It is interesting to watch the progression of sin in my children as they grow. At first, all they are capable of are fits of anger for not getting their way. But sin progresses and it doesn’t take long for them to move to hitting their siblings in order to show that they are upset or lie in order obtain or avoid something.
We have no tolerance for lying in our house. If you are caught lying there are immediate consequences. Why? Because we are called to be truth tellers (Zach. 8:16; Eph. 4:25), because we are to imitate Jesus who always spoke truth and who was himself truth (Jn. 14:6).
Children aren’t the only ones who struggle with lying. It’s important to understand what lying is and how it works in order to talk more in depth about it with our children and to weed it out of our own lives as well.
I was greatly helped by a sermon I recently read by J.R. Miller who talked about the dangers of lying. I was personally convicted, and want to share some of what God has been teaching me concerning this particular sin.
What is Lying?
The essence of a lie, is in the intention which the person wishes others to take from what he says or does. He may juggle with words as he pleases and claim that he is perfectly truthful; but if he has intentionally left a wrong impression upon those to whom he has been speaking, he has lied!”
- J.R. Miller
Lying is speaking words that are not true or twisting words in such a way that the truth is left out. We lie when we attempt to deceive someone.
What makes lying so evil is that there is nothing more contrary to God than a lie. He hates lies and loves the truth.
The Lord detests lying lips,
but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
There are many ways of withholding truth from others. From the bold back lies, to the little white lies, to withholding truth through silence, lying takes many shapes. But the one that caught my eye was that of exaggeration.
The Problem of Exaggeration
We have all done it. We have all told stories that stretch beyond reality. It’s easy to share about our day, what our husband said, what our children did, or what we experienced, in a way that expands upon the truth to give a more dramatic (and less truthful) picture. At first this may not seem like such a big deal, and in fact there is a proper place for exaggeration. But exaggeration can become a form of lying, and this is something we must all guard against.
A person who is in the habit of exaggeration is not a humble person but instead thinks very highly of himself and lower than he should of other peoples thoughts, opinions, and actions. The result is that all the attainments and achievements of others, are seen by him through diminishing lenses — while all that he himself does, is looked at through magnifying glasses.
- J.R. Miller
The problem with exaggeration is we are making much of ourselves, less of others, and leaving the truth behind.
Exaggeration is also seen in the annoying game of “one up.” You know it. It’s not a fun game unless you are the one playing it. To be a “one-upper” is to diminish someone else’s story or experience by exalting your own. For us ladies this can be seen when we talk to our friends about how much work we have to do. Most of the time we exaggerate. And then when someone talks about their to-do list we jump in with our list that is 2 pages longer. “You think that’s bad, well let me tell you about my…”
A fondness for the unusual and marvelous is one of the sins of every age, and shows itself in speech. To make a mountain out of a mole-hill, and to abound in the amazing may make fools gape, but will cause wise men to fear.
- William Plummer
Some may think that this is being too picky but Christ was nailed to the cross for even, what we consider, “small” sins, though small is always the wrong descriptor for breaking God’s commands. We may all agree that lying is sin, but exaggeration? What’s the harm? The danger of exaggeration is four fold: It disrespects our neighbor, it exalts self, it allows us to grow comfortable with lying through baby-steps, and it dishonors God.
Let us pray with the Psalmist that God would "Remove from me the way of lying" (Psalm 119:29) and to resolve with Jonathan Edwards “in speech, never to speak anything but the pure and simple truth”.