A Little White Lie Turns Black


And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’, and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.” (Genesis 12:11-13)

A Little White Lie Turns Black

Abraham was one of the great men of faith in the Biblical story but like all men, he was challenged by the frailty of doubt. The Lord had promised Abraham that he would be a great nation and through his seed, the world would be blessed. This promise included a land grant that would be the dwelling place of his people. At the age of seventy-five, these promises seemed impossible yet through faith he saw them afar off and embraced them. God told Abraham to leave his family and go to a place that He would show him. Abraham obeyed. When a grievous famine came upon the land, Abraham took his family to Egypt. There was a ten year age difference between Abraham and Sarah but Sarah remained a woman of great beauty. When they arrived in Egypt, Abraham became concerned that someone would see how beautiful his wife was and kill him to take Sarah. His plan was for Sarah to tell everyone she was his sister which was a half-truth as Sarah was his half-sister.

Telling a white lie is no different than telling a lie. No matter the justification of telling a half-truth, lying remains a sin. Abraham tried to justify his actions by failing to tell the whole truth because he feared for his life. There was no reason he had anything to fear. First and foremost, his faith in the protection of God was lacking. Secondly, the Lord has promised him a son through whom a great nation would come and the world would be blessed. He and Sarah had no son and the promise of God would assure Abraham that nothing would happen to him. He feared Pharaoh more than he trusted God.

The real problem with a white lie is that it turns black with the foreboding consequences of sin. God plagued Pharaoh because of the lie of Abraham and Sarah. The character of Abraham was tarnished in the eyes of the ruler of Egypt because of his deceit. If Abraham would have thought the whole matter through, he would have realized he was committing great wickedness before God and that no matter how he tried; his plan was doomed to fail. In a short time, the plan of Abraham fell apart and he had to leave Egypt. His little white lie changed a lot of lives.

Truth has a pure character that men would do well to follow. If Abraham had told the truth, in the beginning, none of the harm would have come upon the house of Pharaoh and the good name of Abraham would not have been tarnished in the eyes of others. Telling a half-truth is no more than telling a whole lie. Trying to justify actions by lying remains a sin. The lesson we teach our children is to always tell the truth and yet they often see their parents fudge the truth and try to explain things away. A white lie is nothing more than a black lie with paint.

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4 Responses to A Little White Lie Turns Black

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sarah was the sister of Abraham –
    “And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.“” Genesis 20:12
    Would God use a liar and a faithless coward to supplicate him to heal Abimelech who had acted in innocence?
    Apparently God didn’t see him that way as he fulfilled his covenant with Abraham, and he is recounted in the line of “faithful witnesses” in Hebrews chapter 11.
    I think more research will yield a good answer.


    • heatonkent says:

      Thanks for the note, Chris. However, reading the passage you quoted in Genesis 20:12 it says that Sarah is the daughter of Terah but she did not have the same mother as Abraham; which makes her his half-sister. Secondly, you asked if God would use a liar and a faithless coward to supplicate him to heal Abimelech. More research on your part will yield that Abraham never lied to Abimelech; that was his son Isaac who did the same thing his father did with the exception that Rebekah was not a sister nor half-sister – see Genesis 26:6-11. Abraham lied to Pharaoh (Genesis 12:10-20).

      You also make a point in both of your responses that you do not believe God would use a faithless coward to make a great nation that would produce the Messiah. Abraham was not perfect and his faith was challenged when he was in Egypt. This did not deny the will of God to be accomplished through his seed. Later, Abraham and Sarah would decide that Hagar would be the mother of the promised son but that was not the will of God either. Did this disqualify Abraham and if so why would God choose Abraham and Sarah to bear the promised son if they tried to change his plan? See Genesis 16. Why would God choose David – described as a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) who committed adultery, deceit and murder? (2 Samuel 11-12) Finally, examine the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17. The lineage of Jesus Christ, Son of God – included Abraham (who we just talked about), Isaac (who lied like his father), Judah (had a child by his daughter-in-law), Rahab (harlot of Jericho), Ruth (a Moabite) and Manasseh (sacrificed his children; 2 Chronicles 33:6) to name a few. Samson is also listed in the faithful witnesses of Hebrews 12. All of this shows the grace and mercy of God for men – like Abraham – whose faith was challenged but overcame.

      Again thank you for the note and I hope this helps clarify what the Bible says.


      • Chris Johnson says:

        Good afternoon. I had a chance to read over your reply and some chapters of the Bible as well. We can agree certainly agree that God’s mercy & forgiveness is great and that he DOES use fallible humans (although he also expects us to learn from our mistakes- David didn’t commit his same sins, nor did Rahab, Manasseh).
        In reading through the chapters of Genesis which involve Abraham, I found the section where it says that Abraham also told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister. Chapter 20-
        “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister. And Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.. Genesis 20:2

        And moreover she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife:” Genesis 20:12

        Isaac didn’t come along until several chapters later when there was a dispute over a well.

        As for the term “sister” – the Bible calls the other children of Mary, Jesus’s ‘brothers & sisters‘, but they certainly had a different father. And I believe it also says that Joseph’s ’brothers’ sold him to some traveling merchants, but there were 3 or 4 mothers involved there. I don’t think it fair to call this use of “sister” a lie.
        * The double comment was because my phone screen winked & I thought the first one was lost, so I replied again. 😊


  2. Chris Johnson says:

    And yet, she WAS his sister. Genesis 20:12-
    They were both born to Terah, by different mothers.
    Would God have used a faithless coward to make into a great nation which would produce the Messiah?
    God did not see him this way or he would not have made a covenant with him, and he wouldn’t be listed as one of the faithful witnesses in Hebrews 12.


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