Sharing Fake News
You've probably done it before. You find yourself scrolling through social media when you come across a jaw-dropping article. Maybe you read the whole article and thought it was a credible source. Or perhaps you just shared it because it had a click-bait headline and proved a point you were just making with some friends and family. If you’re brutally honest, maybe you were in a slanderous mood and it felt good to make someone look bad.
Then you get a text or you see a comment that says those dreaded words: "fake news."
With your ego scarred and your pride laid low, you try to find any evidence that what you shared was true. Your Google searches for the day begin to skyrocket as you search for anything that justify your wrong assumptions. You start dropping logic and links in the Facebook comments or Twitter feed. For those who are less tech-savvy, you pull misinformation from your favorite liberal or conservative news station to back up your claims because if they line up with your political and religious ideology, they can't possibly be wrong, can they?
The argument continues and contradictory information is shared from both sides until you decide that either the person you're arguing with is a complete idiot or you're so confused that you're starting to doubt whether either of you knows the truth. But since you've invested so much of your time and ego to the conversation, how can you back down now? How can you trust the liberal fact-checker Snopes or the conservative Politifact site? Who is to say that they aren't spreading lies because of their political, religious, and social bias?
Fake news will send you in a downward spiral of gossip, slander, conspiracy and misinformation, especially if your preconceived notions line up with it.
It's tough to navigate such a contradictory and confusing world. For many arguments, you could spend the rest of your life combing the vastness of the world wide web without coming to a sound conclusion on whatever you're arguing. With blogs, memes, Youtube, and self-publishing, spreading fake news has become rampant in our culture. So much so that measures have been taken by the social media giants to hunt down and block fake news pages and sites from wreaking havoc on our society. Fake news has even cost people their lives.
Old Problem, New Platform
With all of this talk about social media, we can be tempted to lay the blame on new technology. That sounds simple enough because the internet is one of the primary ways fake news is spread today. However, if you're acquainted with history or the Word of God, you will see that spreading fake news is nothing new.
Fake news is a new platform for the age old problem of deception. We've been seeing fake news since that crafty serpent deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7). He took some truth, blended it with alternative facts, and shared it with Eve in such a compelling way that she turned her back on the generous and loving God of the universe, paint God as a selfish tyrant trying to keep something good from her. Then Eve, like we often do, took a bite of the fruit and shared it with Adam.
How often do we do the same thing? We read the slanderous fake news, share it, and in doing so participate in the sin of gossip. Then, as if we aren't satisfied to commit sin alone, we bring other people into with us!
Instead of saying fake news, we could use biblical language like: false report (Exodus 32:1), slander (Psalm 101:5), flattery (Psalm 12:3), malice, deceit, or hypocrisy (1 Peter 2:1). We don't like the sting that comes from these blunt phrases, so we use new terms, like "alternative facts". However, we can't get away from the reality that we are being devious and deceitful when we start or share fake news. We are not innocent bystanders.
We have all been guilty of this because we all have tongues that cause us to "stumble in many ways" (James 3:2). Although we don't always verbally speak when we share fake news, typing and spreading misinformation is contributing to the deception of the person who initially started the rumors. Worse yet, we often allow that fake news to enter our everyday conversations with the people in our lives. Without fact-checking for ourselves, we give an answer before we hear the whole matter and continue to spin the sticky web of lies that leaves so many trapped in falsehood.
Where Are The Faithful?
In Psalm 12, we see David lamenting the lack of faithfulness found among the men of his generation. He cries out that "the faithful have vanished from among the children of man" (v. 1). He then spends four verses lamenting the unfaithfulness and pride that came from the mouths of men around him. Notice his words in verses 1-4 (emphasis added):
Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
Notice how often David refers to the words of the people around him. They are not trustworthy, they lie, they flatter, they speak with double hearts, they boast, and they rebel against God. He focuses on their words and how their words put their prideful and deceitful hearts on full display.
It's also interesting to note that "everyone" is involved in this. Since this is poetic literature, we don't assume that there were literally no genuine believers among him. Rather we see that sin and wickedness is so rampant that it eerily resembles Genesis 6:5 when "every intention of the thoughts of (man's) heart was only evil continually." We feel this today, don't we? We often even see these tendencies in our own lives, don’t we?
Just as important is how the words of the unfaithful ones impacts others. They harm their neighbors with their lies. They use flattery and deceptive hypocrisy to do their sinful deeds. Through their lies, they achieve power. And with this power, they get puffed up and speak against both men and God. These unfaithful men use their false words to prevail over those they oppose, especially when they are oppressing the poor and needy (v.5). False words can be used to manipulate and control people if spoken with enough flattery and hypocrisy. That is what we see described here in Psalm 12.
God Still Answers His People
When the poor are plundered and the needy "groan", we get a glimpse of the faithful God and His words (Psalm 12:5). The LORD enters boldly and powerfully into the lives of His people and says, in opposition to the prideful and unfaithful men, "I will now arise... I will place him in the safety for which he longs. '' When God shows up to rescue His people, you can be certain that He will keep them and guard them. Though vileness is exalted in this world, God will rescue His children in the life to come. As He saved the Israelites when they were in bondage in Egypt, so He will incline His ear to the cries of the saints (Exodus 2:23-25). Like the days of Noah, He will purify the world again, but this time sin and death will be destroyed forever through His Son (1 Cor 15:26).
