Question: "Is it a sin to check "Yes, I have read and agree to the terms and conditions" when you haven't actually read them?"
Answer: On the surface, checking “yes” when we haven’t read the terms of an agreement appears to be lying, which the Bible expressly forbids (Leviticus 19:11; Proverbs 12:22; Acts 5:1–11; Colossians 3:9; 1 Timothy 1:9–11; Revelation 21:8). Some Old Testament laws, such as keeping the Sabbath, had exceptions (Matthew 12:11; Exodus 22:2), but Scripture never presents an instance of lying being called acceptable. Most importantly, God never lies (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). Therefore, we should not lie, either (Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16).
James reminds us, “It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (James 4:17, NLT). If we do not know whether something is a sin, it is our business to search God’s Word and try to understand His heart. Even our willingness to learn the answer to this question demonstrates our reverence for God’s holiness and our heart’s desire to please Him by doing His will (Psalm 40:8).
We can reasonably narrow down our question to this: Is it a lie to check “yes” when we haven’t read the terms, even if we have every intention of abiding by the conditions of the agreement? Because, when we say “yes,” that is essentially what we are doing—consenting to accept the contract provisions or the website’s policies. If tasked with reading every word, most of us would not understand much of the legalese, anyway. Instead, we check the box, agree to abide by the terms and policies, and move on. In this case, it seems we are giving an honest answer—we intend to follow the terms—thus, we are not guilty of the sin of lying.
The Greek verb translated as “lie” or “to tell lies” in the New Testament is pseudomai, which means “to tell an untruth; pretend with intent to deceive” and “to deceive by deluding.” Ananias and Sapphira told a lie, deliberately setting out to deceive the apostles (Acts 5:1–11). They were guilty of the sin of lying and paid the ultimate price. When we check “yes” or “I agree,” are we intentionally deceiving or misleading a company to believe that we have thoroughly read their terms and conditions? No, probably not.
Too often, as Christians, we fall into the trap of legalism. We become excessively concerned with the minute details of the law while neglecting the underlying concerns. We focus on the letter of the law, not the spirit of it. Sometimes we do this to avoid responsibility; other times, we burden ourselves with unneeded strictures.
The apostle Paul teaches believers to focus on developing a living relationship with Jesus Christ rather than following a system of rules and regulations (Colossians 2:20–23; Galatians 5:1). Legalism is dead religion that appears to be righteous and spiritual, but ultimately misses the mark: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Legalism is too concerned with external performance, while a Spirit-led walk with Jesus brings about actual, internal, sanctifying change.
In most cases, selecting “Yes, I agree” or “Yes, I have read the terms and conditions” is not a lie and, therefore, not a sin. But, in good conscience before the Lord, we must also be diligent and do our best to understand our responsibility. When we check a box, we have essentially signed our name to a contract. If we don’t read the fine print, we can’t know what we have agreed to or the full extent of our commitment. For that reason, in cases when we are uncertain, it might be wise to go ahead and read the fine print. If we are careless, lazy, apathetic, or irresponsible, then maybe we are, in point of fact, sinning by checking the box. We should do everything we can to understand our responsibility and consider the consequences before we hit “agree.” And then we must uphold our commitment to the terms, letting our “yes be yes” (James 5:12).