The lie the Hebrew midwives tell Pharaoh seems to result in the lord’s blessing on them [Exodus 1:15-21], and it probably saved the lives of many Hebrew babies. Another example is Rahab’s lie to protect the Israelite spies in Joshua 2:5. It is important to note, however, that God never condones these lies. Despite the “positive” outcome of these lies, the Bible nowhere praises the lies themselves. The Bible nowhere states that there are instances where lying is the right thing to do. At the same time, the Bible does not declare that there is no possible instance in which lying is an acceptable option.
In an instance where lying may be the only possible way to prevent a horrible evil, perhaps lying would be an acceptable thing to do. In an evil world, and in a desperate situation, it may be the right thing to commit a lesser evil, lying, in order to prevent a much greater evil.
For something to be a serious (mortal) sin three conditions must be met. To paraphrase the Catechism
1. It must be wrong.
2. You must know that it is wrong.
3. You must freely choose it.
To lie is wrong, and you know that it is wrong, but are you free to choose to lie? For instance, if someone has a knife to your throat and you lie to save your own life, although the lie in itself is a sin, it is not a mortal sin, as it was made under coercion. Likewise if you are hiding someone from a murderer. Your natural revulsion and horror of the murder you foresee is a mitigating circumstance.
So while a lie is a sin, your culpability in a given situation is something only God can judge.
Then again, lying is still sinning regardless. Why do we lie to save our lives? Remember, a Christian does not think in earthly terms but in spiritual terms. If you truly understand Christianity, then death, physical death, should mean absolutely nothing.
Bearing false witness is a lie, and in Hebrew the word for false in Exodus 20:16 is sheqer, which literally means “lie.” It is derived from the Hebrew word shaqar, which means “deal falsely, be false, trick, and cheat.” There are many verses in the Bible that reaffirm the Ninth Commandment, and a couple are:
You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.
1 John 2:21
I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
The devil is the father of lies (John 8:44), and one lie to God the Holy Spirit was worthy of instant death for Ananias (Acts 5:3–5). Paul points out that even if he were to lie for the glory of God, he would be deemed a sinner for such an act:
For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?
In light of such passages, does a “righteous lie” really exist? The most common example sent to me was envisioning the Holocaust and being placed in the position of lying to potentially protect someone’s life. Like most, if placed in such a difficult situation, it would be very difficult. In fact, I could never be sure what I would do, especially if it were a loved one.
But consider for a moment that we are all already sentenced to die because we are sinners (Romans 5:12). It is going to happen regardless. If a lie helps keep someone alive for a matter of moments compared to eternity, was the lie, which is high treason against the Creator, worth it?
It would be like sitting in a cell on death row and when the guards come to take your roommate to the electric chair, you lie to the guards and say you don’t know where the person went—while your roommate is hiding under their covers on the bed. Does it really help? Since we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), death is coming for us, and there is an appointed time (Ecclesiastes 3:2).
"The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment." (Proverbs 12:19.)
Is it worth sinning against God to try to buy a moment of time next to eternity—intentionally lying is foolish and would only harm the extent of your own life (Ecclesiastes 7:17).
Stephen in Acts 6–7 preached Christ, and men came against him. This culminated with a question by the high priest in Acts 7:1 who said: “Are these things so?”
At this point, Stephen could have done a “righteous lie” to save his life so that he could have many more years to preach the gospel. However, Stephen laid a long and appropriate foundation for Christ—then preached Christ. And they killed him.
But this event triggered a persecution that sent the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 11:19) and peaked with Paul (who consented to Stephen’s death) coming to Christ and taking the message to the Gentiles and writing several books of the New Testament. The Lord had a greater purpose for Stephen—even though it cost him his life. Keep in mind, however, that this, and other examples, are about the person in question—not another.
Should humans be allowed to play the role of God? Legalizing euthanasia would do just that! The power to play with people's lives should not be handed out under a legal and/or medical disguise. Thus euthanasia should not be legalized.
