“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks [his native tongue], for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.””
If showing our love for God means obeying the commands of Christ, then what does it mean that we live in world of lies and of liars? Are there liars among us in our worship services, like Ananias and Saphira? Psychological studies done at major universities in the sixties, seventies and eighties prove conclusively that we prefer a lie to the truth, every time we hear it. In fact, our culture is built on lies and the best liars become the most successful among us. That’s a shocking statement to make, but, as usual, the truth is an unpleasant thing.
I can certainly testify to this axiom, as one who’s career was ruined by the truth. I forgot an important standard of business, that the man in charge does not want to hear bad news and the messenger will always be killed. A man I worked for on my way down advised me, “Truth is a quality that makes you unemployable.” I find that he is virtually correct. As painful as it may seem, however, the truth is better than a lie. I saw a poster recently that said, “Telling a truth that makes someone cry is better than telling a lie that makes them smile.”
Do you see how upside-down that statement feels to us? That upside-down feeling, in conjunction with the above scripture should make us all very uncomfortable, because Jesus is pointing out that we are condemned in two ways by our sinful nature. He points out that we are both liars, unable to speak the truth, and by our lying, we are unable to accept the truth when we hear it. This fact of our existence puts our entire species on a slippery slope to depravity. If you don’t believe that, you are walking through this world both blind and deaf.
In preparation for this blog, I looked into the psychology of lying, the work that is being done currently in that field of study and I found some very interesting articles in support of Jesus’ statements. Years ago I saw a videotaped university study in which several groups of five people each were brought together, one group at a time, all strangers to one another, given a difficult task to complete that required certain, specific knowledge which no member of the group had. Each team was told to choose a leader and organize themselves for the task, and invariably, the chosen leader was a person who lied about their qualifications. In effect, in each case, the best liar among them ended up in charge of the group.
More evidence that we prefer a lie came forward in the story of James Hogue, (aka – Alexi Santana, Jay Huntsman,) a man who lied his way into Princeton University, even though claiming to have no formal education. The registrar, however, was so enamored by the man’s lies, that he gave Alexi a free ride. In the end, unfortunately, Alexi turned out to be a felon and fugitive named James Hogue. He was arrested and his promising university hoax came to an end. There are many such stories out there, stories of how easily we are victimized by ruthless con-men who have learned to take advantage of our need to hear a lie. Movies have been made about such stories and, in a certain way, we find ourselves admiring these people.
In truth, I find that much of the business done in our nation is based on lies. We don’t like to hear that, or admit to it, but we all know the reality of it. Bought a car lately? Had some repairs done at your home? Paid for a product or service that turned out to not be what you were told it would? We have all experienced it. What’s sad about the lies is that it has become so prevalent that it is a part of the business model. Whole departments are dedicated to developing lies in order to rip off customers for the sake of profits. They’re called marketing departments and we have university degrees devoted to the art lying in order to deceive customers. I know this is harsh, but let me give you one example from among millions.
The paper products industry is notorious and, in sympathy to their plight, I recognize that competition for market share is brutal. (Of course, competition is not God’s way, but I digress, that’s for another blog.) In the quest for better market share, (really for more profits,) I can picture the marketing group gathered around the conference table, scratching their heads. Customers have suggested to them that they don’t always need a whole sheet of paper towel and it would be nice if there could be an option, so the marketeers decided they could add a perforation that would divide each towel in half. It wouldn’t cost much and the advertising advantage would increase market share enough to cover the cost, and add a little profit. So it was decided, so it was done. The customers were elated to the point that they didn’t notice the subtle increases in price that followed, nor did they notice the spacing of the perforations moving so that, eventually, they were paying more money for less product. Of course, that had been the plan all along and that is the purpose of having a marketing department.
There are literally millions of examples of the same scenario, but suffice it to say that the lie is king in our world. There is further proof. Have you ever noticed that bills presented before congress, or articles in the New York Times, or white papers meant to inform you, seem to bear titles that express quite the opposite of their intent? In my research I read an article entitled, “The Truth About Lying,” in which the author, a professional psychologist, opened with a blatant lie in which he deliberately misquoted Biblical scripture. Not that his normal audience would notice, It doesn’t get much worse than intentionally misquoting God, then accusing Him of telling a lie. It was all done, by the way, to rationalize our own bent toward lying. If you thought that Jesus was a bit harsh in naming Satan as the father of the Pharisees, who represent religion in a fallen world, then there can be no better proof than “The Truth About Lying.”
The song says, “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies,” and so it is for us, so it has always been in this world. You can escape the trap of lies, however, and their promise of death, by recognizing the truth of who we are and confessing in your heart that you stand in rebellion against God. If you wave the white flag of repentance and surrender yourself to Jesus Christ, God has promised to save you from certain death and to give you, instead, eternal life. You can be born again, and once you have done that, God will give you the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the lies that threaten to drown us all. As His disciples, we are called to the Truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” Eph. 4:25 says, “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
Our downfall as a species began in the Garden, with a lie that appealed to our flawed sense of self-awareness. Like psychologist Dan Ariely’s stunning lie in “The Truth About Lying,” Satan also accused God of being a liar, then promised Adam a better way. Faced with a choice between two trees, one scarred and bloodied, the other a lie of promising fruit Adam was drawn to the lie, and we have but followed in his footsteps. At first, the lie seems less harsh, an easier way to go, but that way leads to death. So, based on a lie, Adam rejected Life in exchange for flawed knowledge and we have been cursed by his choice ever since.