the Hope of Survivors

The Power of a Lie—Samantha Nelson

(From the April 2005 edition of HopeSpeak)

Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” Proverbs 12:22

Have you ever wondered about the power of a lie? What about the impact that a lie, or an intentional neglect to tell the truth, may have on others? The intent to deceive is still a lie. So often we don’t think about the far-reaching effects of a single lie. I’d like to explore those effects—the cost—of a lie with you today.

As some of you may know, on February 4, we left our home in California to move into a home we believed the Lord had prepared for us in Illinois. It was a major move for two native-born Californians, but we knew the Lord had called us to move and so we went forward, strengthened by His grace. My prayers and petitions had been for the Lord to help us find a home right away, one we could move directly into, as I struggled to see how the ministry could function well from a motel room for several weeks, or months, until we could find a home (there are few rentals in this area and even fewer that allow pets). It appeared to be an answer to prayer when we found a place online and were able to speak directly to the owner. He needed to move closer to town as soon as possible, due to his health, and we needed to be in a house as soon as possible. It seemed like a mutually beneficial arrangement, based on his description of the home and property, for us to make an offer and move right in, paying him rent until escrow closed.

We arrived in Illinois on February 10, after a week of hauling a dog, two cats and all our necessary items in and out of a motel room every night. We were exhausted, and the only thing that kept us going was the eager anticipation of seeing our new home, a home that was supposed to be in great shape. As we walked into the house, our hearts sank as we noticed that it was not as it was reported to have been, however, we encouraged ourselves and tried to look on the bright side.

Within a few days, it became very clear that the seller had been less than forthright in his description of the “great shape,” “excellent quality” home. I’ll spare you the all details of everything that was wrong (dry rot, water damage and leaks, acreage discrepancy, multiple failed escrows, etc.), but suffice it to say that the seller knowingly failed to disclose some very important information about the condition of the home. He outright lied to us face-to-face when questioned about certain things. Now, he simply calls us the liars, and claims we never intended to buy the home. Had we known about these things beforehand, we’d never have made an offer on the home or moved into it. We based our decision on what we were told, however, we were not told the truth. It makes a difference, don’t you think? We are comforted by Psalm 31:18, “Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

So, what is the power of a lie? A lie has the power to disrupt lives, to cause people to make unwise decisions, to create additional moving expenses, to further exhaust an already weary couple and their four-legged children, to tarnish characters and reputations by false accusations.

You may be thinking, “that’s nice and I’m sorry about your situation, but what does that have to do with clergy sexual misconduct?” Well, I’ll tell you. What happens when a pastor, a dearly beloved, seemingly godly man, tells a lie? What happens when a woman seeks counsel from her pastor and he pursues a sexual relationship with her? What happens when he uses Scripture, or twists Scripture, to make his point and obtain his objective? “I love you,” he says. “God told me we were meant to be together.” “God intended for us to be married, we just had to get to this point in our lives first in order to meet each other.” “I’m like David…a ‘man after God’s own heart’…David stayed with Bathsheba and we’ll stay together, too.” These are some of the lies that offending pastors tell their unsuspecting prey. I know…it’s hard for some of you to comprehend this. What does the Bible say? Proverbs 30:6 says, “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” What vulnerable woman, seeking spiritual counsel from her trusted pastor, is able to fend off the “biblical” support the pastor is giving her? Few, very few, are able to do so. What about the congregation? Few of them are able to accept the fact that their pastor is capable of lying, much less of sexual misconduct. (Now again, please bear in mind that we are talking about offending pastors here, not truly godly men who serve the Lord with their whole hearts and to whom we should be much appreciative of their devoted service.)

Jeremiah 23:14 says of offending pastors (prophets), “I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.” Strong language, don’t you think? How then should a pastor be? Proverbs 14:25 reveals that, “A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.” How does God view a pastor who lies to suit his own lustful desires? Jeremiah 23:32, “Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.” [This is, of course, not in the context of clergy sexual abuse, but the principle still applies. God is against those who tell lies and cause His people to err.] Truth makes a difference, wouldn’t you agree?

So, I ask again, what is the power of a lie? A lie has the power to create other lies (after all, one must continually lie to cover up one’s lies), to destroy trust and faith (in people and in God), to break apart marriages, to split congregations, to damage the character of Christ, to cause much pain, heartache and tears. A lie has the power to destroy.

Let’s broaden our perspective now and take a look at the original lie…the one that really had far-reaching impact!

In Genesis 3:1 we read the account of the barely discernable lie Satan (in the form of a serpent) told Eve, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Then in verse 4 it reads, “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:” The lie was so subtle that it confused Eve and she was deceived. This was the beginning of death for mankind. This is where lying—and liars—originated according to John 8:44, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

What, then, is the ultimate power of a lie? A lie has the power to destroy life, even—at times—eternal life. “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.” Psalm 101:7

The bottom line is this: What may seem like a small lie, even a so-called white lie, is still a lie, and has the ability to impact many lives. Sin never takes place in a vacuum. Someone is always affected by our sins and by our lies. A lie is a very powerful thing but, praise God, truth is more powerful! I believe truth matters, and I believe that when we know and follow truth, we are made free. John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

I would like to encourage our pastors, teachers, church leaders and others who are in positions of spiritual authority to follow the command given in 1 Samuel 12:24, “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

And, I would encourage you, dear reader, to join me in following the injunction in Ephesians 4:25, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

I leave you with this statement from Joshua 24:14, “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth…

May God bless you and keep you in His never-failing love.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18