LIES AND LIARS: A THEME OF THE BIBLE
(Investigator 101, 2005
Lies permeate childhood:
"Yep, from the Easter bunny to the tooth fairy, the imaginations of our
childhood are fired with weird and wonderful whoppers." (Webber 1986)
After childhood lies
permeate every area of life:
Tangney (1987) distributed
questionnaires to scientists and found that, "nearly one-third of
respondents…had previously suspected a colleague of falsifying data."
University of Virginia
psychologists found that undergraduates tell lies to their mothers in
46% of conversations. College students lie to their best friends 28% of
the time and to acquaintances 48% of the time. (Kiernan 1995)
Gerald Jellison (1997) of
the University of Southern California fitted people with microphones
and analysed their conversations. He found that they lied an average of
200 times per day.
In a Cornell University
experiment thirty students kept a diary of conversations that lasted
more than ten minutes. Lies occurred in 14% of e-mails, 21% of instant
messages, 27% of face-to-face conversations, and 37% of phone calls.
Lying is "part and parcel
of American life" says Hollander (1995). Some men even express, "pride
in their expertise as liars."
DNA paternity tests suggest
that millions of men are rearing children, or paying child support,
believing they're the father when they're not. In 5% of Australian
families, "the presumptive father is not the biological father."
(Callahan 2004) In America it may be 10%. Thus women by millions live
lives of lies, emotional exploitation and fraud!
There is now a "Dial-a-lie"
service. They'll play tapes of background noises to convince a client's
boss he's stuck in traffic when actually he's at home or they'll supply
liars pretending to be doctors or police officers. (The Weekend
Australian July 10-11, 2004)
We all know that, "The
politician as liar has a long history." (Time, June 17, 1991, p. 25)
For example, Germany in 1918:
Now it emerged
that Germany had been misled by its leaders, by the Kaiser, the
princes, the ministers, and the generals… (Mann 1974)
In 1996 the Moscow
newspaper Prawda (The Truth) closed down: "…for decades it printed a
circulation of 11 million, uncountable lies and seldom any news reports
that were true." (Loewe 1996)
Religious lies often join
with political lies to get people to die for nothing. For example,
Japanese soldiers in World War II were as deceived as Islamic
believing that death in battle for the Emperor would speed his soul to
heaven, the Japanese would gladly crash-dive his aircraft on to its
target, or leap aboard an Allied tank with a chain of explosives tied
to his waist. (Wilmot 1954)
Do the law and courts
uphold truth? No. Whitton (1998) says, "the law has a basic flaw: it
holds that truth is not important."
Lies are when you
"intentionally try to mislead someone". They are words, sentences and
body language communicated to get other people to believe and act on
something the communicator considers false.
This definition excludes
"deceit" by animals (and plants) such as birds giving warning calls
when no predator is present to scare other birds away from food.
To lie with words the liar
must distinguish between what he knows and what his hearers know.
Humans make this distinction from the age of four or five. (Spinney
The Soviet Union
accelerated the arms race by having parades of fake missiles. By my
definition such parades were not lies; but statements implying the
missiles were genuine were lies.
Gestures constitute lying
if they're intended to move someone to take risks he may not want. For
example, if a person asks "Is this bridge safe?" and I nod to indicate
"yes" although the bridge is about to collapse, I'm lying.
public-transport fare-evaders were caught in a 9-month crackdown in
South Australia. (Hancock 2001) Their presence on public transport was
body language declaring "I've paid my fare" which makes them liars — in
fact liars and thieves!
Tampering with digital
images is common. (Farid 2003) By my definition a misleading picture is
not a lie — the lie occurs if accompanying statements imply the picture
LIES — A
THEME OF THE BIBLE
The Bible has many unifying
An important theme is the
origin and consequences of lies and liars.
and restoration of Paradise;
rejection of God and its consequences.
Genesis 3 records the first
lies in the Garden of Eden. Revelation 21:8 presents the ultimate fate
of all unrepentant liars — the "lake of fire".
Between Genesis and
Revelation we read of lies by kings, commoners, prophets, idolaters,
diviners and false witnesses.
The Ten Commandments
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour." (Exodus
20) In the book of Job, God says of Job's three critics, "They
have not spoken the truth about me."
