My son shows me an advertising flyer that came in the mail. He says, “I’m going to scratch these off.” I glance at it, see that it is an advertisement asking recipients to scratch off a substance to reveal something underneath that might result in a prize. I say, “Ok.” A couple minutes later, he brings it back with a huge smile. He shows me what his scratches revealed – three sets of $$$ signs. The key indicates that three consecutive dollar signs means he has won $2,500. Immediately, I tell him that it doesn’t mean he has actually won that money. “How do you know?” he asks, not believing me. “Because they don’t just give away money like that to sell you a car, they’re trying to get you to come and ask for the money when they will try to sell you a car.” He is not sure what to believe. The symbols on the paper seem pretty clear, but his dad seems to have a trustworthy understanding of these things. I see his indecision, and tell him to let me find the small print. I find it inside the folded paper. It says the symbols do not mean you have won the prize indicated. But everyone is guaranteed to win at least $2.
My son asks a good question: “How can they just lie like that?” Unfortunately, I do not have a good answer for that one. I tell him they shouldn’t because it’s wrong, but you have to learn to be careful to spot when you are being lied to. Unfortunately, liars are not limited to salesmen, they even exist among religious leaders. The Bible warns us, “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Not only must we be careful about promises in advertisements, we must also be careful about what religious teachers we believe.
I mourn the loss of innocence my children experience as they come into contact with the many lies in our culture. But it reminds me of what Jesus told us, “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Let us be careful not to be fooled by liars, but let us also be careful not to adopt their deceptive ways.