In Alma 12, Alma calls out the lawyer Zeezrom for having lied to the Nephite people in Ammonihah. He goes on to say, “Thou hast not lied to men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit” (Alma 12:3). Zeezrom is totally flustered that Alma and Amulek seem to know his thoughts, and the tone of the conversation changes, giving Alma the opportunity to speak about the mysteries of God and the plan of redemption.
In the above passage, Alma tells Zeezrom he lied to God. Is it actually possible to lie to God? After all, it’s pretty tough to put one over on someone who is everywhere, sees everything you do, and even knows your very thoughts.
Think of things that people typically lie about. I wasn’t there. I didn’t do that. I didn’t say that. Maybe we can get away with saying these things to someone who wasn’t there or to someone whose memory can be called into question, but can we really convince God that a lie is true?
Even misrepresenting our intentions doesn’t work with God since He knows our thoughts. Yet, how often do we find ourselves trying to convince God that we meant to do the right thing in a certain situation? I didn’t intend for that person to get hurt, but he misunderstood what I meant. I was going to go to church today, but I got busy (was too tired, didn’t feel that great, etc.) It’s all fine and well if the statements are true, but if not, are we fooling God?
So, although it is technically possible to lie to God, we can’t do it effectively because He isn’t fooled by lies. And we know that. So why would anyone even try to do it?
The truth is that when we say things to God that are not entirely accurate, whether they be exaggerations, favorable spins, wishful thinking, or any other category of mistruth, we’re not trying to convince God — we’re trying to convince ourselves. Admitting to God that we were wrong means we have to admit it to ourselves. Not only is that difficult to do at times, but it may also require some additional action, such as repentance, perhaps some type of remediation or apology, as well as some type of promise — to God, to ourselves — that we will do better the next time.
Understanding this distinction allows for a clearer understanding of this verse:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Confessing our sins to God is not for the purpose of informing Him of what we did or didn’t do. He already knows full well what happened. The purpose is to admit our sins to ourselves — in God’s presence — and then repent of those sins and have a determination to do better going forward. At that point, God is there to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from our unrighteousness such that we are again made perfect in His sight, even as we were at the time of our baptism.
So, if we want to increase our level of righteousness, how shall we handle it? Should we lie to God about how righteous we are? Or should we admit to Him — and therefore to ourselves — where we are and allow Him to help us climb to a higher level of righteousness? Hopefully, the choice is easy.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.