STUDY | Spend the week studying Genesis 25-29. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Many questions have been included in this guide. Read through this lesson to determine which questions will work best to encourage, push, and grow your group.
PRAY | As you prepare, pray for the preaching of God’s Word this coming weekend. Pray also for your time in this week’s study and your group’s openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | When we tell the truth, we show we trust God and His ways.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
Last week you discussed how to win in the battle for sexuality purity. You saw how living by God’s design for sex puts you on the path to holiness. This week your group will discuss honesty and how telling the truth also reveals God’s holiness. The Bible has a lot to say about lying because it’s more common than we might think. We face the temptation to fudge the truth, omit certain details, deceive others or tell a bold-faced lie often. The reality is many struggle to tell the truth, even believers. This has been a problem from the beginning. Let’s go back to Genesis and look at the life of Jacob and the role dishonesty played in his story.
Q: What is it about lying that makes it condemned in virtually every culture?
Q: In what areas of life is it tempting for you to lie?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
JACOB’S DECEIVING WAYS
If there’s one word you could use to describe Jacob’s early life, it would be struggle. Jacob was a twin. During her pregnancy, Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, could feel the two children struggling with one another. When Jacob came out of his mother’s womb, he was holding his brother’s heel, which is how he got the name “Jacob” (see What’s in a name? in the commentary).
Esau was a man’s man. He was a hunter who spent much of his time outdoors. Jacob, on the other hand, was a homebody. Esau was his father’s favorite, but Rachel favored Jacob. Esau was the older brother, which meant he had the birthright to be the heir of his father, Isaac. But Jacob had other plans and would use his cunning to get what he wanted. He exploits Esau by getting him to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew. Later, Jacob conspires with his mother to dress up as Esau and trick Isaac into blessing Jacob.
Q: Having read Genesis 25-29 during the week, what words would you use to describe Jacob? Why these words?
Q: Describe someone who is deceptive. What are they like? How does it feel to be around, interact or work with them?
Next, Jacob is sent to his uncle, Laban, to find a wife in Paddan-aram. On the way, he has a dream where he sees angels going up and down a ladder (or stairway). God says to him in the dream that His promises to Abraham would go through Jacob and his descendants.
When Jacob arrives in Paddan-aram, he sees Laban’s daughter, Rachel, watering her herd at a well. For Jacob, it was love at first sight. Jacob asks Laban to marry his daughter. Laban says he will allow Jacob and Rachel to marry under the condition that Jacob work seven years for him. Jacob agrees to the deal. However, in an ironic twist, Laban deceives Jacob into marrying Leah, Rachel’s older sister. Jacob, the deceiver, had become the deceived.
Q: How do God’s promises help us fight the temptation to lie?
Q: What do you learn about lying and deception from how Jacob’s story turned out?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
Jacob struggled to tell the truth for three reasons. The first is simple: sin. We are born sinful, which means there is a natural bent in each of us to act in a way that is contrary to God. This natural bent is seen in how we protect ourselves (avoid trouble and accountability), promote ourselves (make ourselves look better than we really are) and provide for ourselves (get what we want or need by any means necessary, even if we do it dishonestly). Jacob wanted Esau’s birthright and his father’s blessing. So, he put his cunning to work to get what he wanted.
Q: We believe our natural bent is towards sin. How does that differ than what our culture says about human nature?
Q: How does sin cause us to protect ourselves, promote ourselves and provide for ourselves? Give examples of each.
Jacob didn’t exactly have the best examples of honesty. His father and grandfather lied on more than one occasion. And his mother helped her son deceive Isaac into blessing Jacob. Others can influence us to be dishonest. Maybe your boss wants you to fudge the numbers to make the report not look so bad. Or your friend asks you to vouch for her that she was with you and not where she actually was the night before. People have more influence over you than maybe you like to admit. But the truth is that no one forces you to lie. You choose to lie. Ultimately, we are responsible for our choices.
Q: Rephrase the following statement in your own words: “The truth is that no one forces you to lie. You choose to lie.”
LACK OF TRUST
Jacob didn’t trust God to deliver on His promises. That’s why he took matters into his own hands. He justified his dishonesty because he reasoned, “This is the best way to get what I want.” Does that reasoning sound familiar? Trusting God means being obedient to His ways. When you don’t trust God, you try to do things your way. And “your way” never works out as good as God’s way. It was only after Jacob finally surrendered to God that things began to turn around for him (see Gen. 32:22-32).
Q: Create a personal statement to remember the next time you are tempted to lie. For example, “I will not lie, because God’s way is always better.”
Select 1 question from this section to answer.
ENCOUNTERING GOD THROUGH CONFESSION
The Bible calls lying a sin. When we lie, we defy God’s command to be honest. Lying also hurts others. Lying can damage an organization’s reputation, destroy a marriage, etc. Lying has consequences. And lying never solves problems; it only compounds them. Did you ever notice how you always need to tell another lie to cover up the original lie?
How can we be cured of dishonesty? By encountering God in confession. Come out of the dark and into the light. Confess your sins and allow God to work on your heart. Yes, lying may continue to be a temptation—even a struggle—for you. The Christian life is about progress, not perfection (at least not in this life). Every time we trust God and tell the truth, we look a little more like Jesus. Done over time, those decisions—whether big or small—add up and affect our character in positive ways.
Q: What personal experience do you have with the consequences of lies? If comfortable, share with the group.
Q: Where would you like to see more honesty in your life? How could you do this?
Spend time confessing any ways you have been dishonest with God and others. Pray to see the value and blessings of being a truth-teller.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read Genesis Proverbs 12:22 and meditate on how it delights God when we tell the truth.
Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their life.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The name “Jacob” resembles the Hebrew term for “heel.” But it also has the connotation of “deceiver.”1 A number of events later in Jacob’s life would reveal just how telling his name was to his character.
Is it ever permissible to lie?
Nowhere does the Bible condone lying as the right thing to do. It clearly calls lying a sin (Exod. 20:16). Numerous stories and passages reveal the misery, damage and judgment caused by dishonesty. Perhaps there are occasions when lying is the only option to avoid a worse evil. A classic example would be lying to Nazi soldiers about hiding Jews. However, these circumstances are considered extremely rare.
The ladder in Jacob’s dream represented access to God; a bridge between heaven and earth. It was probably a stairway commonly found on ancient ziggurats. God was showing Jacob His commitment to dwell with His people. Jesus is the ladder, which acts as a bridge between us and God (John 1:51). All other world religions are about what humans do to get to (or ascend to) God. But the Gospel is about how God descended to come to us and dwell with us.2
Two different encounters with God.
While Jacob’s encounter with God in Genesis 28:10-22 is a significant moment in the Bible’s story, one has to wonder whether Jacob was fully committed to God. His vow and subsequent actions suggest he wasn’t changed much by the experience; he continued to act deceptively. It isn’t until he wrestles with God in 32:22-32 that we see a real change in Jacob’s character.3
1. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 94.
2. Ibid., p. 99.
3. D. A. Carson, ed., NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 73.