People sometimes speak of the lies of commission and the lies of omission. The lies of commission are those lies that are proactively done. These types of lies are all too well understood. Did you take the cookie from the cookie jar? The lie is when you respond, “no,” when in fact, you did. Often these types of lies can be found out easily when after investigation, you were the only one in the kitchen.
The lies of omission are a little more clever but can be equally damaging. Some may argue even more sinister than the lies of commission. Who took the cookie from the cookie jar? One knows full well the person is seeking truth. The liar of omission will either say nothing or respond, “I don’t recall,” knowing full well they did. Both types of lies are proactively done. One twists the truth to create a (usually more favorable) version of something that happened. At the same time, it may be hard to identify whether the person is lying or not. – easier to justify one’s response.
It should be noted that lies of omission do require the knowledge that you are omitting information intentionally to effect a positive change for oneself. Accidently leaving off information or presenting a balanced positive view of something may be understanding.
Remember this lie of omission from a past US President, Bill Clinton?
Clinton famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Clinton understood the context of the question but cleverly avoided the correct answer by leaving out relevant details. He went on to also famously lie with the response of, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Seriously?
But lies of omission tend to be the mainstay of politicians – outright lies can be more easily fact-checked, though more recently, even this is problematic. Consider these recent political lies of omission in our recent political discourse.
- President Joe Biden continues to promote his endless stimulus packages to what he says is to help people. What Biden fails to tell the American people is the danger of this economic inflation – see here and here.
- There is no evidence of election integrity, despite all the evidence that is compiled.
- China lies people die – knowingly infected the world, and even to this date, China still won’t participate in getting to the truth. China remains silent.
Note that these lies of omission are far more problematic in terms of severity than just a politician being caught a single lie of something they may have said or done.
One probably does not need any Biblical examples to know that the lies of omission are not moral, but for the record, here are a few examples for those who do:
- James 4:17 is often used as a key verse regarding sins of omission: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” This overarching theme provides the basis for the concept of a sin of omission.
- In Luke 10:30-37, Jesus gives a clear example of a sin of omission in the account of the Good Samaritan. Two different men came upon an injured man who had been robbed and was laying alongside the road. Both men passed by without helping. A third man stopped and helped, proving himself as the one who did the right thing. The two men who did not help could be considered as those committing a sin of omission.
- Matthew 25 offers another example regarding the sin of omission. Verses 44-45 note, “Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'” Here Jesus clearly indicates that our lack of action can be considered sinful.
- First John 3:17-18 offers yet another example: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” John commanded those who follow Jesus to live in ways that show this love to others.
A lie of omission is sometimes considered more serious than a lie of commission. At least with an outright lie, you have the ability to access the validity of the lie. The lie of commission tends to be isolated to a specific act. A lie of omission tends to trap a whole class of people that can fall into its travesty – truth masquerading as falsehoods. Perhaps, in the end, both can be considered to be equally problematic.
Please comment below on which you think is worse – in terms of the lies of commission and omission.
See more in this series of Sunday Thoughts – click here.