We use the phrase ‘little white lie’ quite often, but is this a human concoction that does not exist in the Kingdom of Heaven?
At first blush, I’d say yes. No lies are white, all are black (according to the view I expressed yesterday that there are no grey areas in Heaven). But there are instances in the Bible where God seems quite OK with deception and dishonesty.
He blesses a liar, cheat and schemer named Jacob quite significantly, for one thing. But that could be an example of the grace of God overcoming the sins of man – He blesses Jacob in spite of his dishonesty.
But here’s an example of God rewarding deceivers because they’re deceptive:
In the opening chapter of the Book of Exodus, the King of Egypt orders Israelite midwives to kill every Hebrew male baby before they even cut the umbilical cord. A couple of Israelite midwives disobey their king and then lie to him, saying sturdy Hebrew women always give birth before the midwives arrive, and they’re too late to carry out the deed.
And God is happy about it.
Nineteen chapters before Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor, Shiphrah and Puah lied through their teeth. In response, ‘God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.’ – Exodus 1:20-21
Now you could split all sorts of semantic hairs about whether their fib fit the literal description of bearing false witness against their neighbor, but I’ve often heard the Sixth Commandment abbreviated as ‘Don’t lie.’ My understanding of this edict has always been that it pertains to all forms of dishonesty.
Or does it? Are we allowed to lie to bad people in order to serve the cause of good? If that’s the case, how bad does bad have to be? When do the ends justify the means?
Similarly, the Bible tells us to be obedient to earthly authority, and this theme is alive and well in churches today. I was rebuked during a church service by the pastor a few years ago when my daughter told him I regularly drive 110 km/h in 100 zones (thanks a LOT, Katie and Jonathan!), for instance. But in Exodus and in plenty of other places throughout the Bible, people defy earthly authority and are rewarded for it.
Christians who refuse to renounce their faith when persecuted by the government are clearly doing the right thing. People who defied the State and sheltered Jews during the Nazi Era were definitely doing God’s work.
But apart from the extreme examples of terribly unjust regimes – and the ridiculous and arbitrary laws that are still on the books (bear wrestling matches are illegal in Alabama and it’s illegal for women to stand within five feet of a bar while drinking in Wyoming) – how do we know which laws to submit to and which ones to disregard?
Can we rebel against the rules that are inconvenient and seem unnecessary and nobody else seems to obey, like that long, intersection-free stretch of road by my house where the speed limit is 50, even though it should be at least 60?
How do we sift through all of the rules and regulations and hoops and red tape to get at the heart of God’s version (the only genuine one) of goodness and obedience? Even trying to do this is more than a full-time job.
Yeesh! If only God recognized how suffocating, limiting and pedantic it is for humans to try to live under law. If only He found some way to free us from this yoke, and allow us to simply bypass all this ridiculous legalism!
Oh yeah. He did.
I’m not saying Jesus frees us to live willy-nilly and do whatever we want. On the contrary, I think we’re still supposed to wrestle with these questions, try to avoid the grey areas and strive for a stain-free existence.
But when, in good faith, we’re still in doubt, we don’t have to worry that we’re accidentally shortchanging God. We can be confident that Christ has paid our tab in full – and then some.
Peace be with you.