Most believers understand that lying is a sin. Not so many know that it’s also a sin to believe a lie. But this was the first sin of Man. Adam and Eve didn’t lie. Their first and most devastating sin was that they believed a lie.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die”. (Genesis 3:4–6)
To be fair, there are times when a genuinely naive believer believes a lie because he trusts the brother in Christ who is telling it.
But it is also possible (and frequently the case) that those who believed the lie were complicit in their own deception. This can happen in a couple of ways.
First, it happens when the believer knows the person speaking is a liar. We can be guilty or complicit in the sin of believing a lie when the person lying has a history of deception. Samson comes to mind. How many times does Delilah need to deceive Samson before she gets a clue?
The second way that believing a lie becomes sin is when the means of propagating the lie are themselves sinful.
When the ropes and pulleys that the liar uses to propagate his lies are sinful—things such as fear, lust, greed, people-pleasing, and so on—then the believer is without excuse.
For those who do not love the truth, or who reject it out of fear, lust, and a superior love for the praise of men,
God will send them a powerful delusion so that they believe the lie, in order that judgement may come upon all who have disbelieved the truth and delighted in wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
Would you be willing to believe a lie to get some extra cash? Would you be willing to believe a lie to escape persecution, to avoid being an outcast? Would you be willing to act as though you believed a lie to win the favour of men, keep your job, or keep the peace?
Are you hoping that later on, you could say (in your now even deeper state of delusion), “Oh, I never knew! It’s not my fault! I was lied to”?
It didn’t wash with God in the garden of Eden, and neither will it wash before the Throne of Grace.
A believer is not to believe lies, pretend he believes lies, or pretend he didn’t know it was a lie when all the means to propagate the lie were themselves sinful.
Instead, we are called to be discerning children so that we will not be tossed about like waves in the ocean. We are commanded to discern the truth from a lie so that we will not shipwreck our own faith.
Laziness is no excuse. Laziness is a sin. Entrusting yourself to any man is no excuse. You should not entrust yourself to any man (John 2:24) save Christ in the matter of your own Christian faith and your love for the truth.
And ignorance is no excuse.
And if a soul sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he did not know it, he is still guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. (Leviticus 5:17)
If you have sinned through your ignorance and believed a lie, the silliest thing you can do is plead ignorance (Genesis 3:12).
The smart thing to do is plead guilty and look to Jesus, who forgives the one who turns away from their ignorance (Leviticus 5:18) and acknowledges that, in believing a lie, they were alienating themselves from the life of God (Ephesians 4:17-18).