The bait and switch is a sales and marketing technique that is both widely employed and highly effective. You want X? Here, I’ll give you X for just $9.95 per month for the first twelve months – the bait.
We take the bait and at month thirteen we find that the “small print” kicks in and we’re paying $39.95 per month, and we have no means of getting out of the deal. We are locked into a two-year contract – the switch.
The bait and switch. It is deceit. It is legal, but it is deceitful.
Sin and Deceit
I don’t want to suggest that sin and deceit are synonymous because they’re not. Sin is sin. Deceit is deceit.
But I will state outright that where you find sin, you will find deceit lurking in a nearby dark corner. And that is because sin … by nature … at it’s very core … is a deception. It is a cleverly contrived lie.
That is why we are warned repeatedly in scripture with some sort of “Be not deceived,” because it is so easy to be taken in.
Jesus answered, “See to it that no one deceives you. – Matthew 24:4, BSB
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. – Galatians 6:7, ESV
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. – Ephesians 5:6, ESV
Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous. – 1 John 3:7, BSB
I read once that temptation is a hook baited with a lie.
Oh, that’s good! That’s accurate, and it is a great mental picture.
We can visualize a hook and we know what it is for. We can visualize the bait, and we likewise know what that is for. The bait is promising something to the fish – a meal. A meal so near and so easy to retrieve, just there for the taking. But the bait conceals the hook.
Back to the Beginning
Let’s go all the way back to the headwaters of this whole thing. Let’s go all the way back to the garden, back to Genesis three. What happened there?
In the garden, we find Eve, the first woman. We also find Satan, the liar, the deceiver. We know Satan’s a liar because Jesus said he’s a liar in John 8:44. We also know he is deceptive because John told us in Revelation 12:9 that he is the deceiver of the whole world.
And you know the script. You know how this played out.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1, ESV
For starters, no, that’s not what God said, and Eve corrected Satan on that point, saying, essentially, “God said we can eat from all the trees in the garden, but not the one in the center of the garden. Don’t even touch it, lest we die.”
“Oh, you won’t diiiiiiiie,” Satan said. And here comes the bait.
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. – Genesis 3:5, ESV
“The reason God doesn’t want you to eat from that tree, Eve, is because your eyes will be opened and you will be just like God!”
“You don’t know it right now, but you’re really blind.”
“You need your eyes to be opened, to really see for the first time.”
“Then you’ll be just like God! You’ll know the difference between good and evil.”
The trap is set. The bait is placed. Just eat from the tree and you will be wonderfully enlightened. Not only that, you will be elevated to a level plane with Yahweh. You will be just … like … God.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened. – Genesis 3:6-7a, ESV
The hook was baited, the bait was taken, the trap did its job.
The Lie of Sin
What was it, really, that brought Eve (and subsequently Adam) down? What’s the underlying issue for her?
I believe what happened is that Eve overrated the tree. She believed the tree (distorted by Satan) promised her something that it couldn’t deliver. “You’ll be like God.”
No. She wasn’t. And neither was Adam.
Oh, they knew good and evil; that’s true. But they weren’t like God in any other sense.
Understand that when we sin, it is because we always “overrate the tree.” We believe the sin will grant us something that it cannot deliver.
It delivers something, but never what we want or expect, and always destructive.
Sin promises that if we lie about X, everything will be better. We do, and it’s not.
Sin promises that if we have an affair, we will be happy. We do, we aren’t, and our family is destroyed.
Sin promises that if we steal from our employer or from the store we will be justified for whatever reasons. We do, we’re not, and we end up fired or in legal trouble.
With temptation and sin, we always overrate the tree, because sin delivers, but it never delivers what it promises.
Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?” – Isaiah 44:20, NIV