“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
That’s psychoanalyst Walter Charles Langer (1899–1981), best known for a psychological analysis of Adolf Hitler.
His truth about lying is still true.
So let’s address three popular lies perpetrated daily on our culture. They’re easy to believe, and many have fallen for one or more of them.
Lie #1: Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me
This is perhaps the biggest lie any of us have ever been told, much less learned to recite!
While I can take a baseball bat and break your arm, in six weeks or so it will be good as new. But, if in anger, jealousy, or just pure meanness, I tell you that you are bad, stupid, ugly or unworthy, you may carry that around for a lifetime.
And with the relative anonymity and license that social media affords many today, the damage of words—whether written or spoken—is all too evident, especially among the youngest of us.
Most of us form images of ourselves from what others tell us about ourselves. That’s especially true from significant others like parents, teachers, siblings, and even friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, some of us have been victimized by the weakness, insecurities, or anger of some of those people. And, when those emotions get weaponized via digital media and distributed widely, the pain is unbearable for some.
According to a recent report by Sandy Cohen in UCLA Health, suicide rates are highest among teens and young adults, who are among the biggest consumers of social media. And it’s not something that’s happening outside of our communities.
In Cohen’s article, she quotes a young athlete who attempted suicide: “This is not an issue reserved for the far and away. It is in our homes. It is in our conversations. It is in the people we love.”
God’s word is clear about the power of our words (with my emphasis):
- “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21).
- “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
- “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account of every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36).
- “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
- “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4 NLT).
- “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24 NLT).
- “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).
Words are like bricks. They can be used constructively to build something solid and useful or they can be thrown like stones that hurt or destroy something or someone. Words are powerful. Remember, God spoke the world into existence.
“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is a lie straight out of the pits of hell.
Lie #2: Everyone is good at heart
What does God’s word say about human nature?
- “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
- “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lᴏʀᴅ weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2).
- “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).
- “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
A famous sermon by St. Augustine (AD 354–430) has rung down through the ages titled “Love and do what you will.”
Can that possibly be true?
Some think it irresponsible of St. Augustine, maybe even dangerous, to have said such a thing. But, centuries earlier, David, another man who loved God, said something in the same vein: “Delight yourself in the Lᴏʀᴅ and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
What did David and St. Augustine mean?
David likely understood the wickedness of the heart. Remember Bathsheba? Uriah? Yet, a generation later David’s son, Solomon, said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6, emphasis mine).
So, how do we “delight ourselves in the Lord” or “trust in the Lord with all our hearts?”
Jesus points the way.
When asked what is the most important among the Old Testament commandments, he said in Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind.”
But, how do we do that?
God replaces the “wickedness of our hearts” with his desires when these things are true of us:
- Saved by his grace
- Continuously filled with the Spirit
- Sanctified in service
- Humble in spirit
When those prerequisites for a changed heart are resident in us, they yield:
The fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5.
Why wouldn’t God want to give us the desires of our heart when this fruit is flowing from it?
What St. Augustine said can be true only when we “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all you mind” (Matthew 22:37, emphasis mine).
He will give us the desires of our heart only when it is totally his.
Lie #3: As long as you’re sincere, it doesn’t matter what you believe
If you’re tempted to believe that human nature is innately good, it’s easy to believe another lie: “All faith roads lead up the same mountain.”
This lie purports that it doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim, Buddhist, or any other faith system if you’re sincere, diligent, and/or consistent. Those who fall for this “toleration” believe it doesn’t matter which spiritual path you take to God because they all lead you to the same God.
Sounds nice, but that’s not what God’s word says.
Unfortunately, the youngest generation is repeatedly exposed to this lie.
If that were true, why would Jesus die a horrific death on a cruel cross if there are several ways to reach God? Why would he have said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine)?
It’s either true or it’s not. As C. S. Lewis famously said in Mere Christianity, Jesus is either liar, Lord, or lunatic. Lewis also said it is a foolish thing for people to call Jesus simply a great moral teacher but not accept his claim of divinity.
I choose to believe Jesus is the only way. I know it sounds elitist and narrow, but only one key unlocks my house or starts my car. Only 2+2=4.
While toleration is the mantra of our culture, that does not change what absolute truth is. Our culture does not like absolutes. Interestingly, those calling for toleration are often not very tolerant of those of us who believe in absolutes.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard which leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13–14).
According to the Lord Jesus, this is the way life is. Only two gates, only two roads, only two crowds, only two destinations. No third or fourth choices. And, apparently, no exception for those who don’t accept it.
Today, Jesus’ words are not popular or considered politically correct. Embracing absolutes is often considered the great taboo by today’s standards. Many espouse the idea of live and let live; just do what’s right for you; all roads lead up the same mountain. Whatever God is to you is fine so long as you’re sincere.
But, who wants to stake their eternal destination on what they hope is true, have heard somewhere, or what seems popular at the moment?
Would popular opinion guide your decision about surgery? What about letting hearsay direct your financial decisions? Would you just hope that the brakes on your car work?
We want to be assured by reliable sources. While it may be unpopular, be assured that Jesus is the only way to everlasting life with the Father, no matter how intolerant that sounds or difficult it is for some to accept.
Let’s seek and speak God’s truth
So, don’t believe the lies.
Further, let’s help others see through them, too.
But we must allow Ephesians 4:15 to guide us: “Speak the truth in love.”
- Words are powerful. They can either accomplish incredible things or do great damage.
- Fallen human nature is not innately good. The Good News is there’s a way for it to be transformed.
- And, ultimately, Christianity is the story of God coming down to us, not us climbing up to him.
Jesus confronted the lies and temptations of the devil by quoting God’s word (cf Matthew 4:1–11). That is why the psalmist said, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Only God’s word ultimately protects us from lies.
And may it not be said of us that “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25).