The term 'Euthanasia' comes from the Greek word for 'easy death'. It is the one of the most public policy issues being debated about today. Also called 'mercy killing', euthanasia is the act of purposely making or helping someone die, instead of allowing nature to take its course. Basically euthanasia means killing in the name of compassion. On the contrary, it promotes abuse, gives doctors the right to murder and in addition, is contradictory to religious beliefs.
Whether one agrees or not, past experiences as well as the present continuously point out that euthanasia promotes abuse. Dr. J Forest Witten warned that euthanasia would give a small group of doctors "the power of life and death over individuals who have committed no crime except that of becoming ill or being born, and might lead toward state tyranny and totalitarianism."
An example of this very statement by Dr. J Forest Witten was seen in Pennsylvania, in 1947 when forty seven year old Ellen Haug admitted having killed her ailing seventy-year-old mother with an overdose of sleeping pills. Her excuse was that she couldn't endure her crying and misery. Ellen said that her mother had suffered too long and Ellen, herself was on the verge of collapse. Her excuse was that "if something had happened to her, what would have become of her mother?" Her reason was not only vain; as a matter of fact it was very selfish. Ellen was not putting her mother out of misery but she was getting herself rid of a responsibility. She was merely taking the advantage of calling her cold-blooded murder euthanasia. Likewise, a recent Dutch government investigation of euthanasia came up with some disturbing findings. In 1990, 1,030 Dutch patients were killed without their consent. Twenty-two thousand and five hundred deaths were caused due to withdrawal of support, 63% (14,175 patients) were denied medical treatment without their consent and twelve percent (1,701 patients) were mentally competent but were not consulted. These findings were widely publicized before the November 1991 referendum in Washington State, and contributed to the defeat of the proposition to legalize lethal injections and assisted suicide.Euthanasia, at the moment is illegal in most parts of the world. In the Netherlands it is practiced widely even though it remains illegal. The Dutch incident is an ideal example of how euthanasia has promoted abuse in the past and therefore as the old proverb goes we should "learn from past mistakes to avoid future ones".
Euthanasia gives physicians, who are only humans-the right to murder. Doctors are people who we trust to save and cure us, we regard them as the people who have been trained to save our lives but euthanasia gives doctors the opportunity to play God and most seize this opportunity. A perfect example of an opportunist would be Dr. Jack Kevorkian, better known as "Dr. Death" who took advantage of his patients' sorrows and tragedies and murdered them. In fact, Kevorkian has helped more than 100 people commit suicide and not all of his patients were terminally ill. In addition, in the late 1980s the lunatic created a machine for murder, it was a "suicide machine" that allowed a person by pressing a button, to dispense a lethal dose of medication to himself or herself. Later, Dr. Kevorkian was sentenced to ten to twenty-five years in prison for second-degree murder for providing lethal injection to a seriously ill patient. Dr. Jack Kevorkian, however, is not the only example of a doctor who tried to "play God".
One can also learn a lot from the mass murder that took place in Germany during World War II. Over 100,000 people were killed in the Nazi's euthanasia program. During the War, the doctors were responsible for, selecting those patients who were to be euthanized, carrying out the injections at the killing centers, and generating the paperwork that provided a medically credible cause of death for the surviving family members.
Surprisingly, organizations such as the General Ambulance Service, Charitable Sick Transports, and the Charitable Foundation for Institutional Care transported patients to the six killing centers, where euthanasia was accomplished by lethal injections or in children's cases, slow starvation. Throughout the past and the present, euthanasia has given doctors an excuse to get away with their crimes; it has given mere humans the power to play God.
The physician's role is to make a diagnosis, and sound judgments about medical treatment, not whether the patient's life is worth living. They have an obligation to perform sufficient care, not to refrain from giving the patient food and water until that person dies. Medical advances in recent years have made it possible to keep terminally ill people alive for beyond a length of time even if it is without any hope of recovery or improvement. The American Medical Association (AMA) is well known for their pro-abortion campaigns and funding. Ironically, the AMA funds many hospices and other palliative care centers. They have a firm stand on life. The AMA has initiated the Institute for Ethics, designed to educated physicians on alternative medical approaches to euthanasia during the dying process.
