Summary: If you want to do well in an era of “fake news,” first, don’t believe everything you hear. Instead, consult the Lord about everything; keep your word and confront the lie.
This last week, as I was preparing for this message, I came across some very interesting research. In His book, The Honest Truth about Dishonesty, Dan Ariely says, “Over the course of many years of teaching, I have noticed that there typically seems to be a rash of deaths among students' relatives at the end of the semester. It happens mostly in the week before final exams and before papers are due.” Guess which relative most often dies? Grandma.
In fact, grandmothers are ten times more likely to die before a midterm and nineteen times more likely to die before a final exam. Worse, grandmothers of students who are not doing well in class are at even higher risk. Students who are failing are fifty times more likely to lose Grandma than non-failing students. It turns out that the greatest predictor of mortality among senior citizens in our day ends up being their grandchildren's GPAs. So if you are a grandparent, don’t let your grandchild go to college. It will kill you, especially if he or she doesn’t’ do well in school. (John Ortberg, Soul Keeping, Zondervan, 2014, page 74; www.PreachingToday.com)
Of course, you know what’s happening. It’s not that grandmothers are actually dying at the end of each semester. Students are lying to their professors to get more time to write their final papers or study for their final exams.
Lying has become an epidemic in our culture, especially when truth is no longer respected.
Who can forget the last presidential election (2016), when accusations of “fake news” began to be heard across the political spectrum? That year, Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” its word of the year, which they define as “denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Soon after that, Kellyanne Conway, President Trump’s campaign manager, famously spoke of “alternative facts.” In response, Time blazoned the question “Is Truth Dead?” on its April 3, 2017 cover. (Matt Schneider, “What Is Truth?” Mockingbird blog; www.Preaching Today.com)
And who can forget the newly elected House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, telling Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, “I reject your facts” during a recent briefing on border security. There is no recognition of THE facts, just “my facts” or “your facts.”
Our culture has rejected the concept of absolute truth. So how are we supposed to function in such a culture? How are we supposed to operate in an era of “fake news”? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Joshua 9, Joshua 9, where we see how Joshua handled fake news in his day.
Joshua 9:1-2 As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel. (ESV)
As soon as the people in the Promised Land hear about Joshua’s defeat of Jericho and Ai, they come together to fight against Joshua. However, one people group try a different tactic.
Joshua 9:3-6 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” (ESV)
The Gibeonites, who are only 25 miles away from Ai, made it look like they had come from a place far away from the land God promised to the Israelites. The Gibeonites don’t want to fight Israel like their neighbors, because they know they’ll be defeated. So they ask to make a peace treaty with Israel.
Joshua 9:7 But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” (ESV)
God had made it very clear earlier. Israel was NOT to offer terms of peace to any of the cities IN the Promised Land, only to those cities OUTSIDE the promised land (Deuteronomy 20:10-18). The Gibeonites know that Israel means to conquer and destroy everyone in their territory, so they pretend to come from far away.
Joshua 9:8-10 They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. (ESV)