I received a phone call this afternoon from a concerned Brocker asking if I’d seen the discussion at Isaac Brock about whether it was ok to lie to the bank on the various self-certification forms. Specifically he asked my opinion about the ethics of lying. He said of course that the nuns at his parochial school said one should never lie, not even to save the world! But of course, as a theologian, the story of Rahab the Harlot came to my mind. She lied, and for that both Jews and Christians consider her a great heroine. Here is the main story of her boldfaced lie (Joshua 2.1-6; RSV):
1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went, and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, “Behold, certain men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring forth the men that have come to you, who entered your house; for they have come to search out all the land.” 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them; and she said, “True, men came to me, but I did not know where they came from; 5 and when the gate was to be closed, at dark, the men went out; where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” 6 But she had brought them up to the roof, and hid them with the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof.
Now the New Testament remembers Rahab in Matt 1.5, as a great-great-great-great etc. granny of King David and Jesus; and as a woman of faith in Hebrews 11:31: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given friendly welcome to the spies.” James 2.25 also says, “And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?”
So it would seem that the Bible, as one the great foundational texts of both law and ethics in the Western world, has no problem with lying under certain circumstances. She lied to save the lives of two men who would soon become her new compatriots. Moreover, she’d seen that God was with the Israelites and Joshua, and she thus knew her city, Jericho, was doomed. So to protect herself and her family she decided to relinquish her Jericho citizenship under INS 349 (a) (7)–and become a daughter of Israel. She exercised her universal human right to change nationalities.
Yes, the King of Jericho would have severely punished her if he had found out her lie. And the homelanders of Jericho would have considered her a liar, traitor and tax cheat. But they didn’t write the history of the battle. Rahab had to do what was best for her family, and for that both Old and New Testaments praise her.
Hard times create unconventional heros.
Whitekat. CRA gets a copy of all T3s,T4s, and T5s as well as many other slips. What you file is computer matched against what your employer,bank etc sends in. Any discrepancy triggers an enquiry. Most are cleared up. The bank or FI or whatever tells them what you earned but not what your balance was.
The IRS works the same way. They do not get copies of canadian slips. Only US ones.
@Duke, Thanks for the information. I did not realize that. It’s good that I have been honest then and reported all my income!
We all know FATCA demands account balances from the FIs. There is also sometimes a mention of transactions. Does anyone have any idea how detailed that aspect will be? That’s just so creepy to think the IRS might end up knowing not only how much but where you spent it. Am I projecting too far on this or does transactions mean something somewhat less benign like where you transferred it (like from Bank A to Bank B)?
MB. You’re projecting too far.
Amen. That is a very relevant passage. I have often pondered the account of Rahab and what to take from it. I had never really considered the Hebrew midwives and the deception they used to protect the male babies. I really appreciate the conclusion you have drawn, that the protection of our babies (regardless of how old they may be now) is the prime consideration and if that requires lying, then certainly we would be in good company if compelled to do so.
Besides the moral considerations (sorry @WhiteKat!) and potential legal considerations, the consequences of lying must also be considered. Credibility can be damaged if you are caught in a lie and in my job, credibility is essential. I am not sure how a judge would respond if I were to say, “It is true, Mr Defence Counsel, that I lied in the example(s) you have cited, but right now I am telling the truth about your client.” I would hope that the case did not hinge on my evidence!
@CanadianCop, I do not know what you are apologizing for. I’ve never thought that ONLY the morality of a lie should be considered when choosing whether to lie or not. Rather I’ve been debating whether or not there is such a thing as a ‘WHITE’ lie, where white = justified = moral, and have taken the stance that, indeed there is. Obviously one needs to consider all ramifications of a lie, WHITE or WRONG.
Yeah, thought so.
@CanadianCop …. glad to see you post … I had wondered what had happened to you.
Have been lurking for the most part – following developments here daily and supporting the ADCS, though not as much as I would like. There is such a wealth of knowledge/wisdom from all the regular posters here, I find I learn a lot more by listening than posting.
“Ok, now for a joke to brighten our day. […] Prepare yourself, it’s a bit dirty:”
OK, two years later it brightened my day. You’re right, it’s a bit dirty, so here, let me censor it for you:
What’s the difference between a harlot and the [beep]?
A harlot stops screwing you when you’re dead.