In Proverbs 6:16-19, we are given a list of seven things God hates. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a nice summary. I want to look at two of the things mentioned in regards to what we say and share on social media.
- a lying tongue
- a false witness
Lying is mentioned twice in this list. The first time is in a general way…a lying tongue…and the second time is in a specific way…telling lies that are directed at ruining a person’s reputation and to bring false judgment against them.
Lying is always manipulative, and it is always self-protective, but not all lying is equal.
For instance, when the Egyptian midwives lied to Pharaoh (Exodus 1) because they didn’t want to kill all the Hebrew male babies as he ordered, they manipulated him and protected themselves from the consequences of disobeying his orders, but their motivation wasn’t evil.
The midwives were motivated by a fear of God, and the passage goes on to say God was good to the midwives and blessed them with their own families.
There are other examples in scripture and in history where lying was motivated by a fear of God and faith in Him such as the story of Rahab (Joshua 2) who hid the Israelite spies and lied to the king of Jericho to protect them and the story of Corrie Ten Boom and her family who hid Jews in Nazi Germany.
That’s not the kind of lying we are talking about here.
It’s rare we would find ourselves in a position where we could honestly say we are lying out of a fear of God. Most often our lies are selfish and prideful.
We are warned over and over again in God’s Word that He hates lying. As God’s people, Christians should put an incredible value on the truth.
Lying isn’t only when we outright make up a circumstance or story. Lying also constitutes exaggerating the facts, adding to the facts, spinning the facts, taking away from the facts, and hiding the facts. Lying can also involve stating as truth unsupported, assumed motivations behind the facts.
That God hates lying and slander should cause all those who love Him to be cautious with our words and what we share on social media, yet, Christians can be and have been careless.
Even when a narrative, headline, or picture has been proven false, there is simply a shrug of the shoulders as everyone moves on to the next story, headline, issue, etc., when the appropriate response would be repentance.
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 12:22
We need to confess the sin of lying and slander, turn from an apathetic attitude toward the truth, and commit ourselves to a guarded tongue and a standard of truthfulness.
Living in a post-truth culture it is easy to adopt the mindset of the world: truth doesn’t matter. Facts are only important to the degree they support the desired narrative. When the facts get in the way of the narrative, we simply adjust the facts. The end justifies the means, right?
But God says the means are as important as the end. It’s not only that our goals and desires must line up with the heart of God revealed in His Word, but also the path we take in pursuit of our goals and desires.
God hates lying and slander because He is good and loves us.
1. A lying tongue destroys lives.
Isn’t it interesting that in a list of things God hates, He includes the sins of lying and slander (or giving a false witness) with murdering the innocent? Lying, slander, and murder have something in common. They are all an attack on the image of God in human beings.
A false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape. Proverbs 19:5
When we lie, whether blatantly or subtly, about a particular person’s character, motivations, or story, we are attacking that person. We may not be picking up a gun or knife to physically murder them, but we are using our tongues as weapons to destroy them.
The truth matters because human beings matter.
Lies are powerful and travel quickly especially in the age of social media where one tweet on Twitter can be shared thousands of times in the course of one day.
When the truth comes to light, attempting to squelch the lie can feel like trying to put out a wildfire with buckets of water.
If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it. ~ Charles Spurgeon in an 1855 sermon
Maybe one of the reasons a lie is as light as a feather and travels so easily is that lies are the work of the god of this world, the devil. He is described by Jesus as the Father of Lies who hates the truth (John 8:44). Lying is natural to a fallen, sinful nature and in a fallen, sinful world.
The truth is revolutionary. Valuing the truth involves the hard work of swimming upstream against the natural current of this old world. It takes the supernatural strength of the Holy Spirit indwelling people reborn of the Truth Himself, Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, even if the truth catches up to a lie, the charred remains of damaged lives can take years to heal, and sometimes the damage is irreparable. There are things in this world that can’t be fixed, only redeemed, and I guarantee if you were to trace the devastation back to the starting point, you would find a lie.
2. A lying tongue prevents justice.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. Amos 5:24
From where does a mighty flood of justice flow from or an endless river of righteousness? From truth and the one who is Truth.
We cannot commit ourselves to justice while being apathetic or even hostile to the truth. A lying, slandering tongue is committed to perpetuating injustice no matter how smooth or eloquent it may be or the virtuous end it may claim.
