What Did You Expect?
If you have children, you will find that they lie to you.
Truth-telling is not something that comes naturally to sinners.
Psalm 58:3 says “The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.”
They do this because they are children of Adam. Not only is the truth something that they do not value because of their sinful nature, they will also have a strong desire to hide their own sin. This leads to more lies. They also get this impulse from their father:
Genesis 3:10 “So [Adam] said, ‘I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’”
The point is – we shouldn’t be surprised when our kids lie. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – we should be surprised when they tell the truth! We should be shocked when our kids confess their sin freely and without twisting the truth!
Justice must be Biblical
The biggest difficulty I find when dealing with a child who might be lying is actually working out if they are lying. This is really important to work out. We can’t just discipline our kids for lying because we have a hunch that they might be lying.
The reason for this is that God values the truth. That is why lying is so offensive and sinful in the first place!
We know that God values the truth because of His law. In fact, the commandment that we would typically turn to regarding lying is set in the context of judging whether or not someone has done something wrong. The 9th commandment is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour” (Ex 20:16). You can read of an expansion of this command in Deuteronomy 19:15-20 where God requires more than one witness to find someone guilty. “By the mouth of two of three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deut 19:15).
When I come to deal with my child I am in the position of prosecutor, jury and judge. So, if I suspect that my child is lying but I can’t prove it and so I discipline them for it anyway, then what sort of judge am I being? Am I being the sort of judge who values the truth? Am I bringing a false charge against my child? Am I bearing false witness as I accuse them without evidence?
Justice must be biblical.
God reveals all things
So, what should you do if you have a child in front of you who you suspect is lying but you can’t prove anything?
The first thing for us to remember is that God is ultimately the one who will judge all things.
Hebrews 4:13 says “and there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
This means that a parent’s job is not to make sure that every single sin in their child’s life is adequately punished. That is impossible. There are many sins in our children that we will never know about and our judgement will always be flawed. So, if God in his sovereignty has not given us enough information to judge about whether or not our child is telling the truth, we can rest in the fact that God knows and God will judge. We can even tell our child this truth. “I don’t know if you are telling the truth or not, Billy, so I’m not going to discipline you this time. But God does know. He sees all things and he says that he will bring every evil deed into the light one day.”
The second thing to remember is that we believe in a sovereign God. This means that we can pray and ask God to reveal anything we need to know. Perhaps we get the feeling that one of our children is lying regularly but we can never catch them. Well, we know someone who can order things so that our child is caught. Pray that God would provide the evidence needed to bring their lying to light.
Teach children about lying
But we can do a lot about lying children without catching them in the act. One of the most important things we can do is to teach them what the Bible says about lies.
Covering Sin never Prospers
Firstly, we should talk to our kids about how covering sin never does any good.
Proverbs 28:13 says “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”
Do our children know that confession is the way to life and mercy and forgiveness and that lying is the way to death and condemnation? Do we warn them of this like the father in proverbs warned his children?
We can teach our children this through stories as well.
Look at the story of David and Bathsheba. David covered up his sin which resulted in the destruction of his household. But when David uncovered his sin and confessed it, God was so ready to forgive. His deception and murder and adultery still had consequences, but David’s soul was free when he brought his sin to God and begged for forgiveness.
The stories in scripture abound – Abraham, Josephs brothers, Ananias and Saphira – and there are stories outside of scripture that show this truth as well. Stories help our kids see what lying looks like from the outside. They help our kids see the consequences of lying in a situation that doesn’t involve them.
The consequences of lying are a vital truth that our children need to have repeatedly told to them. Every instinct inside of them will be screaming out to hide, to lie, to cover up. It goes entirely against sinful nature to come to the light, to tell the truth, to uncover what is hidden.
Speak to your children about these truths.
God is a God of Truth
We can also teach our children to love and value truth. One way we can do that is by emphasising that God is truth.
I find that this is a good one-liner that can be used when dealing with lies. God is a God of truth. So, we should love truth like he does.
Consider Deuteronomy 32:3-4 for example which says “For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.”
Because God is truth, he tells us that he hates lies.
Proverbs 12:22 tells us that “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.”
Do our children know that God is a truth-ful and a truth-loving God? Do our children hear the truth of God declared regularly? When we read the Bible we can emphasise that this is truth because it comes from God, or we can point out that God always keeps his promises.
One last area I’d like to discuss is how our example teaches our children about the value of the truth.
Children will learn a lot about how important truth telling is by watching us. If we see our children lying a lot, we should ask ourselves what example we are setting.
If our children see us treating the truth lightly, they will learn to do the same. The sins of the fathers are visited on the children.
We treat the truth lightly in many ways. Sometimes we lie directly to our children – perhaps we want to get them to do something and so we issue an empty threat, or perhaps we just want to avoid the truth because the truth will hurt. We don’t tell them that their sister went to a party while they missed out, we make up some other story that will avoid the inevitable fireworks.
Sometimes we treat the truth lightly by being two-faced. We are perfect angels at church and perfect devils at home. When we do this our children learn that you can put on a face and cover up your sins and that’s OK.
I’m sure you can think of other ways, but the point is that if we want children who love the truth, then we must love the truth.
Responding to Lying
How do you respond when your child tells you the truth? When your child confesses a sin, do you respond in a way that teaches them to not confess to you again?
When we come to God and confess our sin, we know that he is waiting and ready to forgive us.
Think of the father in the prodigal son – even before his son gets to speak he is embracing him and ready to forgive.
When we come to God to confess our sin, we don’t find him flying into a fit of rage at what we have done. Quite the opposite – he is so willing to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we just come to him and confess our sin (1 John 1:9).
We should want to be like God to our children. When they confess a sin, we should be calm and ready to forgive. When they get caught in a lie and confess the truth, we should be calm and ready to forgive. We should be giving our children no reason to cover their sin and as we do that, we will be preaching the gospel to them because we will be pointing them to a God who loves to forgive when sinful people bring their sins to the light.
Proverbs 28:13 “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”