Paul is here again giving believers a commandment on how we are to interact; he says, “do not lie to one another” (Colossians 3:9). On the surface, this statement looks quite simple and I thought today’s “one another” would be as easy as quoting the 9th commandment from Exodus 20 and calling it good. But the Word of God has both infinite wisdom and infinite meaning, so this simple statement really isn’t simple at all.
First, let’s look at the context. The previous verse tells us to put aside all “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech” (Colossians 3:8). In one way or another, each of these kinds of speech can be a form of lying. Next Paul gives us a reason to not lie, “since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” (Colossians 3:9-10). Here Paul teaches that you’re a new person and you’re being remade into the image of Christ; therefore don’t be like that old person!
Jesus Christ is not only our Lord and Savior, He is also our Example. Jesus said of Himself that He is “the truth” (John 14:6) and that He came “to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). We also know that the nature of God the Father is such that He cannot lie (I Samuel 15:29). By contrast, Satan’s nature is to deceive, “for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). Therefore, we see that lying is in direct opposition to the character of God and it must not be part of our new character in Christ.
In a similar way, the Apostle Peter teaches us to put “aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and evil and all slander…if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” (I Peter 2:1-3). Again, each of these kinds of speech can be a form of lying, and the reason for not practicing such behavior is because you now know the Lord. Using Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary, I found that the Greek word used in Colossians 3:9 for “lie” has many shades of meaning: deceive, betray, cheat, untruth, falsehood, defraud, and exaggerate. What I find most interesting about this list of terms, is that some of these go way beyond just our speech. To betray, cheat, or defraud someone will often times involve actions, as well as words.
So now we have a better understanding of the biblical sense of lying and why this command is so important. But let’s turn our attention back to the “one another” Paul has given us here. He says specifically to “not lie to one another”, meaning other believers. I can imagine wanting to lie as a form of self-protection when confronted with enemies, but why would someone lie to like-minded comrades? I suppose the reasons are many, but two come to mind. First, lying may have been a habit before becoming a Christian and habits can be hard to break. We’re all re-born as babes into Christ and we need time to develop mature, Christ-like character.
Second, I see that fear is always a motivation for lying. We don’t want to let others see the “real” us because we fear rejection. Perhaps we’ve been hurt in the past by another believer. But this does not mean we should automatically put up our defense mechanisms and resort to telling a lie. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18a).
Sadly, I know of another form of lying that is spoken both within our churches and to the lost and dying world around us. When we fail to speak the truth of the Gospel of Christ, we are behaving like false prophets. Jeremiah 23:17 puts it this way – “They keep saying to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You will have peace”’; and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’ ”
As Christians, we are ambassadors of Christ and witnesses of His message. It is wrong to promise peace to those destined for hell. It is wrong to promote a false gospel of health, wealth and prosperity. It is also wrong to smile, pretending everything is fine and dandy, when what you actually see is stubbornness of the heart. Jeremiah 23:14 says the prophets who walk in falsehood “strengthen the hands of evil doers”. It is not enough to “not lie to one another”; we must also speak the truth to one another.
I John 2:6 “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
What other forms of lying are there? What happens to the Body of Christ when we’re deceitful towards one another? What are some ways to break the “habit” of lying?