While fake news could cost you your life in this world, you can rest assured that in Christ you will have eternal life. In contrast to the lies and unfaithful words of our enemies, we can rest in the pure words of the Lord. Comparing God's word to silver, David writes that God's word is purified seven times, representing what James Johnston describes as "ultra-pure and ultra-precious". Compared to the flawed, wicked, and despicable words of the men in v.1-4, God's Words are infinitely trustworthy.
Since God's Words are indeed "pure words", not littered with particles of sin, malice, deceit, flattery, and hypocrisy, we can bank our lives on them. Every promise in the Word of God has and will come to pass because God "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2 NASB). God is the faithful God who cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). It is impossible for Him to lie (Hebrews 6:18). God still speaks to His people through the pure scriptures He breathed out.
God still answers His people through His Providential work in the world, working all things for the good of those who love Him. Even when God seems to be hiding His face from us, He is still working to get the glory in and through His people. Our focus, then, must be on something grander that what is directly in front of us. Like the saints of old, we have to acknowledge that we are "strangers and exiles on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13). Though we face tribulation at the hands of wicked and ungodly men in this world, we know this won't be the case when we reach our homeland. For this reason, we must cultivate a greater desire for the heavenly country we are traveling to when we leave this earth or our Savior comes in glory.
Give Good News Not Fake News
In these perilous days of fake news, you may find yourself bitter, hopeless, angry, deceived, or confused. What can you do to find joy, hope, and peace in the face of endless falsehood and deception?
Get to know the faithful God. When it feels like faithfulness and godliness are rare, we need to take time to get to know the faithful God of the scriptures. Read of God's faithfulness to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Ezra, Nehemiah, the Israelites, and all of His people throughout the ages. Read the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11 and stand in awe of the faithfulness of God. Search the gospels and take note of all of the prophecies fulfilled in the Son of God coming to save His people from their sins by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. Study Acts and the epistles to see how God fulfilled His Word by reaching the nations through faith in the gospel. And when you see it, take time to adore Him in prayer and faith.
Dig deep roots in the gospel. In Jesus' parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23), we see the importance of faith in the gospel. The three soils which did not bear fruit had the word snatched away (v. 19), had no roots (v.21), and had the Word choked out (v. 22). The good soil, on the other hand, had the Word planted in good soil where there was both hearing and understanding (v.23). We need to be people of the book. We need to be people deeply rooted in the Word of God. We need to be people who hear and understand the message of Christ and Him crucified.
Pray for Spirit-led faithfulness. Faithfulness is among the fruit of the Spirit. Of all people in the world, Christians are to bear the fruit of faithfulness, and this means we must strive for holiness in all of life, especially in our speech. By the Spirit, we are the ones called to speak the truth in love rather than allowing ourselves to be "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Ephesians 3:14-15). In Christ, we strive to ensure that every single word we utter is 100% truth because "people will give account for every careless word they speak" (Matthew 12:36). Pursuing faithful speech is the surest way to keep us from walking in careless and wicked words which bring condemnation.
Consume and share media with discernment. As Christians, we are indeed sojourners on this earth. As we are passing through, we are not called to ignore the world around us. Instead, we are called to shine as lights (Philippians 2:15) through the way we engage with the people and structures around us. This means reading to find the truth regardless of whether it fits our agendas, biases, or personal preferences. It means hearing a matter before we choose a side. Most importantly, it means striving to glorify God rather than ourselves, our political party, or ideological leanings. It is eternally better for us to share the good news of the gospel with our neighbors than to partake in sharing the gossip which could ultimately lead them away from Christ.
Love your neighbor by not bearing false witness. A lying tongue and a false witness are two things that God hates and considers an abomination (Proverbs 6:16-19). Rather we should take up Angel of the Lord's call to the apostles to "speak to the people all the words of this Life" (Act 5:20). Rather being ready make a defense of slander, we should focus on being prepared to give people a reason for the hope that is in us, so that instead of being accused of slandering, we will suffer for doing good rather than evil (1 Peter 3:15-17). This can only come by a heart that has been transformed by beholding the glory of Christ through the Word of God. As children of God, our hearts have been radically transformed to love God and our neighbors rather than uttering lies to them or being double-hearted toward them.
Be Honest With Yourself
What news are you most prone to share? What news excites you when you wake up in the morning? Does that juicy news story get you more excited than the ancient stories of God's faithfulness in Genesis? Are you more excited to trash the president than to speak about the hideousness of sin? Do you get more joy from searching the web to win a Facebook debate than searching the scriptures to win souls to Christ? Do you find joy in slandering and casting judgment on those who disagree with your opinions (Romans 14:1).
Spreading fake news may never stop. Sinful people have been sinful for thousands of years, and until Christ returns, sin will reign in the hearts of unbelievers. If you're in Christ, you have the greatest and most powerful news on the planet—the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray that God would give you more zeal and boldness to spread that message than any other message on the planet.
If we are going to use our breath for anything on the planet, let's use it to sow the seed of the gospel and choke out the seed of gossip in the hearts of the people around us.