Imitating the Father of Lies

Auto workers in a GM plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, are crying “foul” today. They knew that part of their production was being siphoned off to plants in Mexico but had been assured that there was enough in what would remain to keep them all at work. This morning they were surprised to discover that up to 600 jobs are about to be lost.

In my search for the origins of the saying “honesty is the best policy” I came up with a post that begins with this: “Many organizations make bold claims about how they value honesty above all else. But deceit has its merits too. Telling the naked truth to your employees can result in panic, stress, or spite. According to new research by Wharton professor Maurice Schweitzer and Wharton doctoral student Emma E. Levine, lying in the right circumstances can be ethical, helps to breed trust in difficult times, and can help boost morale.” (

Are you out of your mind?

But this tendency to view deception as a positive is not new. Perhaps even Rebekah could justify her deceitful actions, as described in Genesis 27, in the same way GM justifies its deception.

Why did Rebekah urge Jacob to deceive Isaac? Was it because he was the nicer of her two sons? Was it only because he was her favourite—the homebody, the more domesticated son? (25:28) Was it because Esau had gone out in anger and married two Hittite girls to the dismay of both Isaac and Rebekah? (26:34, 35). Was this a reaction to the son who had so casually despised his privileges as firstborn and given them away for a bowl of stew? (25:30-34) Did she figure that the birthright so cheaply bought and sold was incomplete without the blessing that was the due to the firstborn? Was she afraid that the deal struck by the sons over a cooking pot would be overturned by the father whose favourite had always been Esau? Or did she think that she should help God fulfill the prophecy delivered to her as the two boys struggled to escape her womb: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (25:23).

So Rebekah, with the cooperation of her second son, Jacob, set out to deceive a blind old man and deprive Esau, the firstborn, of the blessing that was his due.

The Scriptures say a lot about lying, including:

Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another” —Leviticus 19:11

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy” —Proverbs 12:22

A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin” —Proverbs 26:28

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all the day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? Your tongue plots distraction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin…” (Psalm 52:1-5a).

Deception, dishonesty, lying, are not God-qualities, even though they are sometimes unfortunate characteristics of those who proclaim allegiance to Him.

As believers, whether in the pulpit or in the pew, we are called to honesty. Those who are gifted to speak in God’s Name, to lead and to teach, to pastor and to evangelize, are called to prepare people to identify evil, to repudiate it, and to be truthful in what they communicate to others.

So says Paul in Ephesians 4:11-16: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful schemes. Instead speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:14-16).

No matter what the world may say about the so-called benefits of lying, these are prompted and promoted behind the schemes by the father of lies, Satan himself (John 8:44), who first deceived Eve.

As His children, the ways of the world are not longer our ways: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things…Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:5-10).

I get the distinct impression that there was no trust bred, and no morale boosted, when all the parties involved in Genesis 27 discovered the truth, or were caught in their lies.

God didn't need their help.


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