“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.” Otto Von Bismarck
“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” [Col 2:2-4]
When truth goes, power fills the void. When principle is discarded, men jockey for control. Where principle is discarded, polls, opinions, theories and feelings shape the culture. When we live in that kind of culture, we are vulnerable to deception. I think Bismarck had it right. The only thing I would change is to replace “hunt” with “fish.” I speak from personal experience. I can’t explain why we tell fish stories, but it is clear why we tell lies when at war and before elections. Deception allows us to be in control and enables us to get what we want.
In war, if we can fool our enemy, we have a decisive advantage. In WWII, thousands of soldiers lives were saved by an elaborate deception code-named “Fortitude South”. While the Allies planned to land in Normandy, they deceived the Germans into thinking that the main attack would come in the Pas-de-Calais and the Low Countries. The Allies created the illusion of a large invasion force being massed in Kent. Dummy tanks and aircraft were built of inflatable rubber and placed in realistic looking “camps”. Harbors were filled with fleets of mock landing craft. To German reconnaissance aircraft, it all looked real, even down to attempts at camouflage. The hoax was successful beyond the Allies wildest hopes. German forces were concentrated in the Pas-de-Calais. The deception continued during and after D-Day. The Germans thought the Normandy landings were a diversion, and kept back reserves of tanks and troops in the Calais area – to counter what they thought would be the “real” invasion. By the time they realized the ruse, it was too late. The beachhead at Normandy was established.
Not only is deception an important strategy in war, it is also an often used strategy in elections. We are eye witnesses to the most deceptive kind of campaigning our country has ever endured. Half-truth and just plain lies are being used without embarrassment or shame. Truth, sincerity, transparence and integrity are being sacrificed on the altar of personal ambition and passion for power. It is all about image, not about truth. Gone are the days when a candidate would confess: “I would rather be right than President.”
This, of course, could not happen if we, the electorate, were not so easily mislead. We want our ears tickled rather than our consciences pricked. Facts and exposes won’t affect us because we want what we want, not want what is right. Typically, we are blind to the tragedy of such thinking. The one who would win our votes by lies and deception cares not about our welfare. we are only a means to an their ends. In the end, it is the truth, hard and painful, that sets men free. It is the lie, soft and appealing, that enslaves the gullible. There is a very old saying which probably comes from the farmlands of Wisconsin. It goes like this: “Do not let a flattering woman coax and wheedle you and deceive you; she is after your barn.” When people lie and flatter you to get your support, don’t be deceived. They don’t care about you. They want your barn.
Paul was concerned with much more than barns. He was concerned about the faith. False teachers were invading the church, willing to grant Christ eminence but not preeminence. For them he was just one of the emanations from God, not our Supreme Joy. Using “fine-sounding arguments” these false teachers sought to deflect the church from passionately pursuing “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” found only in Jesus Christ.
You would think that the beauty of Christ and the clarity of the Word would be so convincing that false teachers wouldn’t have a chance. But we all have a huge problem. Jeremiah said it like this: “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.” And then he asks, “But what will you do in the end?” [Jer 5:31]
Our real problem is not with false teachers [Romans 16:18; Ephesians 5:6], but with a deceptive heart! We often deceive ourselves [James 1:22; 1 John 1:8]. What began with Eve’s failure [Genesis 3:3] is now woven into the fabric of our souls. We are now locked into a life and death struggle over what we will choose to rule our lives. Will we follow deceitful desires of the world or will we stand on the truth that is found in Jesus? [Ephesians 4:20-24]
Most of us probably feel that is not our problem. But, let me give you an illustration that might shake up your confidence. Jesus told his hearers that at the last day some would say to him, “Lord, “Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then, they will hear Jesus’ devastating words: “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!” [Matt 7:22-23] It sounds like they are charismatics. They operate in the realm of miracles and think themselves to be the elite in the kingdom of God when in fact they are unsaved and unknown to the Lord. Now, that is deception! Are you still so confident?
Here is what we face. We face a clever schemer and a master deceiver. [2 Cor. 2:11] He knows how to manipulate our deceitful desires. He can even change his appearance to look and sound like a messenger from God. He works where we would expect, in the black and grey areas, but he also sneaks into the realm of the white. In other words, he comes into the church, dressed as a follower of God, using Scripture, twisting it, promoting half-truths, in his attempt to confuse and neutralize the faith of believers.
Then, we face a more intimate enemy. Benjamin Franklin once expressed it like this: “Who has deceived thee so often as thyself?” The same Paul who wrote, “Let no one deceive you,” [Eph. 5:6] also warned “Do not deceive yourselves.” We continually think more highly of ourselves than we ought. [Romans 12:3] We say “I love Jesus with all my heart” and then disobey his commands. [John 14:15] We say, “I would go to Africa if I could.” No we wouldn’t. We won’t get off our duff to go a few miles to church on Sunday because its raining.
I know I am sounding harsh right now, but it is directed toward me as well as you. We simply must wake up to the danger of our times. We are living in the day that Paul described where, “evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. [2 Tim 3:13] We have to judge ourselves. [Matt. 7:1-5] We must examine ourselves to see whether we are truly in the faith. [2 Cor. 13:5] We can no longer play the part. We must heed the words of Paul: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
We tell silly lies about the size of our fish because we want attention. We feel good about ourselves because “we don’t smoke or chew and go with the girls that do,” while we harbor and cherish private sins like greed, lust, envy and bitterness. The enemy fools us into thinking we have stopped his invasion when in fact he is attacking full force at the other end of the channel. We remain in danger of being seduced by sweet-talking and good-looking con-artists.
So, how do we win this battle? First, we need to fill our minds with the unchanging, life-transforming truth that is only found in God’s Word. Walter Lippmann wrote in 1920: “There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.” Unless we devour God’s world we will be a casualty of evil and won’t even know it. Second, we must pray. It is only the Holy Spirit who can get God’s truth from our head to our heart. Only he can open our eyes [Psalm 119:18] so that we want Jesus more than sin. Third, we must ruthlessly and honestly judge every thought and word and act of our lives. We will never be perfect in this life, but we are commanded to strive for it. [Matthew 5:48]. Don’t be deceived. There is simply too much at stake, for us, our children and our nation.