Lying Revisted

Posted on February 8, 2011 · Posted in Lying

The next few posts will be taken from a series on lying that I did over 2 years ago.  Lying in children is an important issue to understand and address, so these posts are offered to help.

Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. Proverbs 12:19

The LORD detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful. Proverbs 12:22

We are all born liars. Not a pleasant thought, but true. Like you, your children were born with the capacity and proclivity to lie. Psalm 58:3 says that we come from the womb speaking lies. While we know the Bible teaches this, we are often shocked by our children’s lies.

The inclination to deceptive thoughts and actions never leaves us. When our children lie, it is a little too close to home. Yes, we are hurt that our own child will not tell us the truth. But also, it is disturbing to see our own sins taking root in our kids. It is unpleasant, and we don’t want to look at it any longer than necessary. However, you must think carefully how to provide biblical help to your child. You must not turn away from this sin or dismiss it with a few sharp words. Satan deceived our first parents, and deception has dominated the human race ever since. Your children need you to help them fight this destructive sin of lying and deception.

Lying is the logical extension of a self-centered nature. Children tend to lie in two types of circumstances. First, they lie when they fear a consequence so much they will do anything to avoid it, e.g. punishment for hitting. Second, children tend to lie when there is something they desire, and they see lying as the best way to get it; e.g., I am angry with my brother, so I will make up something to make him look bad. In both situations the reason for the lie is the same—a self-centered viewpoint.

Lying is in classic contrast to the character of God. God never lies. He does not deceive. He does not make things up so that he will look good. Humans in general, and children in particular, often vest themselves in doing whatever is necessary to avoid blame or earn praise. A child will lie because he believes it is the best option open to him at the moment. It is also the course of least resistance that is completely compatible with his nature from birth (Eph. 2:1-3).

So what do you do when your child lies to you? Show him that God is bigger than he is—that God knows his heart and knows he is lying even if he manages to fool everyone else. Psalm 139 is good for this purpose, as well as Proverbs 5:21. Your child must believe that you believe that nothing gets by God. Here are some practical suggestions that may help you in dealing with lying.

As with a lot of things, the actual occurrence of the sin is not the most productive time to teach about it. Find a time when things are calm and positive and use that time to teach about lying. You could use a role play scenario to demonstrate how foolish it is to try to get away with something while God is watching. For example; would it be a smart thing to take an extra cookie while mommy is watching? Your child would say no, that would be foolish and silly. Well, telling a lie in front of God is also foolish and silly, as Psalm 139 teaches. Then, you can go back to a previous incident when your child had acknowledged lying about hitting his sister. Did God see you hit your sister? Does God care about how you treat your sister? Do you think that God will help Mommy and Daddy to find out if you have lied? Then, when lying does occur again you can point to the role play you had.

Discipline is certainly an appropriate response to lying. If your child believes that he can successfully deceive you as God’s authority, then he will also believe that he can deceive God as well. If this is not consistently addressed, a life-long pattern of self-deception can dominate your child.

Especially with young children, it is vital to establish the authority of God’s word. The two Proverbs listed at the beginning of this post are direct and powerful. God does detest lying lips! As with all of your training and discipline, the authority of God must be at center of your instruction. Embracing life which is truly life begins with telling the truth, both to yourself and to others. More on this in the next post.

Let me know your reactions.

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.