Many Bible proverbs deal
with truth and lies:
…devious talk far from you. (Proverbs 4:24)
Lord hates…a lying tongue, and…a lying witness who testifies falsely...
mouth will utter truth... (8:6-9)
lips conceal hatred, And whoever utters slander is a fool. (10:18)
Truthful lips endure forever, but the lying tongue is for a
moment, Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil… (12:19-20)
lips are an abomination to the Lord… (12:22)
righteous hate falsehood… (13:5)
truthful witness saves lives, but one who utters lies is a betrayer.
• A false
witness will not go unpunished, and a liar will not escape. (19:5)
• …do not
deceive with your lips. (24:28)
• A lying
tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (26:28
The Psalms and the Prophets
likewise advocate truthfulness and condemn lies. For example: Psalm
5:6; 12; 15; 58:3; 120; Jeremiah 5:1; 9:3-5; Amos 2:4; Hosea 7:13.
The New Testament continues
the lies theme. (Mark 7:20-23; John 8:44; Romans 1:25; 1 Timothy 4:2;
Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; 1 John 2:21)
The trial of Jesus included false witnesses giving false testimony.
The New Testament says:
- Do not lie to one
another… (Colossians 3:9)
- …as servants of God
we commend ourselves … by … truthful speech… (2 Corinthians 6:4-7)
- But speaking
the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the
head, into Christ… So then, put away falsehood, let us all speak the
truth to our neighbours… (Ephesians 4:15, 25, 29)
God "never lies" (Titus
1:2) and "Every word of God proves true…" (Proverbs 30:5) We're also
told, "Become imitators of God as beloved children…" (Ephesians 5:1)
The Bible teaches that
God's commands are for our good. They promote long life, health, peace,
joy, good relationships and survival of "the earth".
Lies hurt. They have a
price. If not obviously or immediately, then later by their
The biggest set of
consequences — as seen from The Bible — flowed from the first lies in
the Garden of Eden. These led to the deception of the human race, to
all wars, deceitful religions, suffering, pain, disasters and sickness.
Adolf Hitler was one of the
20th-century's greatest liars. By 1945 the consequences included the
devastation of a continent — hundreds of thousands of villages and
towns in ruins — and German women raped, often pack-raped, at an
average of 15,000 per day.
Individual liars experience
consequences in their own lives. They become less trusted which tempts
them to tell more lies. Families and other relationships only work if
there is trust, which requires
truth and honesty.
Lies can weaken
parent/child relationships. Kay Bussey, psychologist of Sydney's
Macquarie University, said, "While children are told not to tell lies,
they will hear their parents doing it all the time." (Nankervis 1999)
In Psychology Made Simple we read, "It is vital, then, if
parents want to keep the respect of their children, that they be
scrupulously honest and just…" (p. 137)
Lies also hurt societies.
As lying increases trust decreases and corruption and poverty follow:
Trust is one of
the most powerful factors affecting a country's economic health. Where
trust is low, individuals and organizations are more wary about
engaging in financial transactions, which tends to depress the national
economy… countries where trust is lower than a critical 30 per cent —
as is the case in much of South America and Africa — risk falling into
a permanent suspicion-locked poverty trap. (Grimes 2003)
Humans also have thousands
of deceptive superstitions, deceptive religions, scientific lies like
racism and eugenics, and also lies to justify wars.
The cost is tremendous. The "Cold War" and its associated lies cost
$1trillion ($1,000 billion) per year. That's enough wealth to have
conquered poverty, housing shortage, water shortage, poor roads,
illiteracy and famine worldwide many times over.
TYPES OF LIES
Hoaxes. At Sydney 5,000
passengers were delayed due to a bomb hoax. (Sunday Mail, November 16,
2003) Of 8 million calls for emergency help to Australia's SOS call
line in 1995, some 3,000,000 were hoaxes. (Sunday Mail, June 2, 1996)
Following the anthrax scare in the USA 1,000 anthrax hoaxes occurred in
Australia leading to new laws and penalties. (Sunday Mail, February 10,
political and religious, often know their claims are false but try to
convince others they're true. (Welch 1999)
Cover up. When facts people
have a right to know are denied or hidden. In Britain occurred, "10
years of ‘Mad cow' cover-up". (Middap 2000) In the Soviet Union: "the
sheer scale of Soviet [environmental] disasters is exceeded only by the
effort put into concealing them from the Soviet public and from the
world outside." (Ince 1989)
Excuses. Excuses include
false reasons for botched jobs, missed deadlines, refusals, or for some
failing. (Snyder, 1985)
Defaulting on Commitments.
