“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden”?’” – Genesis 3:1
Deception entered the world early … in the very paradise of the Garden. As the precursor to sin and to the Fall of humankind, it would do us well to study deception.
So where does deception begin? As in the Garden, deception often begins outside of yourself. It is certainly possible to be entirely self-deceived, but usually we have some help. That is, we’re going along with our lives, and someone or something influences us to believe a lie.
Consider these examples:
* A single woman goes out with a man who convinces her, against her prior convictions, to have sex with him.
* A young Christian listens to a radio preacher who teaches that the “Church age” is at an end, and as a result he leaves the church where he was growing in the faith.
* A girl grows up under a Communist regime and learns to hate and distrust those who follow a different ideology.
* A widow who is struggling with the loss of her husband seeks the aid of a psychic to contact the dead.
* A teenager reads the works of thirteenth-century heretics and decides to follow their teachings.
From the above, we can see that the outside influence can be an individual whom you personally know, like a family member or friend; or someone you have never met, such as a radio or television personality. Even people who are long-since deceased can lead people into deception through the legacy of their written works, ideas, followers, or institutions.
The Bible has a great deal to say about how we can be deceived by others
* In Jeremiah 9:5, we read, “Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth.”
* Jesus warned in Matthew 24:11, “Many false prophets will appear and deceive many.”
* In Romans 16:8, Paul writes, “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.”
We usually think of our enemies trying to deceive us. Deceivers are “the bad guys.” And certainly, our enemies – like Satan himself, the “father of lies” – will try to deceive us. But from the above verses, we see that friends can deceive us as well. Religious leaders can deceive us. People within the church can deceive us. For that reason, we need to pay careful attention to everything we see and hear. I Thessalonians 5:21-22 commands us, “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” Only by being on the alert and practicing discernment in every area of life can we avoid the subtle trap of deception.