The response of immediately trying to deny responsibility comes naturally to us and to our children. Children are fearful of the consequences of their sin and lie to avoid them. Christ must be shown as the one who can bring peace to a fearful heart. It is vital that this pattern be addressed quickly and thoroughly. If it is not, then the habit of lying will take root and become a means to other ends.
The next progression in lying is to lie when there is something to be acquired. This type of lie can range from trying to make someone else look bad to scheming to obtain something that cannot be had in a way that pleases God. In both situations the reason for the lie is the same—self-centeredness. But in this type of lie, the reason for the lie moves beyond mere self-protection. Lying can be a means achieve personal desires, even if it means hurting others. The story of Amnon illustrates this type of lie. Amnon eagerly embraced Jonadab’s lie:
”Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’ ”
So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.” II Samuel 13
Jonadab advocates telling lies to obtain favor with a member of the royal family—no doubt an attempt to advance his own status. Amnon embraces the lie as a means to satisfy his raging lust. This is why lying is so despicable and dangerous. This sin uses our own lusts against us. So, you see the progression. This is not simply lying to avoid punishment. This type of lying bears a close connection with the ways of darkness (Eph. 2:1-3).
This lie represents a scheming, crafty motivation. This is deceit reaching maturity. Often a young child will blurt out a lie that is foolish – with cookie crumbs all over his face and shirt, your son says, “I didn’t eat the cookie, Mommy.” The scheming liar, the crafty one, makes sure his face is clean and the cookie crumbs are on his sister’s shirt when he lies.
Notice that Amnon didn’t even question whether it was appropriate to lie. He eagerly bought into Jonadab’s scheme. Amnon was being driven by his own lusts. When you see this pattern emerge in your children, pray for courage to acknowledge it for what it is. Self-pity is often at the base of these lies. Amnon in the throes of self-pity and lust acted without hesitation in following Jonadab’s scheme. It was a fatal decision.
If you see this pattern in older children and teenagers, don’t think you can easily correct it by taking away privileges. There are deep-seated issues that must be addressed. This is the time to stop, pray and then begin investing yourself in your children to address these struggles. Intentionally conceived lies and schemes indicate a troubled heart.
More in the next post.