Liar! Liar!

By Mark Hamby

―Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!‖ This childhood taunt was targeted at me more times than I’d like
to remember. But truth be told, lying can do much more damage than this jeer suggests.
The tongue, though a tiny member, can cause great harm, just as a spark can set an entire
forest ablaze! A lying tongue, one of seven sins that the Lord hates, is an abomination to
Him! Why, then, do believers succumb to the practice of lying?

Lying is not a learned behavior. The Bible says that we come forth from the womb speaking
lies. Yet even some adult believers lie habitually, often to compensate for feelings of
insecurity or fear. Lying is a besetting sin that has tripped up God-fearing men throughout
the ages, including the following Biblical characters:

• Abraham lies to Pharaoh concerning Sarah’s true identity—insecurity.
• Moses lies after killing the Egyptian—fear.
• Jacob lies about his identity to his father—insecurity.
• David lies to the priest while fleeing from Saul—insecurity.
• Peter lies about his relationship with Jesus—insecurity and fear.

How does God respond when His children lie? He allows natural consequences to be their
teacher. Abraham’s lying results in embarrassment when Pharaoh rebukes him. Moses loses
the trust of the children of Israel. Jacob creates a rift between his father and brother. He is
exiled from his home and never sees his mother again (Genesis 25–32). David’s lying
results in the death of an entire family of priests (1 Samuel 21–22). Peter runs away in
shame at the loving glance of his Savior (Luke 22:61).

No one had to teach me how to lie. I was a born liar. Lying was a natural expression of my
inward nature that was dominated by insecurity, fear, and a lack of character. Even though
my mom would wash my mouth out with soap, it did not deter me from telling lies.

What are we to do when our children lie? First, gently talk to them. Remove all fear so they
can come clean. Listen without lashing out with judgment and scolding. In 1 John we learn
that fear has torment, but perfect love casts out fear. It is possible that some children lie
because the level of fear associated with speaking the truth is too great. The soap-in-mouth
method may deter this behavior, but it will not change the heart. In fact, a child may
burrow deeper, becoming even more deceitful, in order to avoid being caught. While
corporal punishment can be a valid Biblical method of discipline, it should not always be the
first option. In Psalm 103 we learn that God does not deal with us according to our sins but
is merciful, gracious, and slow to anger.

A wise parent understands that the natural consequences of lying can be powerful God-
given teachers. Lying often brings with it embarrassment, loss of trust, rifts in relationships,
unexpected calamity, and a sense of shame. Parents who respond with wisdom rather than
wrath and show compassion rather than shame are often met with a more receptive heart.
Righteous discipline seeks not to condemn, but to help and to heal. Children who lie
habitually need consistent, loving discipline along with the natural consequences of lying.

In conjunction with consistent, loving discipline and natural consequences, we have been
given an effective Biblical training program to help us overcome lying. The third chapter of
Colossians serves as a training ground that will enable us to overcome lying and other
besetting sins. This training program even comes with a list of practical applications and
testing procedures to follow:

Phase I—Change of Affection

Colossians 3:2: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

The Apostle Paul teaches that we are to redirect our interests. To cultivate new affections in
the heart of a child, an effective strategy is to surround him with Godly individuals whom he
admires and seeks to emulate. Continually expose him to characters who live virtuously in
the face of opposition and who choose to do right because it is right to do right. They make
virtue an attractive attribute.

While the easiest response to a lying child is to react with harshness and anger, a wise
parent will be proactive—that is, acting with positive initiatives rather than reacting to
negative behavior. According to Fenelon, ―. . . If you should have reduced them by authority
to observe all your rules, you would not have gained your end; every thing would become
restrained formality, and perhaps hypocrisy. Instead of instilling a love for virtue and
knowledge, you will on the contrary give them a general distaste and disgust for both and
lose the love of which you should alone seek to inspire them.‖

Phase II—Change in Practice

Colossians 3:8–15: “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy,
filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off
the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge
after the image of him that created him . . . . Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy
and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any:
even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which
is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye
are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

As we redirect our thoughts, we must take off the old and put on the new. In the Greek, it is
like removing a filthy shirt from your body and putting on a clean one. It is time to change!
Children will relate to this word picture. If the level of fear decreases and the level of
parental support and love increases, children will be more inclined to put on something new
and practice a new pattern of behavior. They will see this demonstrated by their parents
and other Godly role models who attract and inspire them. They will experience the natural
consequence of telling the truth: the reward of a clear conscience and a healthy sense of
self worth.

