The book of Proverbs says that telling lies is one of the six things God hates. Jesus said that telling lies defiles a person. Paul the Apostle says that liars cannot enter the kingdom of God. The book of Revelation states liars are to be thrown into the eternal lake of fire, along with the Devil, whom Jesus said was a liar from the beginning.
Yet the prostitute Rahab, who happens to be an ancestor of Jesus Christ mentioned in his family tree in the book of Matthew, chapter one, is sanctioned by James, the brother of Jesus, as a virtuous woman for telling lies. She also is upheld as an example of how to be virtuous in the book of Hebrews.
This contradiction makes it difficult to defend the Bible as a book inspired by God, especially when the ninth commandment of the Decalogue states that to tell lies is a sin.
For instance, Dwight L. Moody, a respected preacher writes concerning the ninth commandment:
We have got nowadays so that we divide lies into white lies and black lies, society lies, business lies, etc. The Word of God knows no such letting-down of the standard. A lie is a lie, no matter what are the circumstances under which it is uttered, or by whom.
The Bible, however, seems to contradict what many people say in and out of the pulpit.
What did Rahab do?
Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out (Jos. 2:1-7 ESV).
It is quite clear that Rahab lied in order to deceive her countrymen. Yet, according to the writer of Hebrews and the writer of the book of James, in this instance, telling lies was an act of faith.
Hebrews 11:31: By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
James 2:24-25: You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
Evidently, telling lies to deceive people is okay if it is an act of faith. Besides, the ninth commandment is not “you shall not lie” rather, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.
Proverbs 6:16 -19 distinguishes between “a lying tongue” and “a false witness who breathes out lies” as two distinct phenomena out of the six things God hates.
There is a significant difference between lying and bearing false witness against somebody.
To bear false witness against someone means telling a lie to unjustly accuse an innocent person.
To tell a lie that prevents people from suffering unnecessarily, however, is not the same as lying to deceive somebody for personal gain.
While the Bible states that God is not a liar and no lies originate from him, the case of Rahab requires some more thought from those who reject the idea that God would never sanction somebody who tells lies. Evidently, it appears that telling lies and being a liar are two different things, which is largely a matter of the heart.