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April Fools’ Day is here, and the time seems right to briefly explore the subject of foolery and lies. Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, AiG–U.S., examines what the Bible has to say about deception.
April Fools’ Day is here, and while it is not a national holiday, many people around the world celebrate the day with practical jokes. The bounds of social pressure confine most tricks to the good-natured and harmless, and most of us use the day to innocently have a good time with our friends. Nevertheless, the time seems right to briefly explore the subject of foolery and lies.
History and literature offer a number of tidbits relating to the day, with Chaucer’s “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” in Canterbury Tales being a fourteenth-century contributor. In the tale, Chaucer—the first man to eventually be buried in the Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner—retells the fable of “Chaunticleer and the Fox” set on March 32—which of course is the first of April. The tale involves not just falling for a lie but doing so due to pride—a lesson that should make us pause to think about every gullible person from Eve to the one in the mirror.
The serpent deceived Eve into doubting God’s goodness and then lied as he accused God of being a liar.God hates lying. Why? The serpent’s deception of Eve led to mankind’s rebellion, which brought a curse upon the world God created. The result was untold suffering to those He had made in His image. The serpent deceived Eve into doubting God’s goodness and then lied as he accused God of being a liar. Man was made in God’s image. God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). Therefore, man was designed to be truthful, not deceptive.
In stark contrast to God, the devil—in the words of Jesus—“
was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). All suffering—from the first thorn-prick to the murder of Abel to the Crucifixion of God’s Son Jesus Christ—all of it began with a lie. No wonder God takes lying seriously.
Integrity is a major issue in all areas of life as practical people try to determine whom they can trust. The world watches believers for inconsistencies in their words and behavior. When we stumble, unbelievers get an inaccurate glimpse into the character of God and they seek to justify their own sinful behavior.1 Romans 3:7 explains that even if a lie were spoken for God’s glory, it would still be a sin. “
For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?” In 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul lists lying along with other reprehensible behaviors that are “
contrary to sound doctrine.” Finally, Revelation 21:8 lists “
all liars” among those sinners who—apart from the grace available through Christ’s blood—merit punishment in the lake of fire.
Titus 1:2 clearly states God “
cannot lie.” Assertions to the contrary can be resolved by a careful study of the text, “
rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We always need to see what the Bible actually does and does not say, lest we, as Alfred Edersheim warned, be guilty of “elaborate trifling with the most sacred things.”2
Not only is lying foreign to God’s holy nature, but the original lie in the Garden of Eden had horrible consequences that led to man’s sin and the need for Christ’s sacrifice. Integrity and trustworthiness make you the sort of person people trust, rely on, and respect. But if you begin playing loose with the truth, those who know and love and even respect you—like your spouse and children and coworkers—will forevermore wonder if they can rely on what you’re saying.
Just a white lie? Jesus spoke of being trusted with small things before being trusted with big ones. He trusts us with many opportunities to get in the good habit of telling the truth. At the same time, we will be building a reputation of truthfulness and trustworthiness. But if we’re in the habit of using little lies of convenience, we will have little conviction holding us back when it “really” counts.
Lying is such an easy sin to slip into. Hebrews 12:1 warns Christians to lay aside “
the sin which so easily ensnares us.” Furthermore, remembering that God “
cannot lie” (Hebrews 6:18), we as Christians should strive to “
be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). As we seek to please the Lord Jesus Christ whose blood has bought us, and to show our Savior to the watching world, we should all ask the Lord to help us cultivate the habit of gracious honesty and integrity. So when the fun of April Fools’ Day is over, don’t let the devil’s subtle tricks make a fool of you.