Today we Christians have the challenge of dealing, not with prophets who are lying, but priests, pastors, and any other leader in the church doing so intentionally. Don’t be naive enough to believe every word that is spoken out of the mouths of those who deceive; in this realm of reality, we must be diligent in discerning and knowledgeable about the only true Word revealed to us through Scripture. These men present their lies to their listeners with a heart motivation only known by God, but since we have the Word of God at our fingertips, giving your trust over fully to any man, while defying clear directives from God, is never wise.
Buried within the book of 1 Kings, chapter 13, is a passage that unfolds this type of deceit. The deceived, nor the deceiver, are given names, but only referred to as “the man of God” and “the old prophet.” The man of God is invited by the old prophet to come home with him and eat, but his reply states that he’s “been told by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came'” (v. 15-17). The old prophet tells him, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water’ (But he was lying to him)” (v. 18). Apparently convinced by the old prophet, due to his claim that an angel told him so, the man of God returned to the prophet’s house to eat and drink with him (v. 19). Although the details of the man of God’s directions seem superfluous, to only abstain from food or drink with others while on his journey, apparently he took them seriously enough to decline the invitation, but then was assured by a lying prophet that his directions had changed. Are we at risk for believing lying leaders? You betcha.
Not only in the case of preaching from the pulpit and lying, but leaders that lie apart from their sermons are an issue as well. The Bible passage mentioned above implies that the old prophet was telling the man of God an untruth deliberately, since Scripture included in parentheses, “But he was lying to him.” This proves that the liar did so, not by accidentally misleading the man of God, but the deceit was intentional. How can this be? A prophet who hears directly from God being deceitful with intent? Only God knows as it is He who ordains all that occurs. However, as listeners and receivers of words offered by our leaders in the church, God expects that we will be astute in filtering what is true and what is deceit. This begs the question, “How do we determine lies from truth?” and the simplest answer is to consult Scripture, which is the only source for pure, unadulterated truths.
Jeremiah also speaks in regards to lying prophets. In chapter 23:25-38, he offers insight into how God views their lies. “Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me” (v. 30) and again in verse 34, “If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, ‘This is the oracle of the Lord,’ I will punish that man and his household.” To lie is a sin in itself, but somehow to lie in claiming that God is in on it seems to have increasingly dire consequences. Understandably so, because when men of God commit this grievance against God, they’re also leading His people astray with their reckless lies (v. 32). People desire to be shepherded by a leader that will guide them closer to the truths of God, rather than draw them farther away by embracing untruths told by men driven by deceitfulness. These men purport their false message and hypocritical character onto their sheep with intents that could range from voluntary ignorance and defiance of biblical authority, or seek to gain reverence unto themselves ahead of the God they claim to represent, and many times, these men persist in their deceit with selfish ambition to acquire wealth or recognition. They will be held accountable; but as one who holds self-accountability in high esteem, I cannot allow myself to lay all blame on those who lie in this regard.
It is within our power to be well versed in what the Bible teaches and, with it as our foundation, to be aware of when we are being lied to. In the very least, to allow skepticism to settle in whenever our Spirit-led intuition pricks at us that something we’re hearing or witnessing may be twisting the truth of God. I’ve been called a critic, a skeptic, and difficult when I’ve broached teachings from men that just don’t sit well. Each instance prods me to research their words against what Scripture says and, at times, I’m in error and need to submit my emotion-led mistake to whatever God’s Word reads. However, there have been a few instances where my questioning has brought light onto the lies of men. Either way, we’re all held accountable for our action, or inaction, as was the man of God who believed the lie the old prophet told and chose to follow his lead rather than the charge God had already given him. Our responsibility isn’t void when we are deceived by liars, blindly following every teaching and leading like sheeple; we must be Bereans and use discernment by placing our trust in the word of the Lord before man.