The Bible has an awful lot to say about our words, and Proverbs 26 counsels us on things that we should not be saying.
Pro 26:28 A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.
This verse is interesting because we have two types of deception here. The first problem is lying. In other words, we are being dishonest for our own benefit. The second problem is flattery. We are being dishonest for somebody else’s benefit. In either situation, someone is benefiting, but the proverb clearly advises against either one.
Why? To speak as a utilitarian, what if greater net benefit is created? What if I am more well off by telling the lie than the people I lied to are hurt by it?
I think that one thing that is very important to keep in mind with deception is that there are many other costs associated with it. For example, yesterday we talked about the importance of honesty and how we want to be discerning. By doing that, we damage our credibility. Once you are caught in a lie, your credibility goes downhill. That is certainly a cost of either of lying or flattery. People won’t know when we are being honest or when we are simply saying what they want to hear.
Dishonesty can also have implications that reach farther than we could ever imagine. If I lied to someone, they might use that information as part of their decision-making process. It might change the decision they would make in the future which could then change another decision. I know that this is only a theoretical slippery slope, but I think that we have all made a decision or two based on bad information.
Overall, I think that based on what I read yesterday and today, it is very clear that the Bible does not appreciate dishonesty in any form even if it might seem to have some positive side effects.
Ezra 4 would frustrate me. For one thing, the other cities made up a totally fake story just to discredit what Israel was doing in Jerusalem. They told the king of Persia that they were building up a rebellion and would no longer want to pay tribute to Persia.
We have no record that that was anywhere near remotely true. The only reason it seems that they made up these charges was because the Jewish people would not allow them to help build the Temple.
Ezr 4:2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.
Ezr 4:3 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.
Nevertheless, when the false charges came up, the Persian king gave all of these rivals permission to go and force the people of Israel to stop rebuilding the city.
All of this happened because of a total lie that was retaliatory.
I think that all of us can relate to this on some level. People might make up a false story about us for some external purpose. Maybe they want to get that promotion ahead of us, or maybe they want to knock down our popularity for the benefit of their own.
They are not right to do that, and the Ten Commandments themselves tell us not to bear false witness. However, we cannot force other people to act morally. We can only make sure that we do not retaliate in a similar way. We don’t repay evil for evil.
Tomorrow, we will find that how the Israelites responded, so I might just leave you hanging until then on that level.
It is obvious that we all mess up. We all do things that we wish we had not done, and sometimes we harm other people when we mess up. Numbers chapter 5 explains how this was handled in Israel.
Num 5:6 Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the LORD, and that person be guilty;
Num 5:7 Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.
Basically, if you harm someone else, you need to own up to it and make it right.
I think that this is a pretty good guideline for how we should handle these types of conflicts in our lives. If we harm someone else, he or she will probably not be very happy about it. However, it is much easier for everyone involved to confess the mistake right away.
It is more painful to find out something later. Then, it isn’t just a problem of whatever has been done, but it is also a problem of all the lying that has probably been done to cover up that offense.
Heb 13:18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
We can only have a good conscience if we deal honestly with everyone around us. I know that this isn’t necessarily the uplifting Thanksgiving post that I probably should write on the day before, but it is incredibly important.
We are supposed to show people the love of Jesus here on earth. If we are lying to or deceiving our friends, our witness will not be as effective. Everything we do should ideally bring glory to God.
Leviticus chapter 6 starts with the problem of lying and how to atone for it.
Lev 6:2 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour;
Lev 6:3 Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:
Notice that in verse three, we have been basically told that the idea of finders keepers is entirely false. If somebody loses something that you find and they ask about it, you’re supposed to give it back to them. You can’t simply say that it is yours and move on.
Of course, if you find something that doesn’t belong to anybody or nobody ever asks or nobody knows who the owner is, then it seems like you are allowed to keep it, but the main problem here is the lying about it.
All that being said, this is pretty normal process in the world. Finders keepers is generally accepted in our culture. Even if people find something that belongs to other people, many people argue that it just belongs to us now because we found it.
While this isn’t necessarily a huge example, I think that it shows the conflict between culture and Christianity. Sometimes, what is generally accepted in society will go in direct conflict with what we believe as Christians, and we need to quite honestly accept that.
Joh 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
Joh 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
I think that these verses obviously indicate that there will be some type of conflict between the world and Christianity.
However, right before those two verses, there’s one more thing that we need to remember about these conflicts.
Joh 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
It is important to remember that even if there are conflicts, we need to reach out and love people all the same.
Gen 26:7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.
Gen 26:8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.
Gen 26:9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.
Gen 26:10 And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.
Gen 26:11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.
The Abimelech family is still in power, and Isaac is still telling the same stories that Abraham did. He was worried that people would kill him to be able to get at Rebekah. Therefore, because he was afraid for his life, he lied.
Isn’t that kind of what happens to us every now and then? We get afraid, and all of a sudden we aren’t doing what God wants us to do.
For example, Jonah was supposed to go to Nineveh, and he was supposed to preach all about the judgment that God was going to bring down on the city if they didn’t repent. However, he was afraid of what would happen to him once he got there, so he tried to go the other way. We all know how that ended up.
Of course, that fear was unnecessary in the first place.
2Ti 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
God does not want us to fear what might happen to us on earth. If you continue to the next verse in 2 Timothy, we learn that we are supposed to be partakers of the afflictions of the Gospel.
God watches over us wherever we go, and we need to not succumb to that fear that leads us to sin.
Psa 121:5 The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
If God is keeping us safe, there is absolutely no reason for us to fear (although I will throw in the little caveat here that we are supposed to fear God in the sense of respect or even more as demonstrated by this nice essay from Got Questions).
I know, it is a lot easier for me to put the stuff on paper than it is to live through it, but I hope that all of us move closer to living boldly. We worry so much, and I know that I’m as guilty as anyone else, but I hope that we all can learn to let go a little bit more.
Abram was living in Canaan, and God already told him that his descendents would become a great nation. However, the land had been hit by famine, so Abram and his wife Sarai went down to Egypt to survive for a while.
However, Abram knew that his wife was a beautiful woman, and he was afraid that he would be killed to make her available for marriage. However, rather than trust God to follow through on his promise that a great nation would come from Abram, he made up his own plan.
Gen 12:12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
Gen 12:13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
Lying never works out well for anybody. We do know that Abram would not have died anyway because he had already been promised many descendents. At this point, he didn’t have children yet, so given the fact that God always delivers on His promises, Abram should not have been concerned about that.
So, because Abram said that Sarai was his sister, the Pharaoh saw her and made her one of his wives. Of course, this is not good decision I was alluding to from Pharaoh. Here is what happened as soon as he did that.
Gen 12:16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
Gen 12:17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.
Gen 12:18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
Gen 12:19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
Gen 12:20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.
Abram was not killed, and he got a lot of stuff, but Pharaoh was plagued. On one hand, he must’ve been wondering what was going on. After all, while marrying many wives is a bad thing, he had obviously done that before. In his mind, taking Sarai into his house was no different than any other woman.
However, he obviously figured it out at some point, and he called Abram on it. As soon as he found out the truth, he sent them both away. He realized that it was wrong to take another man’s wife.
I think that we need to be more like this when we see sin in our lives. At times, we might not even realize that we are sinning. Pharaoh assumed that Abram was being honest and that Sarai was available to be his wife. He definitely didn’t think that he was doing anything wrong.
However, he still was sinning, and when that was revealed to him, he got rid of it immediately. In our lives, we need to be just as vigilant. If we are doing something that we thought was all right but is really a sin, we need to actively search out and destroy those areas.
Sin is never beneficial.