To Lie or Not To Lie

This morning we begin a 4-week sermon series on "Women of the Bible" in honor of Women's history month. I hope through this series we can gain a better understanding of the contribution women made during Biblical times and how that contribution has helped to develop and shape our faith over the centuries.

This morning I want to talk about Rahab whom we heard about in our Old Testament reading today.

What do we know about Rahab? We know she was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. And as a prostitute she lived on the fringe of society not only physically but morally as well, and she was one step short of total rejection by her community because of her lifestyle.

Her house was built right into the city wall, perhaps bridging the double wall fortifications that Jericho was known for. As an Innkeeper and prostitute she provided both lodging and favors to travelers entering Jericho. And as it turned out her house was a great place for the Israelite spies to stay, because they would simply be dismissed as Rahab's customers.

At this point in history the Israelites were about to invade Jericho and were seeking intelligence information to make their invasion more effective, that's why the spies were lurking about.

Now living on the wall of the city, Rahab was especially vulnerable to the potential hostilities. And yet while she too shared the general mood of fear with her fellow citizens of Jericho, she alone turned to the Lord for her salvation.

Her faith gave her the courage to hide the spies and to lie to the authorities on there true whereabouts. Rahab knew her position was dangerous; because she could have been killed for hiding the Israelites in her house. But Rahab took the risk, because she realized that the God the Israelites relied on was worth trusting. As a result God blessed Rahab with safety for her and her family.

Rahab was a relative of Boaz and thus was an ancestor of David and Jesus. And Rahab is one of the two women listed in the Hall of Faith found in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11.

The issue I want to explore today, with Rahab's help, is one of lying. We read in the Ten Commandments that we shouldn't lye; yet here just 4 books after the Ten Commandments are listed in Exodus we have Rahab who lies and seems to be blessed because of it.

Now I would like to share with you a story that Cassie Bernall might have told. "My name is Cassie Bernall. I was in the Columbine High School library, April 20, 1999, when two of my classmates held me and my friend's hostage with their bullets, bombs, and terror. One of the gunmen thrust a gun into my face and asked, "Do you believe in God?"

Before I tell you how I answered, please know that only two years before I had been dabbling with black magic. My parents were tipped off when they discovered some letters one of my friends had written to me.

That's when they stepped in with tough love. They grounded me from my old friends, made me change schools, and insisted I go to church and youth group. Personally, I think they saved my life.

At my youth group, I began to hear about God's love and forgiveness through his Son, Jesus Christ. I discovered that despite the terrible things I'd done or considered doing, Jesus had died for me. I decided I wanted to give my life to him.

It was in the Columbine library that I faced my moment of truth. With the gun pointed in my face, I'd been asked to choose between my old life and my new life in Christ with the question, "Do you believe in God?" I took a deep breath, then answered with a clear voice, "YES!"

"Why?" the gunman asked. Before I could answer, he pulled the trigger, ending my life on earth. How glad I am I stood up for God with my YES! My death is in fact my answer to the gunman's final question, "Why?" For today I am with God. Nothing can take that away from me!"

It's ironic isn't it that Rahab lied and continued to live her life on earth, and Cassie told the truth and was killed. It doesn't seem fair, if we use the standards the world uses to judge life and death, does it? But God doesn't use the world's standards. The truth is because of these women's faith, they now are living in the presence of God, and are serving as powerful witnesses to us today.

So what about the issue of lying? Lets first look at Rahab and why she lied, and lets see if Rahab was justified in lying to save the lives of the spies. As a matter of fact Rahab is commended for her faith and the fact that she lied isn't really mentioned.

Although the Bible does not speak negatively about Rahab lying, it's clear that lying is a sin, lets be clear about that.

And as we look at the issue of Rahab's lying there are several explanations we can offer regarding why her lying was not focused on or condemned. The first is God forgave Rahab's lie because of her faith, or perhaps secondly Rahab was simply deceiving the enemy, a normal and acceptable practice in wartime.

Maybe as a third explanation, since Rahab was not a Jew she couldn't be held responsible for what was considered Jewish moral standards, or perhaps fourthly Rahab broke a lesser principle of telling the truth, to uphold a higher principle of protecting God's people. When you look at Rahab's situation there may have been other ways to save the lives of the Israelite spies, but under the pressure of the moment, Rahab had to make a choice.

Most of us will face situations like Rahab's at one time or another. We may feel there is no perfect solution to our problem, and we struggle with what we ought to do. We struggle with what God would want us to do.

Thankfully God does not demand that our judgment be perfect in all situations. God simply asks us to put our trust in him and to do the best we can. Rahab did just that and was commended for her faith. Rahab was responding to her situation from her heart, I'm convinced of that.

Cassie was presented one of these situations and she answered from her heart as well. We don't know that her life would have been spared if she had answered "no" to believing in God. Some would say no she would have been killed anyway because the gunman knew she was a Christian. And if she did answer no, would she have been able to forgive herself for denying God.

We don't know the answer to all of these questions, but what we do know is that Cassie is now with the Lord and continues to be a powerful witness to her faith. So much so people are receiving Christ once they hear her complete story and realize that she is now living the hope we all pray for.

What it comes down to with lying is what is our intention in telling a lie. Are we lying for personal or gain, to inflate our egos, to take advantage of others, to cause pain, to deflect responsibility, or to promote evil ways? This tends to be the norm when we purposely are telling lies, and this is what must be avoided. Lying to tear down or take advantage is what God wants people to refrain from doing. And know that there are also many people who tell the truth, but their heart is cold and sinful. Through telling the truth they are looking to promote evil.

Or are we lying to protect others from pain, to help others escape persecution, or to help build them up as a child of God?

Know that lying is not an acceptable behavior for Christians but the issue isn't as simple as lying or telling the truth, intent plays a critical role in our motivation.

In all we say and do, God is looking at the intent of our heart more so than what's said or what's done, this is because we are imperfect. Why are we saying what we're saying, this is what God wants to know. This is why Rahab is not viewed so much as a liar but rather as a women of faith, and this is why Cassie now lives in eternity with our Lord.

In Rahab's and Cassie's situation their intent was pure, and God in turn blessed each one in a different way.

If we focus on what we know is right and truly follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit in our heart, we will respond to a given situation in a way that is pleasing to God. This I believe is what God ultimately wants from each of us.

Through our voice and our actions God wants us to glorify him, and to love one another as he loves us. If we strive to love God and love our neighbor the truth will be known, and the intent of our heart will be pure.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade