George Washington could not tell a lie. I could!
My dad had a sweet tooth. When I was a kid, he loved to stash giant Hershey's chocolate bars in the freezer. I guess he kept an inventory, because one day one of his beloved candy bars was missing. Red alert! Call out the candy bar police! Dad lined us up on the pack porch -- my brother, my sisters, and me. He gave an accusing stare and then asked: “Who took my candy bar?”
There was silence. It was going to take more than a simple question to get the Hershey Heister to fess up. But Dad was clever. He knew how to handle an interrogation—with threats! “Okay, unless someone tells me the truth I am going to paddle all of you.” That was it. I didn’t steal his candy bar, but I did not want a pop on the rear end either. I played the martyr, lied, and said, “I took it dad!”
Lies are clever inventions we create to cover up pain. It might be the pain of punishment, the pain of rejection, the pain of embarrassment, or in Abraham’s case, the pain of death. Abraham was a wandering nomad on his way to becoming the father of a great nation, but the journey wasn’t easy. He had to pass through some unfriendly territory. His wife made it even more difficult. She was beautiful and Abraham knew her beauty might be the cause of his death, so he lied.
Abraham moved south to the Negev and lived for a while between Kadesh and Shur, and then he moved on to Gerar. While living there as a foreigner, Abraham introduced his wife, Sarah, by saying, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar sent for Sarah and had her brought to him at his palace. But that night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, “You are a dead man, for that woman you have taken is already married!” But Abimelech had not slept with her yet, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Didn’t Abraham tell me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘Yes, he is my brother.’ I acted in complete innocence! My hands are clean.”
Then Abimelech called for Abraham. “What have you done to us?” he demanded. “What crime have I committed that deserves treatment like this, making me and my kingdom guilty of this great sin? No one should ever do what you have done!" Abraham replied, “I thought, ‘This is a godless place. They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.’ And she really is my sister, for we both have the same father, but different mothers. And I married her. When God called me to leave my father’s home and to travel from place to place, I told her, ‘Do me a favor. Wherever we go, tell the people that I am your brother.’”(Genesis 20:1-5,9,11-13 NLT)
More than forty years have passed and I still don’t know who took that candy bar. But I know this: Telling a lie is a short-term fix with long-term consequences. Abraham's lie took some of the sheen off his credibility. Study his life and you will see that dishonesty was also a recurring problem for his son and his grandson. My lie had consequences of its own. I wonder what thoughts went through my dad’s head about his seemingly “dishonest” son.
Interestingly, in the Scriptures Abraham is the consummate example of faith. Faith, you see, is the solution to dishonesty. I can be honest when I am fearful because I can trust God to protect me. I can be honest when I have blown it because I can trust God to forgive me. And I can be honest when I am not at fault, because I can trust God to right any wrongs.
Abraham teaches me the dangers of lying and the delight that comes from telling the truth. If I had only known . . .