Many people in the world live by the truth and cherish it. But others have only a “loose affiliation” with the truth. They’re willing to tell half-truths, spin tall tales, and spout bald-faced lies, all to serve their ends. What does the Bible say about being deceived?
Clearly, none of us likes being on the receiving end of a lie, but what about half-truths? Is there any wiggle room when we’re tempted to squirm out of a situation by withholding part of the truth? Is a half-truth as bad as an outright lie?
What Words Does the Bible Use to Talk about Deception?
God uses strong language to talk about deception.
“No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.” (Psalm 101:7)
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
“For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Romans 16:18)
Those verses are representative of God’s full commitment to the full truth. Deceitfulness or deceit are great words to cover the full range of deceptive practices, which include (according to these verses) uttering lies, practicing deceit, lying tongues, bearing false witness, breathing out lies, and using smooth talk or flattery to deceive. This doesn’t comprehensively list how many ways a person can practice deceit. However, it captures many of the ways and shows us the spirit of the idea. Furthermore, people seeking precise language condemning their method of deceit, seeking loopholes, are already in trouble: they’re intent on deceit and looking for an excuse.
When my children were young, we would get into these discussions. My son would punch his sister’s arm, and I would say, “Don’t punch your sister.” Moments later, she’d be crying again. He might have pushed her, slapped her, pinched her, or nudged her and would use that as a defense. “You said, ‘don’t punch her,’ and I didn’t punch her.”
Fortunately, I wasn’t interested in playing games around language, and my children learned not to try to bait me into word games early on. They always lost. And so will we if we try to play word games with God instead of setting our hearts on always presenting truth in every way.
When Jesus debated some opponents in John 8, He said this about the relationship of lies to the devil:
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
From these four verses alone, it’s clear God hates deception and expects His people to live, speak, love, and think the truth. Deceivers who repent can and will find forgiveness in Jesus Christ, but God is a God of truth, so we must, as He told the woman at the well in John 4:24, “worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Does the Bible Talk about Half Truths?
My son had a serious karate injury to his ankle. The doctor told me it was a bad sprain, and I expressed relief that it wasn’t broken. That’s when he told me I might have preferred a clean break. At least then, we would know when it was healed, and it would be less likely to have future complications. With this soft-tissue sprain, he might be impaired for much longer.
That’s what I think when people talk about lies and half-lies. An outright lie can often be refuted, whereas a half-truth creates confusion and can be more difficult to spot and address.
Stories about Satan in the Bible demonstrate that one of his favorite tactics for temptation is the “half-truth.”
In Genesis 3, Satan approached Eve and first tried to get her to doubt what she had heard God say. Then, he contradicted God by saying they wouldn’t die from their disobedience but weaved it into the truth that their eyes would be open to the knowledge of good and evil.
This tactic is repeated in the lives of humans because it’s effective with us. We find it confusing when someone seems to be stating the truth but wanders into a lie and veers back to the truth. The disorientation, combined with our inclination to be at peace with others, makes this an effective snare. That’s when we need to remember that God hates all deception.
If I were to try to get you to drink motor oil, you’d outright refuse. But what if I made you soup and added some motor oil to the soup? I might confuse you momentarily. Once you tasted the motor oil, you’d refuse to take another sip, even though the concoction was still half soup.
In Matthew 4, Satan even quotes Scripture (Psalm 91) while tempting Jesus. Deceivers may know the Bible better than many Christians but use it for other purposes. Rather than promoting the truth as God intended, they confuse, divide, and ultimately harm their listeners.
James wrote in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” He’s urging his listeners to not only know and believe God’s Word but also to put it into practice.
Paul warned believers in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 about the evil that will increase in people “in the last days.” He warns that people will appear godly but deny the power of godliness. This is a form of half-truth.
No matter how it’s served, all deception is abhorrent to our God. So, it’s not a practice in which we should even dabble.
What Are Some Famous Bible Stories about Deception?
One story demonstrating how much God hates deception appears in Acts 5:1-11. The early church was just forming. Many followers of Jesus were selling everything they had and willingly donating the proceeds to the church. Believers shared all they had, not because the leaders compelled them to, but from sincere hearts.
Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold some land they owned but only gave a portion to the church. That would have been fine and well within his prerogative, except that Ananias lied and told the apostles he was giving the full amount. Immediately, he fell dead. People in the room dragged his body away and buried it.
Sometime later, Sapphira came looking for him. The apostles gave her an opportunity to tell the truth. Instead, she repeated her husband’s lie and met the same fate. News of these deaths spread throughout the early church, warning people not to lie to the Holy Spirit.
Famously, Rebekah conspired with her son, Jacob, to deceive Isaac and trick him into blessing Jacob over Esau. This led to Jacob needing to flee for his life. He fled to Rebekah’s family member, Laban, and fell in love with Laban’s daughter, Rachel. Laban then tricked Jacob into first marrying Rachel’s sister, Leah. Deception can create strongholds in relationships and families that weave generational webs and cause years of heartache affecting many (Genesis 27-31).
What Are the Consequences of Deception?
One consequence of deception is that Satan uses it to keep us from running to God.
First, he tempts us to sin with lies about how it won’t be so bad. Perhaps he suggests we deserve a “little sin” or “no one will find out.” Then, when we sin, he accuses us of our failure and tells us that God will never forgive us. All of that is lies.
Sin is serious business. It cost Jesus His life. But Jesus is always willing to forgive us. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Satan is the “father of lies,” according to Jesus. In John 10, Jesus said He came to bring abundant life, but Satan only desires to kill, steal, and destroy. That is the consequence of deception. It kills the truth that leads to Christ. It steals joy, dignity, and respect. It destroys relationships, reputations, and lives.
How Do We Deal With Deception in Our Own Lives?
Jesus forgives our sins. When we commit to Jesus, we renounce sin and Satan. That means giving up lies, deceptive practices, falsehoods, and half-truths. In a world full of deception, it can be tempting to believe that’s the only way to God, but God always provides a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). That’s not to say we’ll be able to escape the consequences of deceptions we’ve perpetrated, but He will provide a way to help us resist the temptation to deceive.
God is truth. We are to live in the light of His truth, even when the truth we face is hard. We need Jesus so we can live honest lives, free of deceit. Fortunately, He can free us to do this.
And so our lives must be full of grace and truth. If we fill them with grace and truth, we won’t have room for deception and lies. And that’s the truth.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Love portrait and love the world
Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a blogger, speaker, coach, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books including Running from a Crazy Man and The Art of Hard Conversations. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.
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