My mother recently told me about receiving a telephone call. According to the caller she had won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes, in spite of the fact that she never entered. Since the caller was offering something from a drawing she had never entered she became suspicious. After determining that she would have to send the caller money in order to cover the “shipping costs” of getting the check to her, she very wisely hung up the telephone.
Scams are not new. They have been around in various forms for just about as long as humans have been around and they are costly. In some cases scams can cost a person his/her entire livelihood. In fact, it would probably be accurate to say that the first scam was perpetrated on Eve in the Garden of Eden. It certainly cost both her and her husband dearly.
While we normally view scams as a way for one person to take money from another via some form of subterfuge, financial scams, as bad as they are, are not the worst of the scams. Much more costly than financial scams are spiritual scams. And one of the saddest things about spiritual scams is that they are generally legal.
What is a spiritual scam? A spiritual scam is when someone teaches a false doctrine so convincingly that people believe it and follow the lie to their own destruction. Our United States Constitution guarantees and protects freedom of religion in this country. As a result the government does not and cannot exercise any control over what a person may teach or promote in the name of and in the realm of religion. That is a good thing and I am certainly not advocating that the U. S. government or any other government determine and dictate what should or should not be taught in the realm of religion. That would be even more disastrous than the present situation. Additionally, the problem lies not so much with those who are perpetuating the scam as with the ignorance of those accepting the lies.
According to the Barna Research Group (information available here https://protestia.com/2020/10/08/barna-poll-40-of-christian-evangelicals-are-pretty-much-a-bunch-of-socialist-pro-choice-pagans/ and here https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/CRC_AWVI2020_Release11_Digital_04_20201006.pdf) “nearly half of evangelicals are pretty much bunch a ragtag group of biblically illiterate, confused, socialist, sexually progressive weirdo pagans.” That being the case it is no surprise that so many spiritual scammers are so successful.
We have been warned about such people. Some will “pervert” and “twist” the Scriptures in order to achieve their goals (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Peter 3:16). Of course, those who do such things do so to their own destruction. The sad thing is that they also lead others to destruction (2 Peter 2:1-3) because of their inability to identify such false teachers/scammers. In some instances these scammers “creep in unnoticed” (Jude 4) and lead people astray, seeking only their own gratification (Jude 12).
So what is the antidote to such a situation? Long ago the prophet Amos dealt with the same kind of thing. Amos described it as a famine of “hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11, 12). It’s not that the words of the Lord were not available. It’s that the people were not listening and learning. Jesus teaches us to “know the truth” because that is what will make us free (John 8:32). How can we know the truth? Only if we study the truth, which is the word of God (John 17:17). Study it diligently in order to know how to properly handle it (2 Timothy 2:15). Study it diligently in order to be able to defend your hope of eternal life (1 Peter 3:15-17). Study to know. Study to live.