Other than promoting abuse and giving doctors the right to murder, Euthanasia also contradicts religious beliefs. Euthanasia manages to contradict more than just one religion and is considered to be gravely sinful. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church has its own opinion on Euthanasia. The Vatican's 1980 Declaration on Euthanasia said in part "No one can make an attempt on the life of an innocent person without opposing God's love for that person, without violating a fundamental right, and therefore without committing a crime of the utmost sin." It also says that "intentionally causing one's own death, or suicide is therefore equally wrong as murder, such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God's sovereignty and loving plan."
In fact, a Jewish Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits warns that a patient must not shrink from spiritual distress by refusing ritually forbidden services or foods if necessary for healing; how much less he may refuse treatment to escape from physical suffering. As there is no possibility of repentance or self-destruction, Judaism considers suicide a sin worse than murder. Therefore, euthanasia, voluntary or involuntary is forbidden.
Islam too finds euthanasia to be immoral and against God's teachings. Actually, the whole concept of a life not worthy of living does not exist in Islam! There is absolutely no justification of taking life to escape suffering in Islam. Patience and endurance are highly regarded and rewarded values in Islam. Some verses from the Holy Quran say- "Those who patiently preserve will truly receive a reward without measure" (Quran 39:10) and "And bear in patience whatever (ill) may befall you: this, behold, is something to set one's heart upon" (Quran 31:17). The Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) taught "When the believer is afflicted with pain, even that of a prick of a thorn or more, God forgives his sins, and his wrong doings are discarded as a tree sheds off its leaves." When means of preventing or alleviating pain fall short, this spiritual dimension can be very effectively called upon to support the patient who believes that accepting and standing unavoidable pain will be to his/her credit in the hereafter, the real and enduring life. This shows that euthanasia is contradictory to most religious beliefs and is certainly baloney to those who believe in God and the sanctity of life.
Here as in other issues related to human life and sexuality, the Roman Catholic Church has done a good job of defining and sticking by its official position. On the other hand, at the grassroots, more conservative Protestants than Catholics or any other group of Christians have taken an uncompromising position against euthanasia—to put it in the language of the Catholic Catechism, "an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering."
But we must make a quick distinction: Almost all Christians have set aside a special category of cases of terminal illness in which treatment is ended in the face of inevitable death. The United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline states, "The use of medical technologies to prolong terminal illnesses requires responsible judgment about when life-sustaining treatments truly support the goals of life, and when they have reached their limits. There is no moral or religious obligation to use these when they impose undue burdens or only extend the process of dying."
In "Allowing Death and Taking Life: Withholding or Withdrawing Artificially Administered Nutrition and Hydration," the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America classes artificial nutrition and hydration as "medical treatment," not basic care. In cases where such treatment becomes futile and burdensome, says the document, "it may be morally responsible to withhold or withdraw them and allow death to occur."
United States law has agreed with these positions, allowing for the cessation of "heroic measures" in cases where these measures only postpone inevitable death.
But such decisions about the artificial extension of life through medical means are not really about killing, only letting die. In cases where, as the Catholic catechism puts it, hydration or feeding amount to "disproportionate means" to sustain the life of someone who already lacks cognitive function, to omit such treatment may well not amount to a direct act of killing, but rather an acknowledgement of our "inability to impede" imminent death.
Indeed, in such cases, Christians have recognized that they are in a unique position to "let go" of God's gift of life because they understand physical death as their road to another, greater life.
However, on cases marked not by the indirect or passive allowing of natural dying processes to take their course but the direct or active ending of life, the church has, at least officially, remained unified: Christians have usually insisted that any intentional, active termination of life rejects the truth affirmed in the Catholic document Evangelium Vitae (1995), that "God alone has sovereignty over life and death." Such acts of killing, whether "merciful" or not, unacceptably dispose of God's gift of life—over which we are not masters but only stewards.
Further, both Catholic and Protestant leaders have recognized that if we legalize such active measures to end life, we not only condone individual acts that are sinful, but we also poison the care of future patients, destroying their ability to trust their own medical and emotional support network. Any logic condoning "mercy killing," however pure or honorable in its inception, is subject to future abuse, as medical practitioners and family members become tempted to end the lives of those whose care is taking uncomfortably high amounts of effort, time, and resources.
