“Little” Lies and Moral Dilemmas

THIS WEEK, we discuss the “little lies” we tell our friends, family, and ourselves. Are they just as wrong as the “big lies”? How do we decide?

Confession time…

  • What little lies do we tell?
  • Do we go along to get along?
  • Is it lying to agree to operate under principles we disagree with?
  • How strong does the disagreement need to be before we can’t “go there”?
  • Do these things matter?

This topic can get deep really fast, so we will keep it light to begin with.

Consider these two American idol auditions: Carrie Underwood vs Mary Roach.

  • Carrie’s audition was magnificent! And the results have turned out very well for her since her 2005 audition. She is the most awarded country music artist of all time.
  • Mary’s audition was a train wreck. Simon said she was the worst he’d ever heard. She couldn’t believe him because “All my friends told me I was an awesome singer.” How could this be? She is objectively bad at singing. Her diction is poor, volume too weak, dancing atrocious, and voice quality unpleasant. If she is telling the truth, then I’m 99.999% sure her friends lied to her. She is not an awesome singer.

Is it loving to play along with a person’s delusion?

A delusion is a persistent incorrect belief.

In our meeting we discuss several Biblical stories where people lied.

  • Gehazi lied to Elisha and got leprosy as a punishment.
  • Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and dropped dead on the spot.
  • The Egyptian midwives lied to Pharoah and were blessed by God.

Whoa! You mean lies produced different outcomes and received different judgments? How does that work?

The Old and New Testaments condemn lying.

  • 8th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. [Exodus 20:16 ESV]
  • But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. [Colossians 3:8-10 ESV]

We discuss the broader understanding from merely not lying to a positive admonition to speak well of others. As an example of this broader analysis we look at the Small Catechism by Luther.

We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and cast everything in the kindest way.

We seek to improve and protect the reputation of others so that people will think well of them

Luther’s Small Catechism

Moral Dilemmas… How to navigate them?

How do we proceed if we wish to behave in the most moral God-honoring way?

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel!
  2. Look up ethical theories which were established throughout history to deal with these very issues.

I recommend the Crash Course Philosophy YouTube Channel for very short summaries of many topics including the field of metaethics – the study of ethical theories. Here are six ethical theories (the first three work well with a Biblical worldview IMO)

  • Divine Command Ethics (Christian basis: God makes the rules)
  • Natural Law Ethics (Christian basis: God created order in nature)
  • Aristotle/ Virtue Ethics (Christian basis: Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48)
  • Kant / Categorical Imperatives (“God’s” rules, without God)
  • Hobbes / Social Contract Ethics (“Society” is god and makes the rules.)
  • Utilitarianism (Human flourishing reducing suffering is the goal.)

After all that, what tools do we have as a moral compass in our daily moral decisions?

We should aim for the most moral means to the most noble ends.

D. W.

In this case the moral means are informed Biblically and the noblest ends lead to God’s glory and the love of our neighbor.

We began discussing lies, which revolve around “Truth” – one of the Big Three Transcendentals – Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. There is another moral compass for us. We can tell lies in a sweet way, which overemphasizes beauty. We can tell the truth in an ugly way, which overemphasizes truth. The true north on this compass properly aims at maximizing all three – true statements delivered in a beautiful way for the goodness of God and your neighbor.

Lastly, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, Paul will “show us a more excellent way”.

“1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.

As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV

Let love for God and love for your neighbor guide your smallest decisions. And when you fail, ask your neighbor and God for forgiveness. Because of Christ, with God, there is always forgiveness. (9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9 ESV])

We’d love to see you! Tonight at 5:30 PM in CFS 123 on the SHSU Campus, Huntsville, TX.

In Christ alone,

D. Williams

Published by rcshsu

An international organization of campus clubs making a rational case for the truth of Christianity (i.e. Ratio Christi).

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