To Live Freely: Part Seven

I’ve spent several days discussing why we should not deceive others, even when we say we are doing it for their own good. After yesterday’s post I thought I was finished with the matter, but some more thoughts have occurred to me that I would like to get down. Today I want to call out how improbable it is that our lies can be harmless in the long run, and tomorrow I will look at the matter from a more global scale.

The Arrogance of a Lie)

When we lie, we concoct a world that is in some way different from the real one. Most of us think we will get away with a “little, white lie” because we think we are concocting a world that is virtually indistinguishable from the real one. We believe that the person we deceive will still continue along the general path of reality, just with an imperceptible tint slightly coloring their view.

But that is a supremely arrogant assumption. If telling such a lie were even possible, it could only be done by having a perfect understanding of our subject and their context in life. We would have to know what they already know and believe so that our lie would not have any unintended side effects. For example, if our lie was about another person, we would want to know what our subject already thought and felt about that person in great detail, so that our deceit wouldn’t warp the relationship in any way.

We would also require a comprehensive view of our subject’s situation in life to know if our lie, seemingly harmless by itself, might unravel in terrible ways when combined with other factors. Not only this, but we would also need to be prophetic, anticipating all future states that our subject would be in, so that our lie would not become harmful in future situations.

And finally, if this is to be at all moral, we must also know that our subject, if made aware of this intended deception, would willingly choose to have it administered to them. Obviously we cannot ask them that, but we have to somehow know for certain that this is what they would choose. For even if you did believe that it was genuinely good for this person to be deceived, everyone should still have the right to embrace hard truths if that is what they choose.

Of course, none of us know all of these things when we set out to deceive another. As such, we are not at all sure whether telling them this lie is good for them or not. If we could be honest about our deceit, we would admit that it really isn’t about doing what is best for them at all. It is about what is doing what is best for ourselves. We are trying to moderate and manage another person’s experiences in a way that is more pleasant for us to deal with. It is, put simply, entirely selfish.

Gambling)

When we tell another person a lie, what we are really doing is gambling with their safety and their happiness. We are putting their heart on the line, rolling the dice, and hoping for our desired outcome. We hope that we won’t hurt the other person, we tell ourselves that that won’t happen, but we create the very real possibility that it might happen. That is our exposure, that is what is on the table to lose, and we are deliberately making a decision to accept that. And what’s more, with every lie we are stacking the odds higher and higher against the person’s happiness, but most of us still continue rolling the dice for as long as we possibly can.

Gambling with just money is morally questionable enough, certainly there can never be any justification for doing so with another person’s heart. No matter what sort of justification you might have for your lie, it should be abundantly clear that it is still immoral. Even if the odds of success were far in our favor, it would still be fundamentally immoral.

As I’ve explained above, we have nowhere near the perspective or the intelligence for even half decent odds of success. It’s impossible to know what the chances really are, but in my experience, virtually every lie gets undone eventually. The house always wins sooner or later, but we’re stupid and arrogant enough to think that we’re the ones in charge. We are totally, unjustifiably confident, and so much so that we’re betting with the most valuable commodity that we can. Is there any more obvious a recipe for failure?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 11:1-4

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.

4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a aname, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

There has been commentary about the Tower of Babel, including theories that they were trying to reach heaven to escape any future floods, or to overthrow God, or some other form of insurrection. Now which of those theories, if any, is the actual truth is not to be found in this biblical record. But the following verses do seem to suggest that there was something about their plan that incurred the disapproval of God, such that He felt a need to put a stop to it.

I do see an important allegory in these verses, one that applies to us all today. There seems to be an arrogance in these ancient people where they believe that they could build their own path to the heavens, and trying to achieve perfection by our own power has continued to be a failing of humanity ever since.

Today I see this in the notion that “we don’t need God, because we have science.” There is a belief that our own brainpower will be enough to solve all of the world’s problems and lead us into a perfect Utopia. But that is just as valid as believing that we could build a tower into the clouds and then be equals to God.

Our arrogance all manifests today when we try to earn our salvation. I have known many a Christian that was convinced that if he just tried harder he would be able to overcome his addictions, live perfectly, and make himself deserve paradise. And that is just as vain and ineffective as the Babelites stacking their stones.

We are mortals, assembled from the dust, and all our effort can never make us more than that. It is a hard thing to admit, but we are never going to be enough by ourselves. We only become enough when we are filled with Him.