The truth matters because justice matters.
A lying and slandering tongue prevents justice in two obvious ways:
- By leading to the false judgment and condemnation of innocent people
- By preventing the judgment and condemnation of guilty people
But, there is a third less obvious way in which lying prevents justice. When we exaggerate a narrative, add to the facts, take away from the facts, or assume as fact motives we don’t actually know to be true, we encourage a pursuit of justice to go too far or fall short, and justice that goes too far or falls short is unjust.
God tells us in Romans 12:19 that we are not to take revenge for the injustices we experience, but instead we are to leave that to the righteous anger of God. We are also told in Micah 6:8 that God has shown us what He requires of His people: but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Justice and revenge are two very different things. The first God commands of His people; the second God forbids. How do we know the difference?
- Justice is concerned with the facts and is not concerned with feelings.
- Revenge is concerned with feelings and is not concerned with the facts.
This does not mean that justice does not engage our emotions. It does. Our hearts long for justice. But, the place from which justice flows isn’t our feelings or emotions but the truth.
This also doesn’t mean that acts of revenge are never based on at least some form of the facts, but the place from which revenge flows is feelings, and feelings can be stronger than the facts warrant and can make demands that go too far in pursuit of justice. Revenge fails to set the world right; instead, it is its own form of injustice with which God will contend in His righteousness.
God’s anger is righteous. It is perfect. He sees right into the heart of a person discerning every thought and motive. On the contrary, James 1:20 tells us, human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. This is because our anger is not perfect. It cannot see into the heart of a person. Our anger is often defiled by our own selfishness, lack of knowledge, prejudice, desires, and fear.
It is right to feel angry when we experience injustice or see others experience injustice, but our anger is not the place from which justice flows. Truth is that place.
He (the devil) always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites…He relies on your extra dislike of one to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them. ~ C.S. Lewis
Our extra hate of one lie and the injustice born of it can push us into an opposite lie and injustice. Truth is the straight and narrow path between errors, and it is the only path on which justice treads.
3. A lying tongue leads to something else listed in Proverbs 6 that God hates: the sowing of discord in a family.
Christians are family. Just as you, your parents, siblings, and children are family sharing the same lineage and being related by blood, Christians are made family through the blood of Christ and are grafted into the lineage of faith.
When we lie, we tear apart or sow discord in the family of God.
The truth matters because relationships matter.
If God calls us to love even our enemies and pray for them (instead of trying to destroy them with lies and slander), how much more so should we love our own family and protect the unity of the body by guarding our tongues? (Matthew 5:44)
The act of sowing discord mentioned in Proverbs 6 is connected to someone who is lying, slandering, plotting evil, and racing to do wrong and not someone who is lovingly and humbly confronting sinful and destructive behaviors in order to help an individual and protect the integrity and unity of a family.
If you have children, you know there are times they do not get along well. When they argue from pride, selfishness, or greed, when they exaggerate an offense or assume upon the other’s motives, or when they insult each other and tear each other down, it breaks our hearts because we love them and the unity of our families, and we want them to love and honor each other.
If we, being imperfect, sinful parents, feel this heartbreak when our children treat each other this way, how much more so our perfect Father in Heaven when His children lie and slander and sow discord?
So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. Ephesians 4:25
4. The answer to a lying tongue is a new spirit and a renewed mind.
For the Christian, lying is a part of our old nature. The temptation to control our lives, our stories, and our world by lying and slandering is real, but, in Christ, we have been given a new nature; God’s people are new creations.
But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Colossians 3:8-11
Our tongue and the way we use it is a reflection of our hearts, Luke 6:45.
The temptation to sin with our tongue can be hard, but Christians have been given the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead, as our helper (Romans 8:11).
Instead of tongues controlled by our old nature, our tongues should be controlled by the Holy Spirit. If we have been careless with our words verbally or on social media, we can repent, confess it to God, and receive His forgiveness.
Renew your mind in God’s Word. Dig into the scriptures, meditate on them and memorize them, and spend time in prayer. We will find the renewal God does in us will naturally flow from us.
In a world where lies and slander abound, let us commit ourselves to the One who is Truth, Jesus Christ, and a tongue controlled by His Spirit. As we do so, we will grow in sincere love, justice, and unity, and together God’s people will be a light in a dark world.
Today, we can join our prayers with the prayer of Psalm 141:3-4,
Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness. Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong.