I recently taught through some Sunday school curriculum that covered the story of Rahab found in Joshua chapter 2. In the story, Rahab protects two Hebrew spies by lying to those seeking the spies concerning their whereabouts. The Bible praises Rahab and paints her as the heroine in the story. The Bible also gives Rahab praise later in the New Testament (Hebrews 11:31). The curriculum I was using explained the situation like this:
The Bible praises Rahab not for her lie, but because of her desire to help the spies, who were God’s people. Even though Rahab’s lie was wrong, God overlooked her sin and used it for good.
This understanding of the story of Rahab is pretty typical in the Sunday school curriculum I have come across. But is it true? The Bible never seems to hint that Rahab’s lie was wrong, in fact it praises Rahab for the actions she took to hide the spies (which was primarily to lie for their protection).
If one takes a view that lying is always wrong, you must come to a similar conclusion as found above concerning Rahab. She cannot be praised for wrong-doing.
Is it possible that there are times when lying is okay? Are there times when lying may even be the best option?
If we define a “lie” as “an intentional deception”, then all of the things below are lies:
- telling your wife she looks good in a dress even if you are not particularly pleased with it
- a quarterback acting as though he were going to throw the ball in one direction, only to actually throw it somewhere else
- telling your 10 year old daughter that you are stopping by the house to pick up something you forgot, only to surprise her with a birthday party
- if a stranger asks a teenage child if they are home alone and they reply that they are not (when they truly are home alone)
All of the above things are intentional deceptions and therefore they are technically lies. Should we stop doing them? If lying is always wrong, how can we justify our continued use of lying?
What are your thoughts? I plan to post more on this topic, but want to get your feedback first.