Recently, Americans were made privy to an interview of President Trump by investigative journalist Bob Woodard where Trump admitted that to some extent he downplayed the severity of the virus in an effort to deter public panic. A misrepresentation of the truth from a politician in and of itself is not so unusual. However, this concealment of known information on the coronavirus may have had grave consequences for thousands of Americans, and to some extent, the nation as a whole. It was revealed that President Trump knew as far back as early February that COVID-19 was airborne, very dangerous and much different from the typical flu that ravages the nation every year. Despite that knowledge, when he addressed the public, he compared the COVID-19 to the flu and implied that the virus was mostly exasperated by the media as a hoax. He generally minimized the severity of the virus to be something less dangerous than what he himself knew it to be. Lies have consequences. Perhaps many Americans would have taken the pandemic more seriously had our president been more candid with coronavirus concerns? Perhaps they would have been even more hysterical than they already were as some feared? Either way our desire is not to be political or to take sides. Both Republicans and Democrats knew of the lethal potential of COVID-19. There is plenty of blame for the pandemic's mismanagement to go around. However, because of President Trump’s position, his actions are more impactful than most. Still, he’s not the only one who has a problem skirting the truth.
I said in my haste, “All men are liars.” - Psalm 116:11All of us have lied on occasion, and some of us lie habitually. We all have our excuses. President Trump explained his deception by saying that he didn’t want to cause a panic. To many, that may sound like a flimsy excuse, but are the excuses we give any better? We’ve all heard the phrase “honesty is the best policy,” but many of us probably only believe that is true in cases where being honest won’t negatively impact us. Unfortunately, we are often shortsighted. We believe we’re escaping consequences by telling lies, but in many cases we only wind up putting those consequences off and compounding them making our circumstances worse than they would have been had we just been honest from the start.
Most Christians believe lying is wrong. If asked about it, some will instantly point right to the ten commandments. One of the most famous of the commandments is:
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor - Exodus 20:16That’s not as general a directive against lying as some suggest. It’s really more about a specific type of lie where someone knowingly and wrongfully blames another person for wrongdoing. The Bible is clear that lying in that way will have consequences.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free. - Proverbs 19:5The first part of the above verse simply tells us that breaking the commandment about bearing false witness will lead to punishment. The second part of the verse is less specific. It simply means that people who routinely lie will not escape retribution. There is no question about how God feels about liars.
The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. - Proverbs 12:22There is also no doubt about how Christians should view lying.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. - Colossians 3:9-10According to the Bible, we shouldn’t lie. Do these words apply to all lies? What about the white lies we tell in an effort to save the feelings of others? Some of those lies are genuinely told out of love. The Bible does not always distinguish between the various types of lies told. In context, most of the verses addressing lying are about lies with malicious intent. We aren’t God and don’t always know what the results will be when we take certain actions. We may see someone living a certain lifestyle and know it’s unhealthy, but not want to be truthful because we know that person is sensitive about the problem. Sure, the intent there may be to avoid hurting that person’s feelings, but what if the result of the lie is that we become complicit in that person's bad actions. What if we wind up enabling the bad behavior and leading him or her to believe that their actions are not harmful. Maybe in cases like that, we become accomplices in person’s unintentional self harm. When we really think about it the number of scenarios where we believe telling a lie is the best thing for all parties involved is probably very low. If we’re honest, even the supposedly good lies we tell are usually told more for the convenience of the liar than the benefit of the person being lied to.
So what's the answer to this conundrum? The Bible has the answer.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. - Ephesians 4:25and
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. - Colossians 4:6
Instead of avoiding the truth, we should put more effort into finding ways to present it in a loving manner. There is another famous saying: “the truth hurts.” Sometimes hurting feelings is unavoidable, but sometimes being hurt is necessary to improve oneself. Sometimes a painful brush with the truth is just what we need to motivate us to make necessary corrections in our lives for our benefits and the benefits of others.
Had our president simply found a reasonable way to present the truth about the virus, maybe the public would have responded in a way that would have kept the pandemic from becoming as bad. Instead of panicking the citizens of the nation, his words may have motivated people to do the right thing. Let us all take this lesson and apply it to our own lives. The lies we tell may not impact the lives of millions of people, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t destructive in their own right.
Chris Lawyer and Everett Pope
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