I was pondering whether a sin is still a sin even if it is done with good intention or if it is destined by God in that way.

There are instances where in order to avoid hurting others or have a soothing effect on others we say things which are contrary to what they are or what we feel.

So from the perspective major Christian denominations like Roman Catholics, Protestants and other Reformed Churches, are white lies justifiable in some instances?

  • possible duplicate of What is the essence of sin?
    – Double U
    Oct 27, 2013 at 18:03
  • This question sounds like: "Is it still a sin to cheat on a test, even if it will benefit the cheater in a way that the cheater will obtain a high grade without actually doing the work?"
    – Double U
    Oct 27, 2013 at 18:04
  • Is it a lie when your wife says does this dress make me look fat, and you say no even though you feel that it does? A sin is a sin no matter what the circumstance.
    – BYE
    Oct 27, 2013 at 20:02
  • @Cecil: If an assassin comes to your door looking for someone you are protecting, and asks if you've seen said person and you lie to save their life, is it still a sin?
    – Eclipse
    Oct 27, 2013 at 20:20
  • 2
    The above comments are why we avoid "Is x a sin" questions without an exact doctrinal perspective. You must ask what catholics, lutherans, or etc. think about this topic.
    – fгedsbend
    Oct 29, 2013 at 4:53

4 Answers 4


A sin is not expiated because of a "greater good". In respect of lying, a lie is to be condemned by its very nature as an offence against truth.

The Catholic Catechism has

2482 "A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving."280 The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: "You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."281

2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth. By injuring man's relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.

2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. the deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. the culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray.

2486 Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.

The paragraph omitted from that chunk is also specially relevant:

2484 The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.

A lie is a lie; it is a sin; in the Catholic Church it needs to be confessed. Whether it constitutes a grave sin is open to determination. In the case of diverting an assassin, it probably falls into the definition of a venial sinA by allowing charity to exist, even though it offends and wounds it.

280 St Augustine, De mendacio (On Sin) 4, 5
281 John 8:44
A CCC 1855

  • Since the title of the question was changed I have changed the word from "yes" to "No" in your answer, so as to synchronize it with question. Oct 29, 2013 at 8:15
  • @jayyeshu Thanks. But the question "So is sin still a sin even if it is for a good cause?" demands a different answer to "Can a lie ever be necessary?" In fact, they are two very different questions. Oct 29, 2013 at 8:25
  • @jayyeshu Perhaps the main title could be something like "Are white lies sinful?" (You can probably come up with something better than that) Oct 29, 2013 at 8:36

Your question makes me think about the story of Corrie ten Boom. She was one of many Christians who hid Jews from the Nazis. To do that, they had to lie almost constantly. Is lying a sin? Certainly. However, handing someone over to be murdered is also a sin. So then you have to ask yourself which is more important: keeping yourself from sin or saving someone's life. This is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he asked the Pharisees, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" (Luke 14:3) There are of course less extreme examples: stealing to feed your family or lying to surprise someone for their birthday.

The other question you have to ask yourself is what makes these sins special. After all, you probably committed at least 5 other sins for terrible reasons on the same day you committed the one sin for a good reason. Sin comes as naturally to humans as breathing. Romans 3:23 says that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". Now I'm not saying that all sins are equal, but that all sinners "are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:24)

TL;DR Even if you sin for a good reason, it's still sin. But, regardless of what sin we have committed, forgiveness is found at the cross of Jesus Christ.


I am starting this answer where @Andrew has stopped.

Consider the scenario in which your moral obligation to protect life is pitted against your moral obligation to tell the truth. Protecting life is the weightier moral imperative of the two, and thus lying to protect that life would be the right thing to do.

In truth no lie in deception is really good. For instance: You tell someone their hair looks good when it doesn't. Some day they will realize they look stupid and wonder why you said it was good. Or say a husband lying to his wife about their financial situation, if his purpose for doing so was good that is to prevent her from worrying. Note that there is a deception involved which when the truth is known, will hurt them.

On the other hand consider the following:
You are planning a surprise party for a family member. In order to keep it a secret, you have to lie about where you are going, what you have in the bag, what you spent your money on, etc. When the person for whom the party is being thrown learns that they were told untruths in order to keep the party a surprise, do they respond, “I can’t believe you lied to me!”? No, they do not think you have done anything wrong. Note that there is no deception involved here which can be hurtful later when the truth is known.

Those are the real life situations. Yet to know the right Christian perspective I did a long search and found this very useful information on the subject here at http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/is-lying-ever-right. It was very interesting and briefly I will try to summarise it:

St. Augustine in his treatise on lying (De Mendacio), cites the case of a holy bishop, Firmus of Thagasta, who wished to protect a man who had sought refuge with him. The bishop was so careful of the truth that, rather than lying to the imperial officers, he told them frankly that he would not reveal the man’s location. Firmus maintained this resolve even under torture and emperor was so impressed with the bishop’s virtue that he both praised the bishop and pardoned the fugitive.

