We live in a world where people think they can define their own “truth.” At times, we might be tempted to try to “help” God by shading things in his favor. But defending God with lies is never a good idea – and it’s never necessary!
Job, chapters 13-14; Acts, chapters 17-18
Job 13:1-12 (NLT):
“Look, I have seen all this with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears, and now I understand. I know as much as you do. You are no better than I am. As for me, I would speak directly to the Almighty. I want to argue my case with God himself. As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless quacks! If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do. Listen to my charge; pay attention to my arguments.
Are you defending God with lies? Do you make dishonest arguments for his sake? Will you slant your testimony in his favor? Will you argue God’s case for him? What will happen when he finds out what you are doing? Can you fool him as easily as you fool people? No, you will be in trouble with him if you secretly slant your testimony in his favor. Doesn’t his majesty terrify you? Doesn’t your fear of him overwhelm you. Your platitudes are as valuable as ashes. Your defense is as fragile as a clay pot.”
Job has explained to his friends that he has not sinned and has no idea why these disasters have come upon him. His friends argue that he must have sinned, because God doesn’t punish the innocent. Now, Job says that he wants to speak directly to the Almighty…argue my case with God himself.
Of course, both Job and his friends are mistaken. Job believes that God has caused these disasters; chapters 1 and 2 reveal that in fact Satan is responsible for them. Job’s friends also believe that God has caused them. But they error goes further in that they believe that Job’s circumstances are a punishment for wrongdoing. They are wrong, because chapter 1 also tells us that God said that Job was “blameless – a man of complete integrity” (Job 1:8; also 2:3).
So both Job and his friends were wrong! They argued with each other about things that none of them understood. That’s not surprising; we often argue with each other about things that we don’t understand. And even though Job was right that he had not sinned, he was still wrong. That’s also not surprising; how could we think that we know everything about the Almighty?
Defending God with Lies
In verse 7, Job begins asking his friends a series of questions. The first question caught my attention: Are you defending God with lies? Of course, they were – but they didn’t know that they were lies. They really believed that Job was being punished. Because they knew that God is good, they thought that God would only punish Job if he had done something wrong. So their intentions were good; they were right that God is good; but they were wrong about the rest of it.
Spoiler alert: at the end of the story, God tells them that they were wrong – and blasts them for it (see Job 42:7-8). Job has accurately assessed that they were defending God with lies. And the context of Job’s story makes it clear that defending God with lies is wrong.
Application: Defending God with Lies
Defending God with lies is still wrong. Look again at the questions Job asks them:
- Are you defending God with lies?
- Do you make your dishonest arguments for his sake?
- Will you slant your testimony in his favor?
- Will you argue God’s case for him?
- What will happen when he finds out what you are doing?
- Can you fool him as easily as you fool people?
As I read those questions, unfortunately I can think of examples where people have done all of these things.
God does not need us, nor want us, to defend him with lies. The end does not justify the means. God has set forth the truth in his Word. He has given us the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of truth – to lead us into the truth (John 16:13). As Jesus said, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
If we’re tempted to try to “slant” or “color” things in God’s favor, we need to remember a couple of Job’s other questions: “Doesn’t his majesty terrify you? Doesn’t your fear of him overwhelm you?” If we’re trying to defend God with lies, his majesty should terrify us – because we’re acting contrary to his character!
Father, Jesus told he that he is the Truth (John 14:6). He came to reveal you to us (John 1:18). Jesus also prayed that you would make us holy by your truth (John 17:17). Thank you for reminding us that you do not need us to defend you with lies! In fact, Jesus told us not to worry about what to say, because the Spirit would give us the right words (Mark 13:11).
Lead us in your way today, that we might truthfully tell others about you. Help us to speak and to live in ways that reflect you. Amen.