Devotional: The Invention of Lying

I like to use devotionals that include movies and pop culture. It can be an incredible and enlightening experience to look at movies, music, or other clips in a new way. It can make a story or idea accessible to more people. So for this post, I’d like to share a devotional based on a movie.

This particular devotional is drawing from The Invention of Lying and best for college students or young adults, as there is mature content in the movie. Always make sure that you view any videos or movies before you show it to a group so that you don’t have any surprises, but feel free to adapt this into a movie night or use the clips that are linked for a shorter meeting time.

This particular movie came under fire when it was released for poking fun at religion and holding up atheist viewpoints. Rather than immediately dismissing it because of this, I hope this devotion can lead to the important questions and help us point to what is at the center of our faith.

The movie The Invention of Lying (Click here to see a trailer.), begins with the premise that no one in the world ever tells a lie. Every person is brutally honest about what they think about themselves, other people, or what they’ve done. The beginning of the movie shows this stark contrast from the world we live in.

  • Think about it; What are the things you wish someone would tell you?
  • What are the things you are glad no one tells you?

The movie begins with the main character, Mark Bellison (played by Ricky Gervais) going through his normal life. He lives a life that is not glamorous and in fact is taking a turn for the worse; His dating life is at a standstill. He is unsuccessful at the job he is about to lose. And most people just do not like him. As he lives in a world where everyone tells the truth this is all a real and present truth of his every day life.

When Mark gets the idea to lie, it works – no one can even conceive of him not telling the truth. When his mother is on her deathbed, he cannot stand to see his mother being so scared of dying. Mark tells his mother that the afterlife includes love, happiness and seeing everyone who has died before you. No one had ever known what happened when you died and word spread quickly.

Mark tries to explain what he “knows” about the afterlife to a growing crowd of listeners. (Click here to see the clip–It includes strong language.) Mark makes a list of ten things that happen in the afterlife. It begins that everything is controlled by the “Man in the Sky” and includes things like you can only do three bad things (like hurting people, murdering people, stealing) and still go to the good place, and that the man in the sky brings suffering as well as happiness.

At the end of this scene, Mark is asked, “How do you know all these things?” He answers, “Because the ‘Man in the Sky’ told me.”

  • What are the ways we know things about our faith?

Take a moment to break into groups, or choose to look at the following texts and questions together:

  • Read 1 Corinthians 4:6. Talk about Sola Scriptura, that we are grounded in the Bible. How does the Bible help us know things about our faith? Are there other ways?
  • Read Romans 3:21-25. Talk about Sola Fides, that we are saved by our faith. How is this different than Mark’s idea that you can do three bad things?
  • Read Ephesians 2:4-9 . Talk about Sola Gratia, that we are saved by God’s grace. What is behind God’s Grace? How does Mark’s vision of the afterlife include God’s Grace?

In this movie, Mark creates a “Man in the Sky”. Prior to this, people did not have a concept of religion. But, Mark doesn’t create this God to manipulate people or to intentionally lie or to cause harm. This God is created out of love for his mother. He keeps the idea going, because he wants to help other people. The root of the faith he creates, is love.

  • We looked at the “Solas” – the phrases that Martin Luther called to be the basis of our faith. Do you agree? What is at the root of our faith?
  • Do we ever get caught up in things, to the point where we miss the basic facts – that we are loved and saved by grace?

Pray together:
God of All, Be present with us. Help us to grow in your wisdom and be lead by your spirit. Let us be filled with your love, so that it may show to all those around us. In praise of your name, Amen.

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