Even without such selfish motives, Christian critics of euthanasia point out, what happens once the door has been opened to allow criteria (say, degree of pain and suffering) by which a person may be judged justified in actively ending their own life? Those same criteria must, logically speaking, be allowed to rule similar decisions of whether to end the life of a person incapable of deciding for him or herself—as in the current case of Terry Schiavo.
The question of whether to allow active measures by which a patient could decide whether or not to end their own life is not, as we might expect, a new one brought on by advances in technology. In the classical world, suicide was considered an honorable option.
Consider the decision of the founder of stoicism, Zeno (c. 263 B.C.), to drink poison in order to avoid the suffering caused by a severe foot injury.
The Hippocratic School took a different position—one decidedly in the minority, but one that eventually, in the Christian West, won the day. The Hippocratics opposed both euthanasia and abortion. Their oath states, "I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor make a suggestion to this effect."
From the beginning, Christians have approached questions of suicide or mercy killing from the standpoint of life's sanctity as a gift from God. To end a life under any circumstance is to violate that gift, not to mention the commandment "Thou shcaption not kill." It is, as the Catholic catechism says, "a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the Living God, His Creator."
The Biblical basis for this "sanctity of life" position draws from the understanding of human life as gift expressed in Acts 17:25, the understanding of man created in the image of God found in Genesis 1:26-27, and the understanding of covenant in Genesis 9:5-6 and Exodus 20:13. The duty to respect human life appears in Genesis 9:5; 4:8-10, 15, and our responsibility for the life of fellow humans is taught in Genesis 4:9 and Deuteronomy 21:1-9.
This Christian position was not publicly questioned even in cases of severe suffering (though individual Christians, faced by such suffering, no doubt made decisions counter to this position) until the nineteenth century, when new anesthetic options made mercy killing more attractive in severe cases. The conversation started in the Victorian period swiftly ended at the middle of the twentieth century, however, in the face of revelations of the Nazis' programmatic eugenic killings.
It heated up again in America in the 1970s, when a young woman who went into a coma, Karen Ann Quinlan, survived for nearly a decade in what was called a "vegetative state." The New Jersey Supreme Court intervened to allow Quinlan to be removed from a respirator, and concerned observers began searching for a definition of a life no longer worth living, to justify mercy killing at least in cases where the patient could make their own decision.
In the face of Christian teachings on sanctity of life, it is hard not to see this trend towards legitimizing euthanasia or mercy killing as a strong sign that we are indeed living in a post-Christian world.
Our goal should be to make certain that a patient's right to receive care and compassion is not replaced by a doctor's right to prescribe poison or administer a lethal injection.
All sin – any sin – is a transgression of divine law (1 Jn. 3:4), and any sin, left unattended, will result in spiritual death (Jas. 1:15). No sin is “excusable” on its own merit.
The expression “without excuse,” in Romans 1:20, translates the Greek term anapologetos. The word is found only in two New Testament passages (Rom. 1:20; 2:1). The original term is composed of two prime elements, a negative prefix, which signifies “without,” and the main stem, apologeomai, which means “to defend.” The word literally means, therefore, “without defense.”
In Romans 1:20, Paul sets forth the fact that the ancient Gentiles, who refused to have God in their knowledge, had “no excuse,” i.e., they had “no defense,” for their unbelief. And why not? Because adequate evidence is available for drawing the conclusion that the true God does exist. Such documentation is to be found in the very order of the creation He fashioned. As the apostle argues: Evidence for God’s presence is “clearly seen” in the things that are made. A designed Universe demands a designer! The “fingerprints” of deity are “all over” the components of the creation. There is simply no excuse not to believe that an Ultimate Intelligence is responsible for the Universe – if one thinks perceptively.
As indicated above, the second reference in which “without excuse” is used is Romans 2:1. In this text, the Jew is condemned for his hypocritical judging, which involved a censorious attitude, combined with the inconsistency of his own base conduct.
"Wherefore you are without excuse, O man, whoever you are who judges . . . for . . . you practice the same things.”