Phase III—Change of Input

Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and
admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in
your hearts to the Lord.”

A wise old missionary once told me that sin will keep us from the Word of God and the Word
of God will keep us from sin. George Mueller, a legendary man of faith, read through the

. F. Fenelon, The Education of a Child from the Wisdom of Fenelon, ed. Mark Hamby (Pennsylvania: Lamplighter Publishing, 2000) 47.
Scriptures four times each year from the ages of 71 to 92.
The great men and women of
faith, including Moody, Spurgeon, Luther, Calvin, Aylward, and Carmichael, were students of
the Word. They memorized and meditated upon the Word day and night (Joshua 1:8). They
tapped into the source of divine intervention and change, and they understood that change
could not occur solely by hope and prayer.

I would recommend starting in the book of Proverbs. Read a chapter in Proverbs to your
children upon rising. The knowledge of the Word will do its work—it will not return void.
Participating in Bible competitions is an excellent way to learn and grow in the Word.
Challenge your children to read through the Bible in ninety days. The Word of God is
innately powerful; those under its influence cannot help but to be changed.

Phase IV—Change in Person

Colossians 3:17: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord
Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

Children can easily visualize and practice that which God is teaching in this phase. Simply,
we need to speak and behave as if we are representing someone else. And we are! We are
speaking on behalf of Christ, who is, indeed, The Truth. As ambassadors or representatives
of Christ, we must ask ourselves the age-old question, What would Jesus do? or better yet,
What would Jesus say? This may take some reminding, especially if lying has become
habitual, but like any practice implemented over time, speaking truth will soon become
second nature. As believers, each of us is in the process of becoming a new person. With
confidence we can claim the promise of 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “old things are passed
away; behold all things are become new.”

Reward and Summary

Colossians 3:23–24 “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto
men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve
the Lord Christ.”

It is interesting that God mentions the reward last. Our motive for change should spring,
not from the anticipation of a reward, but from a thankful heart because of Christ’s love for
us. His gracious forgiveness should motivate us to obey Him. The greatest deterrent and
reward for speaking the truth is love. When children know that they are fully loved, fully
known, without any fear of rejection, they will be motivated to speak the truth. Most
importantly, they must know that love never fails.

Suggested Resources

If you are seeking role models who speak the truth in spite of their fear or characters who
suffer the natural consequences of lying, the following Lamplighter titles will be a powerful
influence in your children’s lives:

. George Mueller for the first four years after conversion at age 20 said, “I made no progress in my spiritual development. But when I regularly
read on through the whole Bible with reference to my own heart and soul, I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and
more; now I have been doing this for 47 years; I have now read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin
again. Thus my peace and joy have increased more and more.” He said this when he was 71. He lived 21 more years; A.T. Pearson, who wrote
his biography, said that Mueller by the time he was 92 had read the Bible from cover to cover, 200 times. Which means that from 71 to 92, he
was reading through the Bible four times each year!

Ages 7–12
Challenge at Runaway Brook by Elizabeth Phelps
Clean Your Boots, Sir? Anonymous
Helen’s Temper and Its Consequences by Mrs. George Gladstone
Teddy’s Button by Amy Le Feuvre
Throw Me Overboard Anonymous
Tom Watkins’ Mistake by Emma Leslie

Ages 12 and Up
The Basket of Flowers by Christoph von Schmid
The Boy of Mt. Rhigi by C. M. Sedgwick
The Crew of the Dolphin by Hesba Stretton
Falsely Accused in the High Sierras by Frederick Vining Fisher
The Hedge of Thorns by John Carrol
Ishmael by E.D.E.N. Southworth
Rising to the Top by Mary E. Ropes

The Education of a Child from the Wisdom of Fenelon by Francois Fenelon

Mark Hamby is the founder and president of Lamplighter Ministries, where he serves with a
dedicated staff to make Lamplighter Publishing, Lamplighter Theatre, Lamplighter
Guild, Lamplighter Life-Transforming Seminars, and Lamplighter Moments Daily
Radio Broadcast a reality. It is his mission to make ready a people prepared for the Lord by
building Christ-like character . . . one story at a time. You can read or listen to the most
recent Lamplighter production at

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in
the May 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine.
Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the
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