In a recent, “Answers to Your Questions” section of the Time of Grace Magazine (Spring 2012, p6-7), Pastor Jeske of Time of Grace addresses the question, “Does God condone lies?”
Inclusive of Jeske’s response was a reference to the Israelite midwives who saved the baby boys he had ordered to be murdered (see Exodus 1:15-21). Jeske states that the Jewish midwives had “lied about why they hadn’t been able to kill” the boys (Exodus 1:18-20).
However, the text doesn’t explicitly indicate that the women had lied at all. Here’s what the text actually says, along with Pharaoh’s question following his command to kill the male born babies”
“So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?’ And the midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them’” (Exodus 1:18-19, NKJ).
The presumption that the midwives were lying in their answer to Pharaoh has no immediate merit from the text. And the text itself does not indicate that they had in fact lied. Therefore, the reference to the lying of the midwives in the Exodus text has little to do with the question of lying.
Of importance in addressing the question of lying, however, is the reference that “the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:17). Because they feared God, the midwives did not murder those whom Pharaoh ordered to murder. They were willing to risk “their own lives to save those babies” (7).
In fearing God as they had, the midwives would not have needed to lie to Pharaoh. And because they feared God, God blessed them (“dealt well with them,” Exodus 1:20), and not because they saved the lives of the baby boys, as Jeske seems to suggest (see below).
Also inclusive of Jeske’s response to the question about whether God condones lies was a reference to the same Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was involved in a plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
The questioner noted that Bonhoeffer had lied to the SS about knowing the location of certain Jews, though he had known. The questioner also noted that “Bonhoeffer later remarked that it would have been immoral and evil for him to have told the ‘truth’ in that situation.” The questioner then puts forth the question, “Under certain circumstances, does God condone lies?” (6)
In response to this question, Jeske begins rightly by giving references to Holy Scripture (i.e. Exodus 20:16; Colossians 3:9; Proverbs 12:22). He gives examples of even David and Abraham who had lied.
Jeske, then, however, gives the irrelevant example of the midwives (see above) and references Bonhoeffer, praising both. “I commend the midwives and Bonhoeffer. They were confronted with moral dilemmas and chose to save lives rather than collaborate in murder.” Jeske continues and writes, “I’m sure their lies were understood and overlooked by God because their actions brought about a greater good” (7).
I won’t argue that a moral dilemma had not confronted both the midwives and Bonhoeffer. They had “choices” to make. As God-fearers, the midwives did as they were given to do, to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Also, Bonhoeffer did well in saving those Jews.
Jeske suggests that God understands and overlooks lies on the basis of the greater good that results on account of those lies. Where are the Bible passages to support such a view? They are in fact non-existent.
Answering the question about lying on the basis of any “greater benefits” that may follow weakens God’s command against lying and deceiving. What Jeske is doing is replacing God’s law with human opinion. Instead of speaking truthfully about God’s prohibition of lying, Jeske is opening the door for human explanations and excuses to support the act of lying as dependent on the circumstance, contrary to God’s Word. By doing this, Jeske also closes the door to the sweet Gospel, which is reserved for those who have no excuses for their sin, but who only seek the mercy of our gracious God.
In this article, Jeske minimizes sin. And in minimizing sin, Jeske minimizes the need for forgiveness. In saying that God understands and overlooks the sin of lying, Jeske almost suggests that God accepts lying, dependent on the results. Yet the Word of the Lord indicates that God does not accept lying at all. Lying is sin. Rather than make explanations or excuses for the sin of lying or any sin, repentance is in order.
Rather than say what is not truthful about how God sees sin, Christians are to confess Christ. This means speaking the truth about what God says concerning the Law and sin. It also means speaking the truth about what God says concerning God’s unmerited Grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
Because Jeske fails to clearly articulate the Law in answering the question about lying, so he also fails to even speak at all about the forgiveness of sins, the very forgiveness needed by all.
“Under certain circumstances, does God condone lies?” The Biblical answer is a sound, “NO.” Lies are sin. One could also ask a related question, “Under certain circumstances, does God condone sin?” Again, the Biblical answer is a sound, “NO.”
As much as we might want to be out from under the unconditional law of God, which allows for no explanations or excuses, we cannot. As long as we continue attempting explanations and excuses for our behaviors and actions, even if we should be seeking the “greater good,” we are avoiding the weight of God’s law and His Holy Word. And in such a state, we don’t have God’s forgiveness, for we only demonstrate an unrepentant heart.
A repentant heart, on the other hand, is one that accepts God’s Holy Law full force, and, having nowhere at all to turn, seeks only God’s mercy in Christ Jesus. And there, in Christ, the repentant sinner walks by faith, wholly certain of having peace with God.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
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