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Tell the Truth

Bible study on honesty, dishonesty, and lying

Doug Britton, MFT

Part 1 of a 4-part series on “Living with Integrity”

Part 2      Part 3      Part 4

Tell the truth — Introduction

The most important ethical guideline for many people is, “If you don’t get caught, it’s okay.” The second is, “If you get caught, deny it.”

God looks at things differently. He wants us to tell the truth—to be people of integrity and honesty. Even if no one catches us doing something wrong or being dishonest, God wants us to tell the truth. After all, God knows the truth.

Let’s look at what God says about telling the truth. As you will see, God’s standards are high.

The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. (Proverbs 12:22)

An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies. (Proverbs 14:5)

Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. (1 Peter 3:10)

Many of us are comfortable lying

In our culture—even in our Christian culture—lying is often treated as harmless. In fact, many of us lie automatically, without a second thought. Much of the time we aren’t even aware we are being dishonest.

We may exaggerate, change the facts “a little” so we look good, tell a police officer we didn’t know we were speeding, cheat on our income taxes, make up stories about our past, or file a false insurance report.

What do you think?

1. Do you think God wants you to be honest (to tell the truth)? Why or why not?

2. Why do you think it’s so common for people lie or “stretch the truth”?

3. Are you sometimes temped to lie or “stretch the truth”? If so, when are you most likely to do this?

The devil is the “father of lies”

The Bible’s first recorded lie was when Satan misquoted God to Eve (Genesis 3:1). Jesus may have been referring to that when he confronted a group of Jews and said they belonged to their father, the devil. He then said the devil was the father of lies.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

What do you think?

4. Why is it important to know that the devil is the father of lies?

5. How can knowing the devil is the father of lies motivate you to tell the truth?

We grow in honesty as we grow in Christ

As we grow closer to God, we become more like him. Telling the truth becomes second nature as his light replaces the darkness in our soul. We find ourselves lying less and less.

Make it personal

6. How important do you think it is to God for you to be honest?

7. Read (out loud) one of the verses on the previous page that speaks to you personally. Explain why this verse has special meaning to you.

Honesty is critical to a deep friendship

You cannot have a deep friendship without honesty.

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. (Proverbs 24:26)

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (Ephesians 4:25)

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)

What do you think?

8. Why is honesty so important to deep friendships?

Do what you say you will do

Follow through on what you say you will do, “even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:4). Of course, if you said you would do something wrong or sinful, don’t follow through with that. Instead, apologize for making the commitment in the first place.

Choose honesty instead of telling “little” lies

It’s easy to think that “little” lies are harmless. However, before you know it, you will become more and more comfortable lying, and it can become a habit. Practice telling the truth throughout the day.

What do you think?

9. Is it okay to tell “little” lies? Why or why not?

Choose honesty even when others around you are dishonest

Peer pressure can be strong. If people around you are lying, you may feel pressured to lie too. There’s a dramatic example of this in the book of Acts. Ananias and Sapphira told everyone they were giving all the money from the sale of their house to God (Acts 5:1-11).

But that wasn’t true. They had agreed to secretly hold back some of the money for themselves. God struck them dead—not for keeping some of the money, but for lying about it (Acts 5:4).

Telling the truth doesn’t mean sharing everything you know

Some people think that since God wants us to be honest, they must fully answer every question people ask. That’s not true. If someone asks how much money you make, how heavy you are, or who you voted for, you are under no obligation to share that information. You could simply say, ”I prefer not to say.”

What do you think?

9. Does being honest mean you never should keep something private? Why or why not?

Telling the truth does not mean sharing everything you think

Being honest doesn’t mean telling someone every thought in your mind. For example, if you are talking with a friend and you don’t like his or her shoes, shirt, or another article of clothing, there’s no need to say that.

Are there times when it’s okay to lie?

The Bible tells us that on a few occasions, it was okay to lie. For example, the king of Egypt told the midwives to kill the Jewish baby boys when they were born, but the midwives feared God and let them live (Exodus 1:15-17). When the king confronted them, they lied about why they had not killed the babies.

The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” (Exodus 1:19)

God was “kind” to the midwives because of their actions (Exodus 1:20-21).

In another situation, Rahab lied to the servants of the King of Jericho, saying two Jewish spies had left the city when they actually were hiding on her roof (Joshua 2:1-6). As you can see later in the Bible, God approved of her actions (Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25).

Let’s look at a third example of lying that God apparently approved of: Jonathan lied to his father, King Saul, to see if his father intended to harm or kill David (1 Samuel 20:4-29).

Do these rare exceptions mean sometimes it’s okay for you to lie? Probably not. In each case, the lies prevented the killing of people God planned to use for his glory. However, there may be a rare occasion when there are no good options and you should choose the most loving option.

  • The Egyptian midwives lied to save babies’ lives.
  • When Rahab lied, she also did it to save lives. The men she saved were part of God’s plan for the Israelites’ upcoming victory over Jericho.
  • Likewise, Jonathan lied to protect David’s life. God had plans for David to be king of Israel.

What do you think?

10. Why do you think lying was okay in these three situations?

11. How likely is it that someday God would want you to lie? Explain your answer.

Confess your lies

If you have lied about something, confess the truth to God and to the person whom you lied to. Then go to work to earn back trust. (You should almost always confess past sins. However, if you think this would cause someone severe pain or cause severely damaging results, ask your pastor or another mature Christian for advice.)

Make it personal

12. Are there people you need to apologize to for lying? If so, when will you do this?

Memory verse

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)

Make it personal

1. Why is it important to remember that the devil is the father of lies?

2. Why do you think honesty (telling the truth) is important to God?

3. Is saying “little lies” okay? Why or why not?

4. Why is honesty important to a close friendship?

5. When is it important to do what you said you would do? Explain your answer.

6. Are there ever times you should not do what you said you would do? Explain your answer.

7. Does being honest, or telling the truth, mean sharing everything you know? Why or why not?

8. Are there any people to whom you should apologize for lying? If so, make a plan:

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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