James 3:6 (NKJV)6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

God is love. But there are certain things that God hates and which we should hate too. Proverbs 6:16-19 says:

16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

Notice that among the seven things listed by Solomon, lying occupies a prominent position. God hates a lying tongue and he hates a false witness who speaks lies. As we detail various sins of the tongue, therefore, it is important to address the sin of lying.

Why does God hate a lying tongue? Because it violates His nature. Jesus Himself declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And because He is the truth, He beseeches the Father to make his disciples truthful people, “Sanctify them in the truth,” he prays, “Thy word is truth.” You see precisely because God is a God of truth, he hates those, he despises those who fiddle with the truth to serve their own petty ends.

It is important before detailing what lying is, that we also clarify what lying is not. There are those who are unduly pietistic in their definition of lying – having scruples about things that God does not condemn. So a few clarifiers. We do not lie when we use tactics in battle. God Himself commanded the Israelites to deceive the men of Ai and pretend to retreat before them. We do not lie when we are protecting the life of those who are innocent from the wicked. Corrie ten Boom and others were right to tell the Nazis they were not hiding Jews even though they were. We do not lie when we tell stories that are not true in order to illustrate one that is true and drive others to repentance. Nathan was justified in telling the story of the man who stole another’s sheep even though that event did not actually happen because a far more serious event – David’s sin with Bathsheba – did happen and David needed to repent.

Other qualifiers could be given, but with these in mind let us be clear what lying is. The most basic definition of lying, of course, is to tell an untruth. We lie when we say something is true which we know to be false. This, of course, is different than being mistaken. But when we report something as true when we know it is false we are lying. “No officer I was really only going 25 – never mind that my speedometer read 90.” “No mommy I didn’t steal any cookies from the cookie jar – never mind the crumbs on my shirt.” “No Sally I’m not upset with you – never mind that I haven’t spoken to you in six months.” False advertising would fit into this category of lying. “Yes George this here car is running in tip top shape – never mind that I put an additive in the transmission to cover up the grinding noise.”

Alongside this basic type of lying are other more subtle forms. We lie when we promise that which we know we cannot fulfill. You business owners will be especially tempted in this regard and need to guard yourselves carefully. Do not make promises that you cannot fulfill. Here’s the way this will work. You know that you need additional work to make ends meet. Someone has a job that you can do. They ask you to do it next Friday. But you know you can’t get it done by next Friday. Nevertheless, you promise them – yeah I’ll do that. Ah you’ve got your customer. Then you call next Wednesday and say – hey I’m sorry, I’ve had something come up and I can’t get there on Friday – but I’ll be there on Monday. You rationalize thus – well I’m still getting the job done; if she didn’t want me to do the job anymore she’d tell me – never mind that I’ve now put her in a bind in which she can’t get any other help. If you promise to do a job for someone next Friday knowing that there’s no possibility or little possibility you will accomplish it, then you have lied.

We lie when we do not hold true to promises we have made. “The righteous,” Psalm 15 declares, “swears to his own hurt and does not change.” The liar, on the other hand, swears to his own hurt and changes when he realizes he is going to get hurt or whenever a better option comes his way. The liar hates the truth. Oh he may not say it in so many words – I hate truth – but by his actions he declares the same. I know I said that – but it doesn’t matter, I’m going to do this now. If you act that way, you are a liar.

We lie when we declare to be true that which God has declared to be false. “Who is the liar except he who denies that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh? This one is a liar and an antichrist.”

And so the question comes to you this morning – are you a liar? Have you lied to your neighbor? Have you said something is true which you know to be false? Have you made promises knowing you couldn’t fulfill them? Have you failed to fulfill your promises? Have you despised the Word of God? If so, then you need to make it right. You need to ask the forgiveness of those you have wronged and the forgiveness of our great God and King.

And so this morning let us kneel and confess the ways in which not only we but also our culture has indulged the sin of lying.