Again, what is the basis of inspired rebuke? Well, as the subsequent context reveals, the Hebrew people had a written revelation from God, namely the Mosaic code. In light of this historical fact, the nation of Israel was highly culpable with regard to its inconsistent teaching/practice pattern.
The presumption underlying both of Paul’s arguments (in 1:20 and 2:1), then, is this.
1. If God had provided no evidence of His existence (1:20), then man might have a defense for not believing. Since the hypothetical premise underlying the argument is not true, no legitimate defense for unbelief exists.
2. Had there been no basis upon which the Jew could have determined right conduct (2:1), he might have argued a “defense” for his moral laxness. But since this supposition did not reflect the reality of the case, he was defenseless.
Paul’s case, therefore, in both instances – as applied to Gentile and Jew – is this. No one has a defense for disobeying God. Adequate evidence is available, and a refusal to serve God is inexcusable.
Finally, I would add this note as well. The fact that a man is ignorant of, or refuses to recognize the validity of, the truth – relative to God’s existence, and humanity’s obligation to obey Him – is no legitimate defense (see 2 Thes. 1:7-9). Men have the obligation to seek the Creator and his truth (Acts 17:27; Jn. 7:17; 8:32). Also, Christians have a duty to help their fellows find the way of life (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16).
We all have the tendency to excuse sins to which we are more susceptible. “Sure it’s wrong to get drunk, but a guy’s got a have fun sometimes and, if no one gets hurt, there’s not much harm, but that pornography is just evil.” “Yes, I do talk about my co-workers behind their backs, but at least I don’t use foul language or tell dirty jokes like they do.”
Jesus condemned our self-justifying double standards. “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye, but you do not notice the beam of wood in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of you eye,’ and there is a beam of wood right in your own eye? Hypocrite! First, take out the beam from your own eye and then you will be able to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
We should not underestimate the seriousness of excusing our sins while condemning the sins of others. Jesus calls it hypocrisy, and it could be argued that hypocrisy is one of the gravest sins according to our Lord. All 17 times the word “hypocrite” is used in the New Testament are quotations from Jesus, 13 of them in the Gospel of Matthew alone. Jesus levels the charge of religious hypocrisy 4 times in the Sermon on the Mount. In 6 of the 7 woes of Matthew 23 that Jesus pronounces against the scribes and Pharisees he calls them hypocrites. In Jesus’ parable of the two servants, he says that the master of the wicked servant “will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51).
Hypocrisy is certainly a sin that religious people are prone to. We would be wise to follow Paul’s advice. “If anyone thinks that he is standing, he better watch out or he might fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). Allow God to search our hearts for the sin of hypocrisy and enable us to stop excusing evils.
You might hear a political liberal make the following statements. “Well, of course, it is too bad that he was unfaithful to his wife, but he was a great civil rights advocate.” “Abortion is a tragedy, but we have to understand the difficult situation the woman was in and we mustn’t limit a woman’s choice.” “Yes, obscene language and gratuitous sex in the movies are regrettable, but censorship violates freedom of expression.”
On the other hand, a political conservative might say, “It is unfortunate that he has a negative attitude towards blacks, but he truly is a wonderful family man.” “Yes, war is not desirable, and it is too bad that innocent civilians get killed by our bombs, but we must promote democracy around the world and it is unpatriotic to criticize America.” “No doubt some bankers and brokers have abused the system, but look how much wealth the free market has created.”
What is happening is that there is agreement on the sin or evil, but one is seen as being not as significant as the other. One value, even norm, is played against another. There are several dangers in this cultural excusing of sin.
• It can be used as a means to excuse or cover up our own sins of racism or callousness to innocent human life.
• The dichotomies of values are the result of a certain ideological position that prioritizes evils and makes us comfortable in tolerating those evils, especially when we are part of a group that does the same.
• The ideological commitment causes us as individuals and as a group to be unable or unwilling to act against those evils that seem less important or even to oppose opposition to them because such opposition might threaten what we feel are more important goods.
• The ideology that controls a group can even lead to justifying evil actions in the name of acting for the good.
For Christians such ideological excusing of evil is unacceptable. The solution is to allow the Bible to smash our ideological idols and spur us on to repentance and holiness.