According to this e-mail I just received, someone I’ve never met has inherited a massive amount of money, and just needs me to wire a few thousand dollars to help him claim the fortune! Then, he’ll be happy to split the proceeds with me!
I’m kidding, of course. But the fact is, scams and tricks aren’t new.
As the Israelites were entering Canaan to take it over, the Gibeonites (one of the local people groups) didn’t want to be destroyed, like the other Canaanites. So, they dressed in worn-out clothes and carried old food, then introduced themselves to Joshua, claiming that they were from far away (see Joshua 9). After they had obtained a peace treaty (see v.15), the Israelites were obliged to keep their word not to wipe them out.
The following verse shows where the Israelite leaders went wrong:
So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD.
Joshua 9:14 NASB
The friendship shared between David and Jonathan was a worthy example of a healthy relationship (if you’re not familiar, see 1 Samuel 18:1-4). You may also have heard about the mercy shown by David to Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, after Jonathan and his father, king Saul, were killed by enemies and David took the throne of Israel (see 2 Samuel 9).
These were some positive examples, but later on, Mephibosheth’s caretaker, named Ziba (who had located Mephibosheth at David’s request in the first place), tried to sell Mephibosheth out. In 2 Samuel 16:1-4, Ziba goes out with provisions for David, and tells him that Mephibosheth is back awaiting the restoration of his father Jonathan’s lineage to the throne. (Later, in 2 Samuel 19:24-30, Mephibosheth explains quite a different story, though.) David again keeps his word, this time to Ziba, even if it was made to Ziba under false pretenses. Again, David shows mercy.
Balaam, who you may recognize from his talking donkey (Numbers 22:22-25), was prevented from cursing the Israelites. However, by comparing Numbers 25:1-3 and Numbers 31:15-16 (see also Revelation 2:14), it seems that he counseled Israel’s enemies to attack via a more covert and insidious scheme. By enticing the Israelites to worship the false god Baal, the Midianites probably caused more harm to the Israelites than they ever did with their swords.
So, other than cautionary instructions, what do we learn from these examples?
First, don’t be a deceiver like people in these examples.
Like a madman who throws
Firebrands, arrows and death,
So is the man who deceives his neighbor,
And says, “Was I not joking?”
Proverbs 26:18-19 NASB
No matter what is convenient or popular, telling the truth is better. Even joking around can lead to problems. How many prank wars started with a small deception, and turned into a life-long pattern until someone – typically the collective wives of the guys stuck in the prank war – stepped up and enforced a truce?
Secondly, watch out for others who try to deceive you.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
1 John 4:1-3 NASB
See also 2 Peter 2:1-3.
There are many lies and many liars in the world. Some are misguided or ignorant of the truth. Others are malicious and intentional about leading others astray. This doesn’t mean we treat everyone like they are out to get us, but it does mean checking what we hear against a solid reference point, as 1 John instructs us.
And, if you see a similar e-mail in your Inbox, with an obvious scam…don’t even open it!