For those of you who did not have the “privilege” of growing up in the Bible Belt, a common rebuttal to a false notion, especially a very negative one, was that it was a “lie straight from the pit of hell” (it helps to imagine it spoken with a thick southern drawl). It is one of those expressions that could easily fit into a Jeff Foxworthy bit, “if you have ever been accused of telling a lie straight from the pit of hell…you might be a redneck.”
But even though it is a somewhat comical southern expression, it carries with it a lot of validity. Lies are extremely destructive in a very personal and relational sense. They warp our basic understanding of reality and cause us to make bad decisions. And the most damning lies, the ones that have the potential to stick with us for a lifetime, are the subtle lies that go unchecked. The ones that we simply assume have to be true, because we think they just have to be true.
So what lies am I talking about? I am not really referring to the lies that are easy to detect; ones like “God does not exist,” or “I should cheat on my wife” or “these drugs will give me true satisfaction in life.” Those are obvious lies, with obvious consequences. What I am referring to are the lies that are deceitful, and sometimes even praised as being good. The lies I am referring to are socially acceptable norms that most people would not identify and reject because of their common acceptance. While there are countless subtle lies that can drag us down, I am going to focus on two that seem to be the most common.
Based on Jesus’ own words, there are two primary lies that have the potential to be the most subtle, yet do a tremendous amount of damage in our lives. The two lies are:
- (Family First) Making an idol out of your family
- More money equals a better life
One of Jesus’ teachings that is very difficult to understand is found in Luke 14:26,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.
Ok, kind of bold…what in the world does this mean? Is Jesus saying we need to have “hatred” in our hearts toward the members of our family, and treat them accordingly? Many critics of Christianity point to this exact verse as proof that it is not a good philosophy to live by. After all, why would it be a good thing to hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life?
Here is my take on this difficult to understand teaching of Jesus. What I think Jesus was referring to was the idolization of family, which is regarding the members of our family (including our own life) as the primary significant factor in our existence here on earth, rather than the Creator who gave us our existence in the first place.
The short version of this lie is that it is easy to become convinced that we should focus primarily on our family and every decision we make is based on how it will affect them. There are a number of problems with this, but the basic idea can be understood by using an analogy to making an actual idol out of wood and metal.
The making of an idol (think ancient times) first has to be conceived in the mind of a person. It is the person’s creation from start to finish, and the person who is making the idol is in charge of fashioning the idol into exactly whatever image that person wants it to be.
So now think of what a person is doing by making their family their idol. They personally decide what they want their wife, children, parents, siblings, etc to look like, act like, and altogether be and then they try to fashion them into that image. Hopefully, the obvious consequences are becoming apparent with such a mental exercise. In essence, we are fashioning our family into a personal idol to serve our own selfish desires.
This is so deceptive because on the surface it looks like you are a dedicated family man that spends a lot of time, energy, and money on your family. But in reality, you are just spending time creating your own personal idol out of your family. This inevitably will lead to all sorts of relational issues within the family.
What’s the solution?
According to Jesus, love him first and put him ahead of all others. Why? primarily because he is good and loves us and will lead us down the right path. And in this way we will have a better grasp on how to love and care for our family correctly. Instead of fashioning our family into our own personal idol, we will begin to recognize their own personal gifts and abilities and help them mature into a person that can use them to serve others. We will no longer use our family for our own personal goals but rather seek their own good based on their needs.
The deceitfulness of wealth
The other lie that is “straight from the pit of hell” is that money will somehow solve our problems. It is that more money will equal more happiness. The problem with this lie is that no matter how many examples to the contrary we have, it will never go away. It is the biggest and baddest of all the deceitful lies in this world. This is why the love of money is the root of so much evil in the world. Pick any evil in the world today and work it back to its root cause, and this lie is at the foundation of most of it.
When we come to the realization that money will not lead to a more fulfilled life, we will be free from the number one deception that is leading the world down a destructive path. We will be free from so many vices, worries, and heartaches if we can have a clear understanding of how destructive this lie really is.
What is the solution? How do we break free from this lie? The short answer is to put Jesus Christ first and seek him above money. As you grow in your faith and come to some solid conclusions about who Jesus is and what his plan for this world is, the power and deceitfulness of wealth begin to lose their grip on you. It is the knowledge of Jesus and his prophetic words about the future that will set you free. It is the knowledge of what is true that ultimately gives yo victory.
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
Jesus didn’t command us to put him first because he is insecure and needy. He told us to put him first because it is the only way for us to know the truth and live our lives according to the truth. Putting Jesus first, above our family and wealth, is the only way to escape the deception of subtle lies that are straight from the pit of hell.