Protection from deception

A Christian Science perspective.

Ecologists recently came out with a study describing how a species of butterfly tricks the red ant into caring for its larvae. The caterpillar has figured out how to mimic the smell of the ants and the sound of the queen ant, so the caterpillar is soon invited into the nest and treated like royalty. The worker ants feed the caterpillar and respond to its every request, including at times even feeding it their young. Eventually the caterpillar grows to 100 times its original size before forming a chrysalis, which also smells and sounds like the ants. Slowly, this intruder has been depleting, literally devouring, the red ant population, all through the clever devices of deception.

This finding parallels various forms of trickery that play themselves out in our own lives. Take, for instance, the claim that much of the current state of our economy has resulted from deception, stemming from the greed of investors, banks, and home-buyers. In hindsight, people wonder why this has happened and what could have been done to help prevent it. Yet, greed, selfishness, and apathy begin with one thought at a time, either accepted and acted on or rejected and tossed out. These thoughts may appear to promise some future good, but if agreed with, they wreak havoc on our peace of mind and attempt to devour our very well-being. Acceptance might be something as apparently innocent as agreeing that men and women have inherent weaknesses – that we're all susceptible to being deceptive or deceived.

A classic biblical example of this view of life is played out in the story of Jacob and Esau. At his mother's bidding, Jacob disguises himself in order to steal his father's blessing at the expense of his elder brother, Esau. Jacob says: "Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing" (Gen. 27:11, 12). So, following his mother's scheme, Jacob wears his brother's clothes and covers his arms with animal skin, successfully tricking his father, who is blind in his old age.

Allowing greed to govern his actions, Jacob begins a difficult journey that will entail running away from his brother's wrath, hiding in fear for his life, becoming the victim of deception himself, and then many years later finding his way out of the snare he laid for himself. He has indeed brought "a curse upon himself, and not a blessing." But in the end, the good qualities that constituted Jacob's true identity are brought to the surface, and he discovers that God's care and love for him had never ceased.

Jacob's deception was built, at least in part, on trust in the material senses: He used trickery to assume a false identity; his father then believed what he heard and felt. And thus began a web of lies. Christian Science, based on Christ Jesus' healings and teachings, reveals that reality has nothing to do with the material senses, which are only detractors. The evidence of pain, injury, and disease is itself deceptive and can only influence us if nurtured and believed. The senses require our sympathy and agreement to gain access and stake out a position in our lives. They falsely pull thought into admitting something less than good as acceptable. Along these lines, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" cautions: "When the first symptoms of disease appear, dispute the testimony of the material senses with divine Science.... Suffer no claim of sin or of sickness to grow upon the thought. Dismiss it with an abiding conviction that it is illegitimate, because you know that God is no more the author of sickness than He is of sin" (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 390).

This illegitimacy is true for any form of deception that detracts from God's power and makes us think of ourselves as less than His pure and honest reflection. The author of our lives, our very well-being, is alone God, divine Truth. How vital it is to think of our world, our neighbors, our families and friends, as safe and protected, completely covered from whatever attempts to destroy the good. And, as in the case of Jacob after he finally comes to terms with his wrongdoing, the good is always present.

Mrs. Eddy wrote this message to Christian Scientists: "How blessed it is to think of you as 'beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,' safe in His strength, building on His foundation, and covered from the devourer by divine protection and affection. Always bear in mind that His presence, power, and peace meet all human needs and reflect all bliss" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 263).

Even if we've been deceived by greed, ignorance, fear, and other negative traits, we are safe from the "devourers" of our homes, retirement, savings, jobs – because we are under divine protection. Whatever the need, Love is here, meeting it and leading us. The safest place anyone can ever be is under the protection of that "great rock in a weary land." Nothing can draw our attention away from this reality; and this fact, realized, will bring everyone safely home.

Reprinted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

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