Does God Ever Approve of Half-Truths
By: Rev. Sam Harris
|By: Rev. Sam Harris; ©2000|
|Is there ever a time when it is alright to tell the truth—but not necessarily the whole truth? If so, to whom and when? Rev. Sam Harris explains his answer.|
Does God Ever Approve of Half-Truths?
I know that the ninth commandment tells us that we are not to lie, and God judged Achan and Ananias and Sapphira for lying. In our Sunday School class we were doing an overview of 1 Samuel 16, and it would appear that God encouraged Samuel not to tell the truth. Could you help me with this—I’m confused.
We must understand the answer to this question in context. It appears in 1 Samuel16:2, that God has encouraged Samuel, the prophet, to give a misleading answer so that Saul could not find out that he had gone to Bethlehem to anoint David to be the next king of Israel. So our question appears to be that God is encouraging Samuel to mislead Saul even though we know that God hates lies.
As you already know, the ninth commandment does tell us that we are “not to bear false witness against our neighbor.” This law is very specific in that it forbids making up a false report or telling something that is untrue that would cause harm to another person or mislead him or her. There are certainly many passages in the Old and New Testaments that speak of lies as being wrong and sinful. God wants us, as Christians, to be known by our honesty in order that we never hide what is true.
God, I am convinced, doesn’t say that it is wrong to be shrewd. David said to the Lord in 2 Samuel 22:27, “With the pure thou dost show Thyself pure, and with the perverted Thou dost show Thyself astute.” According to the dictionary, “astute” means “shrewd or cunning.”
I believe that when God told Samuel to conceal from Saul the main reason for his visit to Bethlehem, He was teaching Samuel to be “astute or shrewd” with a crooked king. God never told Samuel to lie, He simply told him to tell half of the truth. In the process, God shows us that though it is wrong to deny the truth, it is not wrong to deceive those who are evil.
As one author noted in an article I read, “to conceal the truth or cleverly let the enemy draw his own wrong conclusions is not necessarily to lie.” If you recall from the context of the passage, Samuel had told the Lord that he was uncomfortable about going to Bethlehem to anoint David as the next king. Saul, the present king, was going to be angry if he learned that someone outside his family had already been chosen as the next king. Samuel’s life may well have been on the line!
We are getting ready to go on vacation for a week. I have stopped the paper and the mail. We have a light in the house that is on a timer; the motion lights on the outside will continue to work, and two vehicles will still be parked in the driveway. My son will come over and check to make sure everything is okay. I hope I am being astute or shrewd in attempting to deceive some potential burglar into thinking that we are there when we really are gone. This, I believe, is not a lie but a justifiable deception to protect our property from any harm.
God was not encouraging Samuel to lie. He was telling him to make an announcement that would conceal the real reason for his visit from people who had no real need to know it.
Hope this is helpful and not confusing.