Looking back, we uniformly respected our elder adults, and this was certainly a part of the culture at the time. We respected their knowledge, experience, and appreciated their concern for our well-being and development. One thing in particular is noteworthy, as I recall growing up in this environment. We never had any reason to doubt that these grown-ups were ever less than completely honest. As children, we experienced the fibs and falsehoods of other children, but I cannot remember an adult telling me a lie. (The only exceptions were Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.)
As I grew older and went to college, my experience was similar, with professors and coaches being honest people. Then came medical school and residency for my career, which was another twelve years. Those years were spent basically living in the hospital, with not much exposure to the real world of buying houses and cars and dealing with businesses. And in those years you pretty much believed another's word; deception was not part of the culture in those institutions, either. In many ways we were sheltered from the harshness of everyday reality.
It really wasn't until I got out into the real world, in my thirties, that I found out that people will lie to you. At first, it was dealing with an unscrupulous homebuilder here or car dealer there, but it was quite surprising given my previous experience. I later worked along side people who had little integrity, and it was always a sad thing to discover. I have often wondered why these things seemed to appear in my later life, and I guess things like this were always going on around me as a young man, but I simply didn't see them. Lying wasn't just invented yesterday-- the serpent started in Genesis chapter three.
As Christians, we try to be humble, and Paul advises us in Philippians 2:3, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." We try to esteem others as better, and this often leads us to be very trusting and giving others the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I wrote earlier on this in an article, "Doubting the Benefit." The problem arises when those others in fact are dishonest, because nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to be gullible.
As children, we are taught to respect our government and its leaders, and that same Bible does command us to pray for them. I Timothy 2 tells us, "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority..." This is easy to do when our leaders are trustworthy men of integrity. But God, who appoints all authorities (Romans 13:1) sometimes sees fit to appoint leaders who are dishonest and lack integrity. His sovereign will, for reasons that are not clear to us, decrees that we who are Christians will at times live in a country governed by those who would lie to us.
Our current president is not the first in his office to be dishonest, but a precedent of dishonesty by others does not offer one an excuse for his own behavior. The sheer magnitude of deceit we have seen in the last few years from this administration, and its supporters in congress, far exceeds anything I have seen in my fifty-plus years. I may not be an expert on foreign policy or national defense or agricultural affairs, but I am an expert on our health care system and I believe I have probably delivered more health care than any of the individuals who have devised the newest attempt at government run health care delivery. And the things that were promised to the American people by this administration were false and known to be false. I have been asked on several occasions to speak to different groups on health care economics over the last several years, and all of the problems we are now seeing with the Affordable Care Act were known and the consequences foreseen since it was enacted. The promises that people would be able to keep their insurance, keep their doctor, and that it would all cost them less have always been untrue. The only people who are shocked by what is going on now are the people who believed the lies.
There are several lessons here for the Christian. The first is to realize that people really will be dishonest with you in order to advance their own agenda. God knew that just as sin entered the world through the first lie told by the serpent that lies would be a part of human existence ever since. The second lesson is that God despises lying. Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us that God hates a lying tongue. Leviticus 19:11 commands us not to lie to one another. And make no mistake about it, making false promises is lying. Some have said, "Well, all politicians do it. It is just a political lie." That is absurd. It is a lie no matter how many others may do it, and a "political" lie can be just as damaging and harmful as any other. It teaches us that our government and leaders are not to be trusted, and damages the integrity of these institutions.
Why do people believe lies in the first place? For one thing, it is easy to swallow a lie if it is telling you something you want to hear. Eve thought it would be wonderful to be as knowledgeable as God. And many people who wanted to see our health care system changed wanted to believe that this new program would do what they said it would do. Secondly, believing a lie is often the easy thing to do, the lazy thing. When presented with a proposition, it takes actual work to go out and research whether or not the facts are true and the arguments are supported. It is easier to just say, "Well, that sounds good to me." The fact of the matter is that not only are people who tell lies not supposed to do that, the people on the receiving end have a responsibility to educate themselves and study what is being proposed before deciding to accept it. The Bereans in Acts 17 were commended because they "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." Christ Himself warned his disciples to not be gullible, to be "wise as serpents" (Matthew 10:16). So a third lesson is that we are not to take these things at face value, we are to study them, that we may not be easily deceived.
Asclepius was the Greek god associated with healing. He had a symbol called the "Rod of Asclepius", which had a rod surrounded by a single serpent:
This symbol has long been associated with the healing arts and medicine. Unfortunately, because people did not study the origins of this symbol, another symbol became accepted into medicine instead, called the "Caduceus":
This symbol is that of the Greek god Hermes, and it associated with "commerce, eloquence, trickery, and negotiation" (Wikipedia). It is definitely not the symbol of medicine. Hermes was the patron of thieves and liars. It was a lack of study and diligence that led to the mistaken use of the caduceus to represent many medical institutions.
The final lesson is that we are to recognize the dishonest for what they are. When one successfully lies, he is emboldened to continue in this practice. It becomes easier each time. Such a person will continue as long as they are able. We can do what we can to expose their falsehoods, but it is up to God to deal with them, their sin, and lack of repentance. Psalms 102:6 states, " He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who tells lies shall not continue in my presence." A person with a pattern of dishonesty is not to be trusted and is to be avoided. As I was a child and young adult, these warnings would have seemed so unnecessary; as an older and wiser adult, I am saddened that they are. Just as the serpent deceived with the first lie, the twin serpents of dishonesty and false promises are entwined today around the caduceus of government run healthcare.