Jayden K. Smith went down in history last week.
In case you missed it, (or haven’t checked Facebook in a few days) a cautionary message was forwarded millions of times in a matter of hours via Facebook Messenger cautioning friends to not accept a friend request from anyone named “Jayden K. Smith” because if you do, your account will be hacked.
In today’s society of sharing information at lightning speed (just because we can), our friend Jayden quickly became a viral celebrity…with no friends. I personally received only one of these forewarning messages, but a coworker of mine had received a few dozen over the course of an afternoon. The message became so widespread that various news outlets covered the story, confirming that there was no real threat and the whole thing was a hoax.
Spam, hoaxes, & fake news
Internet “spam” has become a social norm in today’s culture. It’s (typically) common knowledge that if a flashing banner pops up, informing you that you’ve just won $1,000,000 and your own private island… it’s probably best not to click on that link. Maybe you just won it big; maybe you are some sneaky hacker’s next victim. The world may never know. Best not to risk it. Thankfully, we live in a world of problem solvers. Sites like Snopes and other fact checking resources have made it a bit easier to spot the spam when it’s unclear whether or not something is legit. But what about the “spam” that comes at us in more subtle avenues?
Truth in a world of clickbait
There’s a verse in the book of John that describes Satan as a thief whose only purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. If you’ve ever had your identity stolen or account hacked, it may seem like your hacker had a similar purpose. However, instead of calling you on the phone to tell you that some Prince in Nairobi needs your Social Security Number so he can share his wealth with you (because that makes sense…), Satan’s tactics tend to be a bit tougher to detect. One of his subtle tricks is to feed us lies that sound like truth, twisting what is right just enough to fool us.
One of Satan’s subtle tricks is to feed us lies that sound like truth, twisting what is right just enough to fool us.
Even if you’re not familiar with the term “clickbait,” you’re probably very familiar with the concept: those headlines that promise a “blow-your-socks-off-in-amazement-and-life-will-never-be-the-same-after-you-read-this” type of story, yet actually deliver an extremely underwhelming few paragraphs that really just waste your time. For example, here’s two that I’ve really seen: “What One Woman Found in Her Backyard Will Make You Second Guess Everything You Know” or “17 Secrets Your Doctor Doesn’t Want You to Know- #6 Will Shock You.” Frustrating, obnoxious, and yet….very intriguing.
As much as my pride hates to fall victim to these deceptive headlines, it still happens from time to time. I mean, what if #6 actually WILL shock me!? In reality, whatever I read on that fake news site probably won’t change my life, but the news is presented in such a way that makes me feel like I’m missing out on something amazing if I don’t check it out.
Over promising and under delivering
Remember how Satan (in the form of the serpent) got Eve in the Garden of Eden?
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:1-6
The problem wasn’t that Eve was unaware of what God commanded about the tree, it was that she was made to question what she knew to be true about God’s command. The same can easily be said of us. For most of us who have a basic understanding of God’s Word, we can easily identify the difference between right and wrong when it comes to blatant sin. It’s the gray areas, the misinterpretation of Scripture, the cultural influence, and the “did God really say” mentality that often gets sticky. Like Eve, when we find ourselves longing for the things God commands us to avoid, we have a choice. We can either take God at His word, knowing Him well enough to know that if He’s keeping something from us, it’s for good reason, or we can look at His commands and restrictions and assume that He’s holding out on us. When we think we’re missing out on something good because God is keeping it from us, we stop trusting Him and take matters into our own hands, falling for the lie. Someone once said, “Sin is always over-promising and under-delivering.” Sound familiar?
We can either take God at His word, knowing Him well enough to know that if He’s keeping something from us, it’s for good reason, or we can look at His commands and restrictions and assume that He’s holding out on us.
Reading lots of junk mail won’t make you better at discerning whether or not something is real or fake, it will just make you really familiar with junk. Similarly, reading lots of truth will make you familiar with truth. The Enemy is constantly throwing lies at us through the avenue of subliminal messaging via the shows we watch, the Instagram feeds we follow, the articles we read, etc. What information are you being fed? Most times that photo you scroll past won’t be captioned “You should be skinnier,” but maybe that’s the message we receive. Maybe that article doesn’t come right out and say “Your life is so boring compared to everyone else’s,” but maybe that’s what occupies our mind after we finish reading it. Maybe that song doesn’t word for word tell you that it’s ok to be bitter and hateful towards people who disagree with you, but maybe that’s the subtle lie we begin to believe after hearing it over and over. These lies, this form of “spam” and “fake news” is a little more difficult to avoid. There’s no “delete” button in our minds or “block” feature behind our eyes to keep junk away, and we can’t effectively win the world for Jesus if we are constantly hiding from it.
Clinging to Truth
So how do we fight the lies? We battle lies by knowing Truth, believing Truth, and preaching that Truth to ourselves every single day. There’s an awesome passage in John 17 where Jesus actually prays over His followers- including us! Verse 17 says, “Sanctify them in truth; Your word is truth.” We have access to living, unchanging truth; so we don’t need to fall for the lies of the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. We aren’t powerless. The Lord has given us all that we need to live in this confusing world. James 1:5 promises that if we ask for wisdom, or discernment, from a genuine heart, the Lord will generously provide. The stronger our grip on a right view of God’s character and trust in His Word, the stronger our ability to avoid getting entangled in the lies of this world.
Know, believe, and preach Truth to yourself every day.