Are White Lies Innocent?


My face still wet from crying, I sent a text to my mom letting her know we’ll be a little late to dinner. I told her I got stuck in traffic on the way home from work. It was believable enough, so she didn’t even question it. I didn’t feel like explaining to her that my husband and I had another fight. I didn’t want her to worry about us, to say “I told you so” because she thinks we got married too soon, or worse, to judge my husband and think poorly of him. 

We’ve all done it. We’ve all told little white lies. If you try to tell me that you haven’t, then you’re probably lying. As a society, we have convinced ourselves that it’s better to twist the truth, omit details, or flat-out lie because it keeps things simple. 

But are white lies all that little, and are they truly innocent? 

White Lies Are Still Lies

A little white lie may seem innocent at first, but no matter how small, a white lie is still a lie, and God makes it very clear how he feels about lies:

“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” (Proverbs 12:22 NIV)

A well-intentioned white lie, no matter how tiny, can still have devastating results. The problem with a so-called “little white lie” is that while it may start off as something seemingly innocent, it rarely stays that way. Telling white lies only makes things more complicated. 

Biblical counsel reminds us that “White lies have a way of propagating themselves. Telling more lies to cover up the original lie is standard procedure, and the lies get progressively less ‘white.’ Trying to remember what lies were told to what person also complicates relationships and makes further lying even more likely.”

“An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.” (Proverbs 14:5 NIV)

Unfortunately, once you have been caught in a lie, your credibility could also be ruined,  requiring intentional effort and consistency to re-establish trust with the person you lied to. You must ask yourself: is it even worth it?

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17 ESV)

White Lies Tell a Lot About Your Heart 

When you just can’t seem to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, it may point to a deeper core issue, such as pride, lack of integrity, selfishness, and the need to be in control. Ultimately, we twist the truth because we want things to turn out a certain way, but when we do that we are taking control out of God’s hands and saying that we think we can do better.

“For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16 NIV)

Lying Leads to Death and Separation from God

Now that we see it’s clear that a white lie is no different than any other lie, let’s just call a “white lie” what it really is – SIN.

Lying usually has bigger consequences than we expect. I remember something I heard in church as a little girl, and it has stuck with me throughout my life. It was a quote by Ravi Zaccharias, a spiritual leader known for preaching integrity and truth. He said: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” 

I’ve heard this quote used many times in churches and at conferences because it’s true. Sin isn’t something you want to intentionally tangle with. There’s a reason why Romans 12:9 says, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (NIV)

Sadly, even Mr. Zacharias wasn’t immune to the effects of sin, allowing it to take up residence in his life. Zacharias found himself caught up in a world of hidden deceit, living a double life of ministry and sexual abuse. 

Toward the end of his life, he said to his supporters, “Those of you who have seen me in public have no idea what I’m like in private. God does. God does.” He was absolutely correct. God sees our secret sins.

Lying is the gateway to various types of sin and is also, frequently, the coverup for those sins, as we use lies to hide our sin from those around us. 

I’d like to present to you two stories where lying took these characters further than they intended to go, kept them longer than they wanted to stay, and cost them more than they wanted to pay:

The First Lie

It’s well known that Adam and Eve committed the first sin by eating the forbidden fruit; however, what led them to eat this fruit was the very first white lie crafted by the master of deception himself. 

When the serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit, she responded easily, “God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” But the serpent was cunning and crafty, and said, “You will not certainly die.” (Genesis 3:1-5 NIV)

And he was right… sort of. I imagine Eve fearing she may keel over dead immediately after taking that first bite, but when she realized she was still alive, she handed the fruit to Adam, saying, “It’s good, the serpent is telling us the truth.” Trusting the woman that God gave him, Adam also took a bite.  

They didn’t die right there in the garden. But because of Satan’s lie, and because of their disobedience, they introduced sin, separation from God, and death into God’s perfectly created world. 

In John 8:44 NIV, Jesus says this about Satan: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Why, then, do we lie? The enemy of God, the very one who used lies and deception to tempt Adam and Eve to sin against God, is the father of lies and the author of deception. Every time we tell a lie, even a little white lie, we are letting the devil win and bringing glory to him, and widening that gap between us and God.

David’s Pride Led to Deadly Consequences 

1 Samuel 21-22 tells the story of when David visited Ahimelek, the priest, in Nob. When the priest questioned David about why he was there, David lied and said, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’”  

However, the truth was David had been on the run from King Saul for several years. Saul wanted to kill David because he was envious of David and knew David would eventually take his crown. Instead of confiding in the priest about his circumstances, David hid the truth. 

Maybe he thought he was protecting the priest or maybe he was embarrassed. Regardless, David lied, and you’re about to see how a small, seemingly innocent lie can have devastating consequences.

(As an important side note, we’re told there was another person in the room with them – Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd – being “detained before the Lord.”) 

A few days later, Saul went on a rant about capturing David. Doeg happened to be there with Saul’s officials and felt inclined to tell Saul about his experience in Nob: “I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelek son of Ahitub at Nob. Ahimelek inquired of the Lord for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.” (1 Samuel 22:9-10 NIV)

After hearing Doeg’s report, Saul had the priest brought to him and proceeded to question him about his encounter with David, accusing him of conspiring with and aiding David in trying to kill him. Ahimelek promised he had no knowledge of the situation, but Saul didn’t believe him. 

Instead, Saul ordered his guards to “kill the priests of the Lord, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.” (1 Samuel 22:17 NIV) Thankfully, the guards refused to obey the king’s orders. But Doeg was not a God-fearing man, and when Saul ordered him to kill the priests, that’s exactly what he did.

Because of David’s lies, all of the priests of Nob, including Ahimelek, and all the people of Nob, were killed. Only Ahimelek’s son, Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David.   

After Abiathar told David about the massacre, David admitted, “I am responsible for the death of your whole family” (1 Samuel 22:22). He was staring face to face with the tumultuous effects of his not-so-little white lie.

You see, our sin and our lies often have consequences that we could never foresee. Had David known his lie would have caused all those deaths, he probably would’ve thought twice about lying.

Truth is Always the Best Policy

Telling the truth, no matter what the cost, is always the best policy. It’s the least complex and the easiest to maintain. Like a wildfire, you cannot predict how far your lies will go, and you have no control over them. 

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Ephesians 4:25 NIV)

Photo Credit: ©Stock/Getty Images Plus/Love portrait and love the world

Jennifer Jabbour resides in the scenic San Diego countryside with her husband, teenage son and daughter, and their hilarious English Bulldog. Jennifer has a B.A. in Integrated Business Communications and a life-long desire to share her faith with others so they can also experience the joy of having a relationship with God. She has finally decided it’s time to go after her lifelong dream of writing and publishing her first book, and hopefully many, many more thereafter. Besides being a writer, Jennifer is also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a photographer, and an avid outdoors-woman. She loves camping, hiking, running, and playing the piano in her free time. 

You can keep up with Jennifer on her website https://www.jenniferjabbour.com.





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