Deception is an erroneous, but commonly employed coping mechanism. Abraham Lincoln was faced with a thorny question that could have easily been solved by just a bit of deceptive language. Instead, he asked his interrogator, “If we called a calf’s tail a leg, how many legs would the calf have?” His questioner confidently replied, “Five of course!” “No” Replied Lincoln. “Calling a calf’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
Not only is deception erroneous, but it is unprofitable…especially in the long term. A lady had baked her family’s favourite cake and they had eaten half of it. Later, all alone, she sat down and ate one slice…then another and another, until she had consumed the entire cake! She was concerned about what her husband and children might think and did not know what to do. Her solution was to bake an identical cake and to eat half of it so no one would know (except for her, God and the bathroom scales).
We live in a world in which lies and deceit are abundant and come from numerous sources and all directions. Small wonder that the Bible addresses deception repeatedly and seriously. The prophet Jeremiah, minced no words, saying that deceitfulness is a core problem for humanity. He wrote, “The human heart is more deceitful than anything else…” (Jeremiah 17:9).
An increasingly prevalent deception in our culture is denying that we are sinners. Yet the Scriptures state that “all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23). The apostle John addressed this matter saying, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves…” (1 John, 1:8). The denial of personal moral weakness – sin…places us in a position where we have denied that there is a disease; therefore there is no need for cure or care. In biblical teaching, recognizing our need and acting upon it brings deliverance, not despair.
Another form of deception involves disobedience. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James, 1:22). It is a good thing to believe the Bible and to read the Bible, but anything short of personally complying with and practically applying its truth, results in self-deception.
The Bible also reminds us not to be deceived about cause and effect. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived…for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” While I believe that salvation and ultimately entrance into heaven is based upon Christ’s finished work, we would be deceiving ourselves if we think we can seed wild oats and harvest #1 wheat.
“All deception in the course of life is indeed nothing else but a lie reduced to practice, and falsehood passing from words into events.” Robert Southey