Is it a lie to tell a government hostile to Christianity some but not all of your reasons for entering their country?

An increasing number of missionaries use legitimate secular employment to gain access to restricted access countries. Some Christians may wonder if it’s a lie to include only their secular employment in official paperwork, even though their primary motivation for going to the country is to share the gospel.

We believe that it’s morally legitimate—it’s not lying—to list only one’s secular employment. Here are three reasons:

  1. Honesty does not generally require us to explain everything we could say about our intentions every time we speak. As Proverbs says, “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly” (Prov. 12:23).
  2. Every Christian should primarily be motivated by the desire to advance God’s kingdom in everything they do (1 Cor. 10:31; Matt. 6:34), but that doesn’t mean we need to announce this fact every time we do anything.
  3. In 1 Samuel 16:2, it appears that God himself sanctions using one goal in order to conceal and accomplish another goal. Samuel is afraid to travel to Bethlehem in order to anoint David as king, lest Saul see Samuel and become enraged. God therefore tells Samuel to take a heifer with him and to tell Saul that he is going up to sacrifice. Apparently, God thought it was legitimate for Samuel to publicly state a secondary goal of his trip in order to conceal and accomplish the primary goal.