The clamor of a me-focused culture can be overwhelming for many Christians, who try so hard to tune out the noise and focus on what God holds dear. But sometimes, culture’s lies can sneak in and confuse us. Part of this is because they make sense to the logical sides of our brain, or they are woven tightly into our upbringing or work-oriented mentality. And, in truth, they often don’t seem so bad.
But each one of them is a lie, for they run counter to God’s instructions and promises for us.
Here, we explore five lies of culture and how to counter them with Scripture.
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1. I Deserve This
On the surface, this seems so mild: Do a good job, and earn a reward. You worked out? You deserve a milkshake. You landed that deal? You deserve to celebrate. McDonald’s brought in billions off their slogan, “You deserve a break today.”
But the Bible never tells us we deserve anything good. The notion of reward for hard work is a uniquely human constraint.
God told us back in Genesis we should expect hard work. As humanity’s consequence for breaking their covenant with God and eating of the tree of knowledge, God told Adam he should expect “painful toil” from the land from now on (Genesis 3:17).
And Jesus, when he taught His disciples, never told them to expect a reward for doing what they should.
As He said in Luke 17:7-10, “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
God loves us. He created us and truly does want the best for us. But in truth, each one of us is separated from God by sin, which isn’t merely “disobedience” but rather an attack or affront against God Himself.
Psalm 51:5 reminds us, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
And Romans 5:12 acknowledges, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”
We cannot work hard enough or do good enough to earn our way into heaven. If anything, because of our sin, we deserve death. The point of life is not our pleasure. It’s God, and making God’s plan come to fruition.
Thankfully, through God’s mercy, we do have a path to heaven, our eternal destination. That path is through Jesus, the “way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). But that’s a gift, not something we “deserve.”
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2. It Doesn’t Hurt Anyone
We hear a variety of this lie: It’s not hurting anyone. It’s not like I killed someone.
The trouble with this logic is that it, again, stems from the human desire to define and control what God has already established. We often put human rankings on sin, forgetting that sin is sin. Romans 6:23 reminds us “the wages of sin is death.” While God did assign different punishments and penalties for sin in the Old Testament—for example, Exodus 22 requires restitution for stealing and death for bestiality or sorcery—the important thing to remember is that any sin separates us from God.
We sometimes do things that are harmful to ourselves or outside God’s standards for us, like binge eating, using drugs, watching pornography, or engaging in sex outside marriage. Many of us justify them by comparing them to other, “worse,” things that hurt others, and ignore the inherent harm within. The truth is that pornography takes a toll both on the person watching it and on the real-life person they later share intimacy with. Using drugs opens our minds to dangerous notions and temptations, or poisons what God so beautifully created. Silent envy drives a wedge in a relationship and allows jealousy, fear, hate, and more to fester and gain a foothold.
The consequences reach far beyond the individual.
Jesus reminds us that all sin is sin. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus urges, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
James 2:10-11 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”
And 1 John 3:15 says, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”
Sin hurts God, no matter how small it seems.
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3. It’s about My Happiness
Happiness is not the goal of life. Happiness is a feeling—joy is a state of being. God wants us to have joy, which is that special place of resting in the hope and truth that God is and always will be. We are assured eternal life when we repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Joy, and its byproduct the feeling of happiness, comes when we walk in alignment with God and God’s wishes.
But culture often tells us happiness can be achieved through earthly things, such as an exciting job, lots of money, good health, a balanced marriage, kids, the “right” house or car or neighborhood, etc.
Jesus reminds us that we are to focus not on this world but on God’s heavenly kingdom. As He tells us in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
The apostle John echoes this when he urges, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
Real happiness is steeped in joy, and comes from serving God and doing God’s will.
“You make known to me the path of life,” David shares in Psalm 16:11. “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
4. I Can Do Anything I Set My Mind To
You can do it. You’ve got this. Mind over matter. These are all empowering sentiments, but they all conveniently ignore the truth: We are mere humans. We are not God.
Many Christians are familiar with the apostle Paul’s epiphany in his letter to the Philippians: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). But often, we seize onto the first portion of this—I can do all. The most important aspect of this is the source of this empowerment: the Lord God. God is the one who gives us strength and might. When we operate on our own, separate from the Lord, we fall flat. But when we operate in tandem with the Lord, following His lead and walking in His ways, relying on Him to provide and strengthen and empower and guide, that’s the real power source.
Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that we were all baptized by one Spirit to form one body. A few verses prior, he tells us we all have different gifts, different “manifestations” of the Spirit to be used for the common good (v. 7). One person might be gifted in healing, while another has wisdom. But when we are one with God, part of the full body in perfect union with the Spirit, that’s when we can do all.
On our own, we are imperfect, weak. Only with God can we do all things.
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5. Live Your Best Life
You might also hear this one as “You only live once,” or YOLO. It’s true we have one earthly life, and our days on this earth are finite—but for Christians, they are only the beginning. As part of the body of Christ, our earthly life is a tiny moment in comparison to all of eternity, promised to all who have faith in Christ Jesus as our savior and redeemer. Earth is not meant to be heaven, and the world we live in today is not forever.
Romans 12:1-2 tells us to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice to God and to reject the pattern of this world. Instead, we are to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Paul offers his young friend Timothy some good advice in 2 Timothy 2:11-13: “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
This echoes what Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, noting, “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20).
This life is only the beginning. If we live as if this life is the only one, forgetting about the promises and rewards awaiting us in God’s perfect heavenly kingdom, we are not living for God any longer. We are living for the world—and living a lie.
We know that faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). God tells us the truth about His plan and His promises throughout the Bible. The fleeting promises of this world will fade and always fall short, but God’s truths are forever.
The reality is that while we sinners might deserve death, God redeemed us through His Son Jesus. We should try our best to live in accordance with God’s rules and values, for when we do not, we separate ourselves from Him. Happiness comes when we live in alignment with Him, and we can do all things through Him and His mighty power. And at the end, our reward is eternal life in heaven, glorifying God now and forever.
Are you struggling with the lies of culture? Just as Jesus rebutted every one of the devil’s temptations with Scripture, we can do the same today.
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