Augustine tells this story to note that God is perfectly capable of extricating from trouble those who stand fast in the truth. In the monumental Summa Theologiae, Thomas states the same position: "Therefore it is not lawful to tell a lie in order to deliver another from any danger whatever. Nevertheless it is lawful to hide the truth prudently, by keeping it back, as Augustine says" (II:110:3).

Can a Lie Ever Be Necessary?

Lying is held to be prohibited by the Eighth Commandment, but that commandment literally condemns only the bearing of false witness (as in a legal proceeding), so lying and other verbal sins are included by extension, through moral reasoning. The importance of speaking the truth is thoroughly rooted in the natural law. For this reason, not only Christians but for most others, at the least, it is intrinsically immoral to speak falsely in a serious matter for an unworthy motive (such as to gain something to which one has no right, or to avoid a punishment that is justly due).

And yet the problem of the "necessary lie" presents itself immediately, a problem recognized and discussed by Christians, non-Christians, and even those of no religion at all. Since the mid-20th century, the same problem has been posed in terms of whether Christians hiding Jews in Nazi Germany could morally lie to those seeking to find and destroy them.

For convenience, consider a man with a house guest whom a group of thugs wants to murder. Because they don’t wish to create an outcry before they’re sure they’ve found their quarry (giving him time to escape, say from a neighboring house), they don’t force their way in to search. Instead, they knock on the door and simply ask whether their intended victim is within. So here is the dilemma: If you answer the door, and you don’t trust the thugs’ intentions, do you have to tell the truth?

Despite the strictures of both Augustine and Aquinas, the vast majority of well-formed Christians would answer this question in the negative. Under these circumstances, they believe it is perfectly permissible to deceive the thugs at the door and they have saints on their side as well. But even these well-formed Christians cannot explain why they may deceive the thugs, or at least they can’t explain it in a way which is universally accepted by sound moral theologians down through the ages, nor in a way that has (yet) been endorsed by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. In other words, most of us believe we can (and indeed should) lie under these circumstances, but we don’t know exactly why.

What Is a Lie?

Note that a solution to this conundrum could come in one of two forms. It may be that: (1) The immorality of lying admits of exceptions such that there is no objective evil, or at least no subjective evil (guilt), in lying to the thugs; or (2) a very careful definition of "lying" will show that speaking falsely to the thugs is not a lie at all.

Many have suggested that the immorality of lying admits of exceptions. These argue, for example, that one is not obligated to tell the truth to an enemy. Such exceptions may be permitted by the principle of double effect: Just as one can morally kill to defend someone’s life, so one can morally lie for a similar reason. The deception (or killing) is a secondary effect of a legitimate action. But with killing there is more at work than double effect. It is not moral to kill anyone whose existence threatens our own lives (consider the case of abortion to save the life of the mother, or cannibalism in a life raft). Rather, the one killed must somehow have the character of an unjust aggressor. Thus we commonly define murder as the taking of an "innocent" life (that is, the right to life has not been forfeited) and we distinguish murder sharply from mere killing. If the same is true of lying, the solution is not so much a matter of exception as of definition.

The difficulty of conceptualizing the perfect definition has caused many over the centuries to insist on the existence of the necessary lie. Such a lie arises from a conflict between justice and veracity when the exercise of both virtues is demanded by the selfsame moral situation. In other words, we are obliged to tell the truth, and we are also obliged to keep secrets, but there are times when the only way to keep a secret is to lie. Both keeping secrets and speaking truthfully are included under all standard expositions of the natural law and the eighth commandment. When our obligation to protect a secret conflicts with our obligation to tell the truth, the result is a necessary lie—necessary not because it helps us to avoid some potential pain but because it is the only way to preserve justice. We may—indeed, we must—deceive the thugs because it is the lesser of two evils.

Our Intentions

"A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving" (a citation from Augustine), and "To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error" (CCC 2482, 2483). Perhaps the very emphasis on the intention to deceive in this definition suggests another possible line of thought. For, when we speak falsely to our murderous thugs, we may at least question whether our intention is to deceive. Presumably, that intention—if it exists consciously at all—is very secondary. What we primarily intend is to prevent them from doing evil.

In very Simple Way i am answering..

Suppose some one is Living a good life, with good heart good intention in this world and died. If bible is the true Word of God, Sure he still under Sin.

Only the Blood of Jesus Can wash the Sins of any mankind, No one else can.

Sin& Curse come to our life through our for-fathers. So it is necessary to Clean the sin through jesus Blood.

Its possible only by Believing him that he is the Saviors ad he died for the Sin.

This is Why Bible tells the Word Born Again.if you r not born again no one enter the Kingdom of God

Thanks, i tried to give answe in very simple Way according my Knowledge

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