them to your own advantage.
"A lying tongue hates its victims,
and a flattering mouth works ruin" (Pr 26:28).
Next time you're faced with an opportunity to tell a lie, or a half truth to avoid potential conflict, consider whether what you're doing is promoting a relationship built on trust or using deception to cover over issues that need to be addressed. It is better for us to face the short term difficulty of awkward conversations and hurt feelings because it will result in a better relationship, built on true love and grace and forgiveness instead of pretended love.
It is better to gut a house and rebuild it, than to live with rot in the walls.
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy" (Pr 27:6).
Western societies are on a bit of a power trip at the movement, thinking that they can invent reality and hold people to account for not living up to their ever changing standards. It is not uncommon for the mob to clamour for grovelling apologies from those who step over the invisible lines of "community standards." We may find more and more in our workplaces and in the public square that Christians will be asked to apologise for things that are part and parcel of being faithful to Jesus. We must resist the urge to say sorry (or appear to say sorry), for doing and saying the things Jesus calls us to do and say. We bow the knee to Christ, not public perception.
Of course, if you have sinned confess, repent and ask forgiveness! This should not need to be said, but let me be clear: Understanding the temptation to flattery or lying does not give license for you to be stubborn or unmerciful or hard-hearted. We should be quick to acknowledge our wrongs, and seek restitution with the people we have hurt all the while looking to Christ for his grace that covers our sin. Even if you realise after some argument has died down, or the crisis has passed, if you sinned - go make it right. Or at least as right as you can make it.
Telling the truth is also not an excuse to be tactless. Weaponising the truth to ride roughshod over people to "win" is still loosing.
Sometimes the truth is less important than peace. Perhaps neither agree on the facts or the way forward, and so one party may have to give way to the other even if they're wrong (see Ro 15:1–3, 1Co 8). But this kindness and giving way and long suffering should not come from lying and flattery. Is reconciliation on the basis of deception going to last the distance? Don't lie to those you love for a pretended peace.
Instead, build your relationships on truth, and when the truth has been lost, search it out! In love speak the truth, even if it is uncomfortable so that the sanctifying charity, grace and forgiveness of Christ can pervade all of our lives and relationships.
"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another" (Eph 4:25).