“Beware the other Big D: Deceptions!”
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
How can we know what to believe? We are bombarded daily with mixed messages and varied values from both traditional and social media. Some contain conflicting viewpoints about the same subject. Even those in Christian circles – our own churches, TV interviews, evangelists, and denomination spokespeople – will frequently take opposing stands on an issue. We are left struggling to make sense of the world around us.
But a variety of viewpoints can cause each reader, viewer, or listener to think for him- or herself. That is part of life – to make decisions and develop ideas and opinions based on evidence. What do we do though, when some people purposefully twist or falsify information that is made available to the public through varied outlets? In our culture today, some self-serving people or groups are striving to deceive the public for personal gain or to sway people to think, act, or vote in specific ways.
Deception is “the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid” (http://www.merriam-webster.com). This implies that deception is intentional. When we watch magicians, we know that the tricks that are performed are illusions – or deceptions – and we are ready to be entertained by these acts.
Consider some of the synonyms of deception: falsehoods, lying, fraud, deceit, swindling, untruths, crookedness, sneakiness, and underhandedness. All of these imply purposeful actions.
“Historically, individuals were limited in their media options, however recent technological advances have given individuals more ways in which to communicate and deceive. The use of these new media change the communication dynamic substantially.” (“Cultural determinants of media choice for deception”, http://www.sciencedirect.com)
As we input ideas from others (either in person or via media), we need to use a filter system to separate “the wheat from the chaff”. We are inundated with ideas, opinions, and images each day that require each of us to be vigilant in our critical thinking. It’s essential that we question, analyze, interpret, and evaluate messages that could cause a shift in the direction of our thinking. How we spend our money, raise our children, treat others, vote, and/or select careers can be impacted by what we see, hear, or read.
Matthew 5:37 says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” In other words, be people of integrity. Others will know what we say is accurate and truthful, not filled with deceiving words.
Proverbs has much to say about deceit and truthfulness. Consider Proverbs 11:3 “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.”
What we need is a “grid of Truth”. That’s exactly what God has given us in His Word. The scriptures serve as “life’s little instruction book” to aid us in our choices. If the Bible has gotten dusty, spend some time investigating God’s principles. Reading God’s Word is not remedial – it’s essential! He has a plan, a purpose, and many promises that we can hold on to when we’re struggling with possible deceptions.
Satan is not only the king of destruction, but he is the king of distractions, and the king of deception! This isn’t a new phenomenon: deception has been around since the Garden of Eden! The new part is the multitude of messages we receive on a daily basis. Think of the emails, texts, Facebook and Instagram entries, TV news, radio talkshows, music lyrics, books, newspapers, and magazines that fill our waking hours. It’s overwhelming!
Consider the many hours we spend being entertained. Entertainment should be just that: entertainment! We dare not let it sway our politics or our relationships. We need to keep it in its place.
How can we discern Truth in all of this? With God’s “grid of Truth” and the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our thinking and actions, we are not left at the mercy of the media.
As we take in messages each day, we can be discerning. Discernment is one of the highest forms of wisdom. God’s Word tells us:
“let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance…”
“I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.”
Distractions and deception are subdued by discernment, as we lean on the Lord each day.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Lead teens to God’s Word. It’s likely they won’t seek it out for themselves if they haven’t been guided along the way. Discernment isn’t just related to having enough education or experience but is dependent on His teachings.
Here are some ways for parents to start the process:
• Share a scripture each day and discuss it, including possible applications to today’s world and current worldviews.
• Investigate the culture that Jesus lived in. Compare and contrast life then to life now.
• Reread Romans 12:2 (above) and consider this wisdom.
• Discuss problems American teens deal with, and problem-solve how to navigate one’s way through them.
• Consider the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Make a list of responses and review them again in the future to see if there are changes or additions to the list.
• Take an example from today’s “news”, and ask what conclusions can be drawn from the story.
• Ask, “What is discernment?” Then discuss the role of the Holy Spirit. (Use a concordance, if necessary, to seek scriptures about the Holy Spirit.)
Help teens understand that reliance on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word is not a sign of weakness, but of strong character.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
Her website is: www.MediaAlert.org
Sue can be reached at: Sue@MediaAlert.org
© Sue Summers 2020