4 March 2013
Today, many people think of lying as an every day activity. Many think that their day cannot go as planned without telling a few “white lies” here and there. But isn’t lying wrong, and even more so, isn’t lying chastised in the Ten Commandments? Lying is probably one of the most wrong acts we carry out,1 yet we still combine these little nuisances within casual conversation. Has the concept of lying changed over the thousands of years ago that the bible has been written? Are the Ten Commandments long overdue for a change in how we should view lying, or has every form of lying been wrong and will always be wrong? Louis Armstrong lied about using illegal drugs during his training for the Tour de France, but should his actions be considered immoral and be frowned upon? Many think that immoral means are okay to make one’s act justifiable. Bill Clinton also lied about having a sexual relationship with someone other than his wife. What was he trying to accomplish in lying and did his actions prove to be ethically correct and morally sound? For some people, lying is an addiction. A person may not be able to uphold a certain image people have of them so instead choose to lie in order to make people happy. The discussion below will explore how lying is perceived worldwide and how lying is perceived from a theological standpoint.
SECULAR THOUGHTS & MORAL DECISIONS When thinking about moral theology, change comes pretty quickly when it is informal to the public. People today become more and more open to lying on a conversational level rather than lying about big subject matters. People in the modern world probably would not get persecuted for telling a little lie. For instance, it is not thought of as a grave sin if someone told his or her best friend that a sweater looks nice on her if it is actually tacky, or if another person told his or her boss that the presentation they just gave was fantastic when in reality it was hard to even stay awake. Many people would not even consider this a lie, let alone feel bad about telling one after the act has been done. On the other hand, Tim Mazur of Santa Clara University believes that all lies are immoral, no matter what the circumstances are. He goes on to explain that lies are morally wrong on two levels, one because the lie you are telling is not only a lie to yourself, but two, it is a lie to others. He describes the act as being “corrupt” because “it is the most important quality of being human: the ability to make free, rational choices”2. Many people also lie because they feel that it is the only way to protect themselves. They believe that if they do not tell the truth, they will not get in trouble and no one would get hurt. One journal article titled The Consequences of Truth Telling talks about a physician who made a mistake, but chose to tell the truth about it. It just so happened that he had accidentally used material that came from a patient with HIV on another patient who was not a carrier. His bold choice of telling the truth caused him to lose his job as well as leaving him with a bad mark on his reputation. Based on this information, should lying be okay? What does the bible have to say about lying?
There are several instances in the bible where it states that lying is wrong and it is a sin. For instance, Leviticus 19:11 (King James Version), there is a bible verse that states, “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie to one another”. The bible, written by God, clearly states that it is not just to lie to one another. In the Ten Commandments, there is a whole commandment devoted strictly to lying. The ninth commandment states that “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” which in short translates to “thou shalt not lie”. If the word of God plainly states that we should not lie,