Is Lying always a sin


I understand that the ninth commandment states that we should not bear false witness which means not to lie.

Here is my question, are all lies considered wrong/sinful? 
For example: if I lie to save an innocent person's life, is this considered a sin? Or if I lie to prevent someone's feelings from getting hurt, is this a sin?



  • One day Abba Agathon questioned Abba Alonius saying,
    'How can I control my tongue so as to tell no more lies?' And Abba
    Alonius said to him, 'If you do not lie, you prepare many sins for

    yourself.' 'How is that?' said he. The old man said to him, 'Suppose
    two men have committed a murder before your eyes and one of
    them fled to your cell. The magistrate, seeking him, asks you, "Have
    you seen the murderer?" If you do not lie, you will deliver that man
    to death. It is better for you to abandon him unconditionally to
    God, for he knows all things.' - sayings of the desert fathers
  • "if I lie to prevent someone's feelings from getting hurt, is this a sin?"

    Lying is a sin. It's consequences are much graver than one can see. God is truth and He did not hide the truth whether it was hurtful or not. However, some take that to be a reason to go all out in righteousness and say the truth all the time in hurtful ways. This too is wrong. There is wisdom to truth. God is Wisdom and God is Truth. We must learn how and when to say the truth. Saying the truth requires wisdom. Pray for wisdom so that wisdom enlightens us to say the truth properly. 
  • Lying to save a soul can be considered a "necessary evil", and is extremely rare.  If you can avoid lying, it's the best.  But if you can't, I would think you would need a form of penance afterwards.  St. Basil thought the same about those soldiers who shed blood, and believed they should have some form of penance when they come back because they performed a necessary evil in war.  In fact, he even forbade anyone who shed blood, even if he was a soldier to be a presbyter or bishop!

    So lying can be considered the same way.  If your duty may be one day to protect someone from evil, you may need to lie.  HOWEVER, it is never "okay" to lie, just as it is never "okay" to kill.  Only because of extreme circumstances do you undergo these issues, and you should try your very best to avoid it.
  • Lying is a sin and it is biblical. I wouldn't preach those extreme circumstances even if there are stories of desert fathers. Christ never lied. Christ is our model. If Christ never had a need to lie, neither should we. He saved all mankind, not just one.
  • edited June 2015
    Rahab lied to save the Israelite spies.  That also is Biblical.  I once read a passage from St. Augustine who does in fact mention those extreme circumstances.

    It is true that Christ is our model, but you are throwing away the Church fathers under the bus, who are part of the body of Christ.  Christ is our model and so are the saints.
  • @minasoliman. Forgive me, I always read your posts with respect. You are very educated, and it is to be respected. I must however highly disagree with you on this one. I am not throwing the fathers under the bus. You know very well, that the church does not approve 100% of all fathers sayings - more specifically St. Augustine. I am not however stating anything on what they have said as I have not read them. I however would be careful to preach that "sin is ok if...". It's not. We shouldn't ever belittle God in such a way. God is the truth. Lying is absence of truth and absence of truth is absence of God. Sin is an absence of God. This is my understanding. I am only saying to be cautious with statements that lying in a scenerio wouldn't be a sin. You said it yourself - you would expect a certain penance after the such. Why so? If it is no sin, then there should be no penance as it was a righteous act? Or if it is a sin, and penance after, then maybe it should be clear that the lie would still be a sin and we would do good by the sin. But is that really ok? It might be better than 2 evils, but what about the one where you have faith in God and his commandments and let Him decide the outcome? Why would I belittle God and take control of a scenario just because I believe that would save the later?

