Complete the following sentence:
It’s OK to lie to your children when _____________________.
Seems every Christmas I find myself involved in discussions about whether or not Christian parents should perpetuate the “traditional” myths of Santa, reindeer and magical sleighs. This Christmas has been no different, as some parents have just informed me that they do tell their children that Santa is real, drops down the chimney with gifts, and so on. Others have come asking whether they should do this or not, and some have merely wanted my thoughts as a pastor.
Well, let me just say I do not think it matters much what you and I think on the subject. God has spoken.
“You shall not bear a false report” (Exodus 23:1).
“You shall not . . . deal falsely, nor lie to one another” (Leviticus 19:11).
“Six things the Lord hates . . . a lying tongue” (Proverbs 6:16-17).
“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Colossians 3:9).
Friends, it is not my intent to inflame parents at this time of year, but the truth is the truth. My own Dad set an amazing example for me in this regard. He never told me or my siblings anything other than the truth about things like Santa (we knew the presents came from real people), Easter bunnies, mythical fairies, etc. His logic was impeccable. He told us that he wanted us to know he was a man of truth and that we could trust him. If he lied to us for years about Santa, then what reason would we have to believe him when he told of Jesus? After all, we could “see” Santa in the shopping malls, but we could never “see” Jesus. A child will be inclined to think of the one “not seen” as mythical. I am afraid these issues are far more weighty than we like to let on.
So, is it ever OK to lie to our children, or anyone else for that matter? God’s answer is an emphatic “no.” There are no “little white lies.” There are no lies that are OK because they make for fun childhood fantasies. It’s one thing to teach these things to our children as myths. It’s another thing altogether to make them believe these myths are actually real or true. That, plain and simple, is bearing “false witness.” It is lying. It is sin.
So, what is the way out for Christian parents still foisting these myths on their children? I offer these simple observations and recommendations:
- Confess and Repent before God for lying.
- If you have no conviction whatsoever about telling these lies to your children, closely examine what you are calling salvation (Revelation 21:8).
- Confess and repent before your children. Come clean with them and show them what it means to truly have a heart that desires to please God in all things. Tell them you want to be a person of truth and that going forward, you will seek grace to speak truth to them.
- If they cannot learn to trust your word, Dad and Mom, then it will prove difficult for them to learn to trust anyone, including God. “Be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1). Again, express how God has changed your heart and convinced you not to ever lie to your children again. Begin to rebuild their trust.
- Use the moment to teach them about truth and trustworthiness. Teach them there are no “innocent” lies. Teach them the source of lying (Satan, per John 8:44). Teach them that their sinful hearts are inclined to lie, and that their only hope is to beg Jesus to give them new hearts that delight in obeying God.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I think the true meaning of Christmas is enough for our children, yes, more than enough! Why do we feel the need to prop up Christmas with mythical fantasies and lies? Why not urge your children this year to make sure they give away more than they receive? Why not have them sell some old stuff or new stuff and give the money to a missionary or missions offering? Why not have them clean out their closets and give the clothes to a needy family? Why not take them caroling to neighbors who need to hear the good news of Jesus? Our children are already inclined towards selfishness, so we should be extra careful not to feed that beast at Christmastime!
Oh, to see a child’s Christmas “wish list” filled with desires to see others blessed. Oh, to have Christ truly become the center of Christmas again, and I mean in Christian homes! Oh God help us turn our children upward to behold the majesty of the crucified and risen Jesus. Oh God help us turn our children outward to a world that is so blinded by sin that they do not yet even know they desperately need this Jesus. Oh God help us.