Includes missed appointments, broken promises, failure to pay debts:
The Federal Government's
Child Support Agency is chasing more than 20,000 South Australians who
have failed to meet financial obligations to their children. (Sunday
Mail, August 1, 2004)
Faking. Some people fake
sickness on the Internet to gain sympathy. Such frauds, "infest the
sanctuary of support groups that genuinely ill people have come to
depend on." (Du Venage 2003)
Blaming. When someone who
made a mistake says someone else is responsible. The opposite — taking
credit for another's achievement — is also a lie.
commendation or praise.
Popular myths. e.g. The
"Cinderella myth" that married people live happily ever after.
may be a figure of speech. But if understood literally and not
corrected — it's a lie. Up to 10% of CVs, "have real exaggerations on
them." (Hooper 2002)
Perfunctory lies. "How are
you?" the checkout chick asks. "Alright", "Good" are standard, but not
always truthful, replies.
Scams. Lies to cheat
another person of their money. One scam caused the collapse of a
Brazilian bank! (The Weekend Australian, February 7-8, 2004)
Counterfeiting. Passing off
imitations — e.g. of money, goods or collector items — as the
real thing. In China counterfeit formula milk caused malnutrition to
hundreds of babies and killed dozens. In Africa AIDS is endemic and
counterfeit condoms can kill. (Fox 2004) In Germany 500 dental surgeons
fitted cheap Chinese dentures and passed them of as quality German
dentures. (The Weekend Australian, September 11-12, 1994)
Pretence. Dummy bidders
were commonly used at auctions to drive up prices but are now illegal.
(Nankervis 2003) In South Australia 837 people were identified as
"doctor shoppers" — visiting doctors at taxpayers' expense, "telling
lies, faking symptoms and looking for drugs of addiction." (Michael
Fake identities. Pretending
to be another person and creating debts in the other person's name.
"Identity fraud is costing the nation [Australia] more than $1 billion
a year". (Riches 2003)
Bogus documents. Crouch
(2003) writes, "The Internet revolution has triggered a host of
websites which threaten to undermine South Australia's tertiary
education system. Some offer forged degrees from local universities or
instant diplomas from fictitious overseas universities."
meanings. Firms giving investment advice may advertise they take "no
commission" but then take 3% of any investment as a "lodgement fee" —
in effect a 3% commission. (Donnelly 1991)
[This section is here deleted]
THE BIBLE VERSUS PSYCHOLOGY
Freud, the founder of
psychotherapy, wrote little about lies. The Encyclopedia of
Psychology (1984) has only a short entry on lies.
Psychology thus disagreed with the Bible on whether lies are important.
Psychology was wrong and lies and deceit have now become important
areas of psychological research.
Lying under oath in court
(perjury) is punishable. So is slander and libel if proved. In South
Australia as of 2004 people can be charged for identity theft —
including some of its preparatory stages — as well as for misleading
resumes. (Clemow 2004) Dummy bidding at auctions is also now an
The law has thus moved a little toward agreement with The
Bible on the harmfulness of lies.
PRODUCE THE "WRATH OF GOD"
Lies are among the
behaviours that cause the "wrath of God" and the "Day of God" which we
can paraphrase as the "end of the world".
Ephesians 4:6 says: "Because
of these things the wrath of God is coming on those who are
"obscene, silly and vulgar talk" (5:4).
And being "disobedient"
includes disobedience to this: "So then, putting away
all of us speak the truth…" (Ephesians 4:25)
The "wrath of God" includes
a worldwide earthquake (Revelation 6:12-17), and worldwide destruction
by fire (2 Peter 3) which comes from "heaven" (Romans 1:18) i.e. from
Around 1990 astronomers realized that wide destruction by fire
from asteroid or comet impact is inevitable — unless the technology is
developed to prevent it. (See: Asteroids and their Impact, Investigator
That humans could
potentially stop the end of the world is clear from: "…nothing that
they propose to do will now be impossible for them." (Genesis 11:6)
The causal link between
lies and the end of the world is, I suggest, that lies caused so much
conflict for so long at such cost that humans fail to develop
technology fast enough to stop world destruction from Space.
In linking lies to the end
of the world the Bible shows insight that billions of liars lacked.
All humankind has opposed
the Bible on the wrongness of lies with incalculable suffering and loss
as consequences. Future consequences include the "end of the world".
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