The Internets are blowing up over the back-to-back deceptions perpetuated by US cyclist Lance Armstrong and Notre Dame linebacker Manti T'eo. If somehow you have been in a cave over the past few days, Armstrong confessed on Oprah to doping, while T'eo was complicit in an elaborate hoax involving the tragic death of an imaginary girlfriend. Ever since both incidents, we've seen all sorts of memes, commentary, and tsk-tsking.
I take this as a good opportunity to explain the Christian perspective on deception. You don't have to be a Christian, of course, to consider deception to be immoral and unadvisable. But I do think that the Christian perspective is a unique one. And I think it is worthwhile to express it. So here goes.
Sin is sin because it is an affront to God. More specifically, it is an affront to God as all-authoritative and (importantly) as all-good. It's that second part - that God is all-good - that is the wrinkle many don't think of when they think of Christian morality. For many, Christian morality is all about the first part - God said so, God gets to say so, so if you break the rule, you're in trouble.
But Christian morality is also about the second part - God has our best in mind, and when we sin we insult God by saying we can do better. Think about that for a minute. God is insulted when we act like we can do more good on our own than with Him. That's how good He is and how much good He wants to do for us!
Which brings us to deception. Armstrong's and T'eo's actions are two good examples of how and why we practice deception. In Armstrong's case, he sought glory: doping gave him an edge, which he exploited to the tune of seven straight Tour de France titles. In T'eo's case (and, I could be wrong here, since I don't actually know the story that well), he was initially duped, and then went along with the deception to avoid looking bad in the public (at a time when he was getting strong consideration for the Heisman Trophy, college football's greatest honor, not to mention positioning in next year's NFL draft).
Deception is certainly a sin I am personally familiar with. I can easily think of many situations in my life in which I lied for the purpose of either personal gain or shame avoidance. In all such cases, my sin might or might not have been against others, but it was always against God, in that I was telling Him with my actions (and my subsequent justifying, hiding, or further lying) that I was going to take care of myself just fine without Him, thank you very much. Again, for a God who has promised so much good for me, even and especially through His commandments for me as conveyed in the Bible, this is a grievous insult.
To be sure, immoral things like deception are wrong because they hurt others. But, from a Christian's standpoint, they are also wrong because they are an offense to an all-authorative and all-good God. Let Lance Armstrong's and Manti T'eo's very public sins be an example for us.