Deception has a way of coming back on you.
Jacob’s early life included several situations involving deception.
Jacob, albeit directly, took advantage of Esau’s impetuous nature to “steal” Esau’s birthright. Rebekah influenced Jacob into deceiving Isaac for the blessing that was promised to Esau as the eldest.
Because of these two “trickeries,” Esau hated Jacob to the point of wanting to murder him. Rebekah lost her favored son for years due to fear over Esau’s rage.
Jacob went to Rebekah’s brother, Laban, and Laban subsequently deceived Jacob.
Jacob wanted to marry Laban’s daughter Rachel. Laban agreed, provided Jacob worked for him seven years, which Jacob did. On the wedding night, Laban snuck his older daughter Leah in with Jacob rather than Rachel. Jacob did not notice right away.
When Jacob confronted Laban about it, Laban “changed the rules,” saying that it was custom for the older daughter to marry before the younger, and promising to give Rachel to Jacob for another seven years’ labor. Jacob agreed, but now he was on the receiving end of deception.
Later, as GOD blessed Jacob and Jacob’s flocks multiplied prosperously, Laban again deceived Jacob by swapping which animals would be Jacob’s—the speckled and spotted versus the white. In fact, Genesis 31:7 says that Laban changed Jacob’s wages ten times in this manner!
Then, for Laban’s part, GOD told Jacob to return to his homeland, so Laban lost his prosperity (for GOD had uniquely prospered Jacob while he had been with Laban), his daughters and his grandchildren, as they secretly escaped back towards Canaan.
Zooming out, we see that Jacob deceived and got deceived by Jacob. Laban deceived Jacob and got deceived by Jacob’s family.
There are many such situations recorded in the Scriptures. Deception tends to be a vicious cycle. Honesty is much better, even when we have been deceived by others.
Solomon warns the reader in Proverbs:
17 A man who is without discernment and is lawless does not walk in good ways.
But he winks with an eye; he makes a sign with his foot, And teaches with the wave of his hand.
18 And with a perverse heart, he constantly schemes evil things; Such a man causes trouble in a city.
19 Therefore his destruction comes suddenly,
A deep and incurable wound.
20 For he rejoices in everything the Lord hates,
And he shall be broken because of his soul’s uncleanness:
21 A haughty eye, an unrighteous tongue,
Hands that shed righteous blood,
22 A heart that devises evil thoughts,
And feet that hasten to do evil;
23 As a false witness he kindles injustice
And causes quarrels between brethren.
24 My son, guard the laws of your father, And do not depart from the rules of your mother.
25 But fasten them to your soul continually
And wear them as a collar upon your neck.
(Proverbs 6:17-25 OSB)
22 As a fireplace is for coals and wood for a fire,
So a contentious man kindles violence.
23 The words of a talebearer are mild
And they strike into the innermost affections.
24 Money given with deceit is like a sharp piece of broken pottery;
So smooth lips hide a heart that causes pain.
25 A weeping enemy promises everything with his lips,
But in his heart he devises deceits.
26 If your enemy entreats you with a loud voice,
Do not consent, for there are seven vices in his soul.
27 He who hides enmity contrives deceit,
But being well known in the assemblies, he exposes his own sins.
28 He who digs a pit for his neighbor shall fall into it, And he who rolls a stone rolls it upon himself.
29 A lying tongue hates the truth, And an unguarded mouth causes confusion.Proverbs 26:22-29 OSB
But why is this principle so?
I believe it is because GOD sees everything and He rewards us according to our deeds. Sometimes the consequences are immediate; other times, it takes a long time. But if GOD wants to keep people, especially His children, from being deceitful, one of the best ways is to let the deceiver feel what it is like to be deceived. When we feel the pain of deception, that pain teaches us a lesson that serves as a powerful reminder not to treat others that way.