Reporters spinning the news, imposters planting false information, and Facebook’s bogus news sites make it difficult to know the truth these days. I just can’t trust the information given through television, large cities’ newspapers, or Facebook (including Snopes). Too many journalists spread unproven claims and insert their opinions as facts. Fake news has replaced objective reporting. I listened to the President’s comments, and later a news station covering them, and I was shocked how distorted and misleading the story was. If I didn’t hear the actual speech and know the truth, I would have been deceived.
Deception is nothing new. It’s been happening since Satan lied to Eve. Solomon defined a false witness as one who tells lies and is deceitful. The Lord hates “a lying tongue;” it’s detestable to Him (Proverbs12:17; 14:5,25; 6:16-17).
The apostles warned their readers about false prophets who watered the gospel down, added rules to obey, and altered the truth in various ways. Without having Jesus’ teachings in written form, the New Testament believers were swayed by articulate speakers and news that sounded good.
Peter wanted to set the record straight, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2Peter 1:16). “There will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord...Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up” (2Peter 2:1-3).
Jude penned, “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men…have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 3-4).
Paul warned Timothy about false teachers. “They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm” (1Timothy1:7). And even Jesus instructed His listeners to “watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
Why do people intentionally lie and deceive others? Lack of moral conviction, anger, and human depravity are among the answers. Perhaps they make a profit from their false messages. When individuals form their religious beliefs to accommodate their desires, they feel validated if others join them. Satan, the father of lies, brings doubt to the truth to confuse people and lead them away from God.
“No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Many people believe everything they hear, especially from authoritative figures--including professors, pastors, and the pope. How can we discern truth from false information?
First, we recognize that God’s Word is superior to every other book or teacher. And if we don’t know what the Bible says, we imitate the Bereans, (who examined Scripture to confirm Paul’s teaching), and check that the messages we hear are biblically correct.
Second, we ask God for wisdom, because He gives it generously (James 1:5).
Discernment is needed to detect Bible verses being taken out of context, or given a twist in their meaning, or diluted to justify certain behavior. Our spiritual wisdom increases by studying the Bible, which enables us to recognize inaccurate information.
Third, continually pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of a situation, to give us insight and comprehension of its significance. Christian persecution and censoring biblical values were interwoven in the former President’s executive orders; now, they are national issues. Spiritual warfare is raging; we must put on the full armor of God.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke recorded Jesus confirming (to the rich young ruler) that God’s commandments--including “do not give false testimony”--were still valid. Paul advised, “each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25).
We live in uncertain times; schemers are thriving, and misleading information and headlines are rampant. Be cautious of believing fake news and spreading false information. Let’s ask the Lord for help in discerning the truth and for control over unrestrained tongues.