Titus 1:15-16 “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”
Things are not always what they seem. In a world where solid truth has dwindled away to almost nothing it is not prudent to trust everyone we meet. Instead we must be wary and check the facts carefully . . . and rely on our Great Fraud Detector.
I am reminded of a book I read a number of years ago. Catch Me If You Can tells the story of Frank William Abagnale, Jr., a brilliant con artist. Between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one, this young man fraudulently posed in numerous professional capacities. Without significant trouble he masqueraded as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, a Louisiana lawyer, and a US Bureau of Prisons crime agent. Somehow he was able to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes for a short time, but eventually each charade unraveled and he was forced to escape to his next identity. After being caught and imprisoned, Abagnale developed a successful business to help other professionals recognize fraud.
Within the greater Christian community there has long been fraudulent activity. From the time of Jesus, Pharisees and other spiritual leaders professed to know God in special ways and used their elevated positions to control worshippers. They created laws that went beyond what God intended and used them to suppress the community and benefit themselves. On two different occasions Jesus entered the temple and removed by force those who were oppressing the people.
In more recent church history there have also been those who have used their leader status for personal gain. In the late Middle Ages, certain clerics, preying on peoples’ fear of death, fraudulently implemented the sale of indulgences, which were supposed to protect the sick and elderly from eternal punishment. Many spent hard earned cash to purchase what could never save them based on promises from leaders whom they wrongly trusted.
Even today there are those who preach fraudulent doctrines. They deliver false messages of salvation by works, of Christian wealth, or of the equality of all religions. They betray their listeners by pointing them to hopeless and misleading doctrines – ones that do not call the hearers to a pure faith in the Lord Jesus.
Frank Abagnale failed in each of his masquerades. Over time it became apparent to the genuine professionals that his actions and words didn’t fit the part he was playing. He often had to flee when the game became too hot.
We also can detect fraudulent religious leaders by comparing their words and actions to the truth of the Scripture. Imposters in the church may acknowledge God with their words, but a careful study of their beliefs and deeds will eventually show that they are promoting false doctrines.
Things are not always as they seem. So if you don’t want to be duped like the victims of Frank Abagnale, be aware of the danger, check the facts carefully, and rely on our Great Fraud Detector – God’s written word.