We tend to like shades of meaning. Take automobiles as an example. Once there was the automobile. Then came the distinction of the coupe. Somewhere along the way the station wagon came along, which commercials are now calling the first SUV. At one time there were the standard, the compact, and the subcompact. The van became divided into the full-sized and minivan. (Does the minivan qualify to park in a compact only parking space?)
We make similar grade differences with lies. There is the little white lie. Has anybody ever heard of a little black lie or a big white lie? There is the run of the mill lie. And there is the whopper, often called a fish story. While God doesn’t recognize these differences, there is one lie we use in the church that could be called The Big Lie.
Before identifying what that lie is, let as look at what the scriptures say about lying. Most people start with the Ten Commandments, which prohibit judicial lying, commonly called perjury. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Ex 20:16) While this is a form of lying, the commandment only prohibits a limited circumstance. That is not to say that God allows lying outside of court.
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Prov 6:16-19)
Paul made a prohibition against lying. His was not in the context of court; rather it was about lying to other Christians. “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” (Eph 4:25)
Some accuse the Qur’an from condoning a Muslim lying to an infidel. Others make the same claim about the Jews. It seems that even among non-Christians the idea of lying to a brother is unacceptable. And yet, that is where the Big Lie comes in.
What is the Big Lie? It takes several forms, but the most common is, “I’m fine.” When some people respond to the question of how they are doing with “I’m fine,” they are telling the whole truth. With many Christians, though, “I’m fine” is the Big Lie. They may not be feeling well. They may be depressed. They may be struggling with all sorts of sins. Their world may be falling apart around them. But they smile and say, “I’m fine.”
There may be several reasons for this. Some are ashamed. Particularly if “not fine” carries a stigma, we don’t want to admit to it. This may include problems with alcohol or drugs, or pornography. They may be dealing with feelings for another person’s spouse, or someone who is not their own spouse. Shame keeps them from admitting to these problems, which simply perpetuates the problem.
Others think, “I can handle this on my own.” In America especially, we live in a society where self-reliance is prized. To admit that we have a problem or a sin that we cannot deal with ourselves makes us unamerican, and to some people that makes them also unchristian.
Still others may, rightly or wrongly, feel that they will be judged by others if they admit to some struggle. If it is the latter, then there may be a problem that the elders need to rectify.
“Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2) Admitting the truth to each other allows us all to fulfil the law of Christ. What law is that? “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another.” (Jn 13:34) Bearing another’s burden is a way of saying, “I love you.” Perpetuating the Big Lie is a way of denying each other the opportunity to love.