SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Patronizing Deceit
Wednesday, November 27, 2013 12:00 AM
"Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God has made. "Really?" he asked the woman. "Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?" "Of course we may eat it" the woman told him. "It's only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die." "You won't die!" the serpent hissed. "God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil." The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it too."" (Genesis 3:1-6)
What's the harm in a little lie? Well, isn't it interesting how the Bible doesn't wait very long at all to answer that question? The harm is immense and the damage devastating. In fact, apart from the intervention of God Himself, the disastrous ruin of untruthfulness is irreparable. I think of Old Mr. Honesty whom Christiana encountered along her journey to the Celestial City. As we're told, he was from the town of Stupidity which was situated just a mere ten miles from the City of Destruction. Christiana was surprised to find even one genuine pilgrim from that place and asked him about it. Mr. Honesty told her of how his city was "on the far side of the mountain from the sun and, therefore, colder and less responsive to light." He told her, "Many of our citizens are like a man frozen in a mountain of ice. But even there, when the Sun of Righteousness shines on you, as He did on me, you thaw out and move out for God." Oh if more of us - more within our culture - would come to have Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, shine on them in this thawing manner!
I first came upon the term - "patronizing deceit" - in the writings of Lewis Smedes, a Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary. He was discussing the destructive effects of lying and wrote: "lies rob a person of his very touch with reality. . . A person who lives with falsehood is living in an unreal world" and to make matters worse, he forces others to live there too. The Scriptures make it plain that Satan is practiced in deceit. He is identified as the "father of lies", and here in these verses we see him practicing his craft. Having long before fallen prey to his own lies (to himself) he now knows no shame when it comes to inflicting his own brand of delusion upon others. And to the degree that we succumb to his deceptions, Smedes suggests, we demean ourselves and the others to whom we perpetrate falsehood, all becoming infinitely less and intrinsically smaller than God intended that we should be.
I was reminded of this recently by reading an article entitled, "Alabaster Cities", written by Janie Cheaney. She was discussing the deplorable situation in cities like Detroit, where generations of deception and lies, padded accounts and kickbacks, have reduced a once-thriving metropolis to a boarded-up, abandoned ruin. How could such a thing happen, you might ask (and Detroit is not alone)? Cheaney writes: "Every lie scoops a little more substance from a city's heart until it's almost hollow." That's what happened there in the garden that day - a little was scooped out of the hearts of Eve, and then Adam. In an instant they became significantly less (not more) than what they had been.
It must have seemed so simple and straightforward. Eat the fruit and become as God. The enticement was so alluring. Who wouldn't want that, right? Think of the power! - the authority! - the status! But in reality, they gained none of that. Rather, they took the first step toward becoming as Satan himself, a hollowed out version of themselves and it didn't take them long to realize the terrible cost attached to their betrayal.
Smedes writes that "lies are almost always told for today's good without due regard for those who must pick up the pieces tomorrow." Lies are told by individuals who want to dance to the music but haven't any interest in paying the piper. But it doesn't work that way. There always are consequences to our falsehood. Not only do we demean ourselves (by our lies) but we demean others as well. In lying to others, we deem them unworthy of the truth and fit only for our deceptions. In other words, we assume a godlike authority over them, where we are the ones who decide what the other person is allowed to hear or to see. What arrogance! And yet such deception is practiced all the time by patronizing politicians, a patronizing media, and yes, at times, even a patronizing church or two. And with each deception, we become more distrusting, more cynical, less confident and more fearful. Such is the devastation wrecked upon us all when Truth is ignored.
God tells us that He is Truth and that His Truth sets us free. We're also told that His own Spirit was sent into the world to "guide us in all Truth." And so, God's esteem for truth and His desire that we, too, should not only value Truth, but practice it, is clearly seen. Someone once said that "real love is the faithful exercise of Truth." We need to remember that. Truth isn't something derived at or discovered by popular or majority vote. Rather, we are taught it by God Himself and our response (by His grace) should be to receive it and live it. So then, let us lay aside all forms of patronizing deceit even as we also refuse to reward it in the lives of others!