    I hope I am expressing myself respectfully while making sense..
  • You make a valid point.  The question is a tough one.  I'm not saying I'm correct, but that is how I perceive it.
  • I should make a correction to something I said earlier.  St. Augustine actually considered her lie immoral and that she was praised not for lying, but for her hospitality and mercy towards the Israelites (Against Lying 15.31-32).  St. John Chrysostom on the other hand seems to have praised her clever deception to "safeguard the divine" (Homilies on Repentance and Almsgiving 7.5.17).  St. John Cassian does not mention whether what she did was right or wrong, but he did say that by a touch of irony, her deception lead to blessing.  If she told the truth, she would not have been spared by Israel.  (Conference 17.17.1-2)

    Source is from Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and 1-2 Samuel) p. 10
  • I understand what you are saying. And I don't want to say it's wrong, because it conflicts me. I have read an interesting story on the matter that supports your point - nonetheless, it may be my opinion, and I can probably write a 10 page essay with support of Fathers saying to support my point too [Based on self-denial and blind faith]. I am nobody to stand against sayings of Saint John Cassian or St. John Chrysostom. However, "If she told the truth, she would not have been spared by Israel. ", I am not convinced that is true. It is merely an opinion of what might happen. God's ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts, our thoughts.

    Furthermore, the following are verses on lying..

    Proverbs 6:16: " These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed blood, ..."

    Proverbs 12:22: "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord"

    Those are harsh words on lying...

  • edited June 2015
    Indeed they are.  And I do not disagree with you on this issue.  That is why the answer is not easy.  Let us pray that only those who can handle it can be put in such a situation.

    Concerning Proverbs 6:16.  Would it be all types of hands that shed blood?  Including wars?  (and not to fool you or anything, as I personally would answer this question more likely yes, since wars are never a good thing and are considered necessary evils at times; but I do want to get your views on it)
  • edited June 2015
    It is tough. Although, this is just my personal opinion, I believe this includes wars. How do I explain wars in the old testament? I would explain it in a similar fashion as we do with answering the question of 'how come men had many wives and concubines?'. 

    I would add that, the matter of the fact is we are nobody to judge whether a person lives or not. There is one Lawgiver (James 4:12) and only He may judge. If God orders a nation to war, then it is much different, as God is the Lawgiver and knows whether this nation is already dead/"blasphemed against the Spirit" or not. But it seems to me that Christ is quite done with that era. He orders us now to run an extra mile, to turn the other cheek, to die for one another - he stopped Peter from using the sword, and said “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”" 
    Off course the last one is a little more about the need for His death on the cross, but the message of the power of God is still there. He needs no wars. If the three young men were thrown in a fiery furnace and survived, so can we survive a sword or a bullet if we put our faith in God. This indeed is merely theory and much easier said then done, but is nonetheless my personal opinion.
  • I like your consistency and I respect it. I tend to think along those lines in hopes that we would progress to such perfection as we wouldn't have these wars.
  • Thank you so much guys for your input which opened my minds to aspects that I haven't thought about.

    Would it be Orthodox to say that God will judge actions based on the intention of one's heart? This way we are not limiting God to the letter of the commandment but we are considering the spirit of the commandment.
  • Yes and no.

    Yes, God does judge based on the heart. No you should not count on that. Not that he won't, but that you shouldn't judge whether your heart had good intentions or not. At which point, a person can find himself never in need of confessing or of spiritual guidance. In the end, we will die not having met the law. Our imperfection is not what would keep us from having God accept us. As long as we are persevering towards total perfection, towards God, then you would have 'fulfilled the law' by God's grace. The letter of the law is not the objective - neither should it ever be. The law is there to help us grow towards perfection. To help us learn the things of God. By making the law a way of being, rather than a way of acting, one will have perfected the virtues of God. 

    For example, in the example of lying. Potentially, if we were to take for granted my personal opinion, one will learn of the virtues of faithfulness, wisdom, repentance and humility. How? By living in full truth, we get to know God, for God is truth. Furthermore, since truth is a characteristic of God, one must assume that being a truthful person is by no means an easy task. It requires wisdom. And then again, God is wisdom. So we learn of God, in 2 different ways. We thus are getting closer and closer to God. By living in truth and getting to know God, I can extend my truthfulness to being truthful to myself. I am able to see my sins in a clearer fashion. I am able to admit my wrong doing in a faster manner. I learn repentance to a new degree. And similarly to what I expressed earlier, I learn to rely on God in scenario's where I think lying would be the best alternative, but by being truthful,, I let go of my thinking, and my ways, to submit and surrender to the laws of God, hence extending my learning experience to learn more trust and faith in God as well as humility and self-denial. I may have maybe went overboard, but something I personally truly believe and have understood it to be.
Sign In or Register to comment.