When Is Lying Not A Sin?

Q. While discussing the Bible with an Atheist, we were on the topic of sin. I explained how thru Adam, we inherited sin which my Atheist friend had some difficulty with. She felt that there are times when we have no choice but to sin. I asked her to give me an example, this is what she offered.

If a family, during WWII, was to hide a Jewish family from Nazi soldiers, and when asked by those Nazi soldiers if they know of any Jews around, and the family says no, did they lie? Would that be considered a sin since they were protecting the lives of the Jewish family? Would that family have to repent? My Atheist friend thinks this is a good example of a situation where doing the right thing should not be considered a sin, thus, there are gray areas to God’s commandments. How would you respond to this example?

A. I don’t see how she could believe that protecting an innocent person from someone who you know intends harm to the person could be considered a sin, but your question shows how little unbelievers know about the ways of God, and gives you a great opportunity to enlighten her.

If I was a Rabbi I might say that the 9th commandment only prohibits bearing false testimony, in other words accusing someone in court of something they didn’t do, while the 6th prohibits murder. Refusing to reveal the hiding place of a Jew to a Nazi doesn’t violate the 9th Commandment because you wouldn’t be falsely accusing the Jew of anything, but revealing it could very well make you an accomplice to murder, which is a violation of the 6th. Protecting the Jew by lying to the Nazi would not be a sin.

In Matt. 25:40, speaking of rewarding believers at the 2nd Coming Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these brothers of mine you do for me.” He was talking about helping Jews in a situation very similar to the one your friend hypothesized, and could not reward someone for sinning.

By the way, she is correct in saying that sometimes we have no choice about sinning. If we could keep ourselves from sinning we wouldn’t need a Savior, but our sin nature makes that impossible. God doesn’t expect us to not sin because He knows we can’t avoid it. What He expects us to do is accept His remedy for our sins. Help her understand that and you might just open her eyes to who God really is.

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