The First Liar Wins?
Posted by May 9, 2017on
It seems true that “the first liar wins.” We are surrounded by lies in our world. In the end, is it the first liar, or the one who tells the truth, who actually wins?
I first heard the adage “the first liar wins” (sometimes referred to as “FLW”) over 20 years ago at work when one department used it to deflect the cause of delays. It seems even more apropos in light of today’s epidemic of false news.
FLW is in effect when someone asserts as fact something that is not true, but usually packages it in a way that is:
- Simply stated.
- Superficially plausible.
- Emotionally appealing.
Because of these three elements, this approach often works. Attempts to refute such statements often sound argumentative rather than constructive.
Beginning of lies
What is the source of this adage and its effects? Perhaps the earliest description is found in the Bible. The original liar, Satan, lied to the first woman: “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).
This statement fits the FLW approach:
- It was simply stated. (What is simpler than “you won’t die”?)
- It was superficially plausible. (Eve had never seen or experienced human death.)
- It was emotionally appealing. (Eve was promised greater wisdom.)
So Satan’s lies worked, and Eve sinned. Read our article “Adam and Eve and the Two Trees” to learn more.
But did Satan really win? Mankind chose to decide what was right and wrong apart from God, yet they suffered the consequence: God “drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).
Mankind was cut off from the tree of life. But, thankfully, Christ’s life and death has made it possible for the way to the tree of life to be opened. Ultimately, Satan will be restrained and unable to deceive (Revelation 20:10).
On the human level, the same thing will happen. The first liar may seem to win at the beginning, but usually the lie is discovered and exposed in the end. As the Bible says, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies will not escape” (Proverbs 19:5). The harmful effects of the lie will continue to affect others.
Don’t be taken in by the “first liar wins” concept. If a statement seems too good to be true, don’t repeat it.
There’s an old saying in journalism that some potential stories are “too good to check.” Sometimes a story you hear is just too good—suspiciously good. You don’t want to dig into the details, because there’s a risk that if you start asking questions, the whole story might fall apart.
Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). He is broadcasting falsehoods, even influencing the major news media. He is a master at appealing to our emotions, just as he appealed to Eve’s emotions. If we spread falsehood, even by accident, we will not only hurt ourselves, but may also cause unneeded pain to others.
Beware of what you read and hear.
To learn more about the problem with lying, read “Ninth Commandment: You Shall Not Bear False Witness.”