Half-full or Half-empty

I was reading the story of Abraham whose attributes were pleasing to God. But there were also points in his life when he lied. He instructed his wife, Sarah, to claim that she was the sister of Abraham. Otherwise, people may have caught him, killed him, and got Sarah. He used this scheme twice.

Sarah, the wife of Abraham, also lied to their three visitors claiming that she did not laugh at the comments of the visitors regarding their announcement of her pregnancy.

It brings me back to a question that one friend asked, “Is there an instance when you will let a lie pass just like that?” At that time, I told my friend, “A lie is a lie and will always be a lie. So it does not matter whether it is white or black; it is a lie.”

My stand then was clearly black and white. Lying is bad; period.

But reading again on the story of Abraham made me rethink my stand. Was Abraham right in telling a lie? Why did he lie? Did God just let it pass?

If God wanted to just let it pass, then it would not have been mentioned in the Bible because God is omnipotent and He has ways. But the lies of Abraham and Sarah are written in the Bible.

So how then should we treat this issue on “lies?” Should there be black, white, and grey instead?

This morning I was talking to my siblings regarding an important family matter. It came to our attention that someone close to us went into some scheme of asserting his right over a real property. In effect, this someone that we shall call X was lying to the government by laying a claim on something that he does not own. He lied! That is black.

Then here is the grey part. What would have led Mr X to do what he did? Was it ignorance? Was it an innocent mistake? Was it premeditated grabbing? Was it out of poverty of spirit? Was it out of power? What could have led Mr X to do what he did?

That brings me to white. God saw what Abraham, the righteous one, did. Perhaps God must have experienced disappointment or sadness when Abraham did what he did: lying and made others believe that Sarah was his sister. This was half-truth and half lie. Sarah was indeed his half-sister on his father’s side.

And God let this pass. This did not diminish the respect and love that God had for Abraham and Sarah. God understood their difficulties. God understood their scheming ways in order to survive in that very challenging situation. God had a purpose for Abraham and Sarah. They had to survive the ordeals.

Abraham said to Sarah, “Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:13). At another time, Abraham said, “This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.'” (Genesis 20:13).

Half-truths are half-lies, too. But the intention and the reason are for a greater purpose. That makes it different. That deserves the kind of response that God showed us. He helped Abraham in the “half-truth/half-lie” scheme by revealing the truth to the Pharaoh and to Abimelech.

So I stand corrected in my conviction then. A lie that is an outright lie with the intention to deceive another by reason of greed is really bad. But a half-truth like what Abraham did may pass as the white lie in order to achieve something worth struggling for. Knowing is one thing. Ascertaining the reason is another. Responding by letting the other person know that what he just said is a “half-truth and a half-lie;” that is the purpose.