Deceit Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Deceit

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Deceit is the deliberate misleading of another by concealing, distorting, or contradicting the truth.

In Scripture

At the fall "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, `Did God say, "You shall not eat from any tree in the garden"?'" (Gen. 3:1).

In the Ten Commandments "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Ex. 20:16).

The heart "The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse — who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9).

The Lord hates deceit "These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord" (Zech. 8:16 - 17).

Outside vs. Inside "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matt. 23:27 - 28).

No truth in the devil "You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

Ananias's deceitful action "[A] man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife's knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 5:1 - 2).

God is true "What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, `So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging'" (Rom. 3:3 - 4).

Deceit a disguise "For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness" (2 Cor. 11:13 - 15).

Put away falsehood "So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another" (Eph. 4:25).

Deceit part of the old self "Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator" (Col. 3:9 - 10).

God never lies "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness, in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began . . ." (Titus 1:1 - 2).

We deceive ourselves "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).

Satan the deceiver "The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him" (Rev. 12:9).

Points to Ponder

Intent to mislead The heart of deceit is the intent to mislead — by words, actions, gestures, silence, the lift of eyebrows to feign surprise, and much else. It is possible to mislead innocently. I may mislead you with a falsehood that I mistakenly believe. But deceit requires cunning and craft. The deceiver means to fool, to trick, to dupe, to con (note how many synonyms we have for deceit).

First form of evil Deceit is the first form of evil Adam and Eve encounter in the Garden of Eden. It is also one of Satan's titles, namely, "The Father of Lies." It despoils justice "in the gate," or, as we would say, in court. And in religious people, it curdles into hypocrisy — the sin Jesus is so hard on. Deceitful religion mutates into a self-serving substitute for the service of God. People use religion to get rich or to get happy or to appear righteous. Believers are entirely capable of using mutant religion to conceal the character of God and actually to oppose the project of God in the world. This is why Scripture condemns deceit as dangerous and damaging evil.

A hard message This is a hard message for the preacher to bring in an age of hucksterism, spin, hype, and hooey, bull and baloney. Misleading ads, "pants on fire" politicians, "no spin" TV shows that are full of spin, online discussion threads spewing wild accusations, new but only half-full containers of packaged goods — all these things and many more harm or even corrupt human life, aborting trust and the fellowship that depends on it. Deceit also dehumanizes our neighbor, whom the deceiver regards as unworthy of the truth. Deceit in modern life is so common, so familiar that it breeds cynicism in the hard-hearted and despair in the soft-hearted.

Not what God wants But while it is familiar, deceit is not normal — not what God wants for human life. So both Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3 treat deceit as part of the "old life" that has to die with Jesus Christ, and they treat truthfulness as part of the "new life" gained by rising with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ himself appears among us "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). In the body of Christ's followers, truth-telling is a ligament, binding us to Christ and to each other.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.