By Dr Peter Lim
As if the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t enough, it looks like we are having an epidemic of scams – a “scamdemic”, as I call it. Internet scams have made their rounds ever since the advent of the digital age. But it has become more insidious, devious and rampant of late. The News Focus section of the Straits Times of 29th January 2022 has an extensive coverage of this phenomenon plaguing us.
With the widespread use of social media today, we communicate, interact and transact at the touch of a button or screen real-time. It is quite frightening to know that in so doing we become vulnerable to being deceived by unscrupulous individuals, corporations and even governments. It is therefore imperative for us to be alert, discerning and to be on guard against being manipulated or duped. Many unwary victims have lost significant sums of money to these new-fangled internet scams. But in essence these scams are nothing more than deception couched in fancy terms. And deception is as old as the hills. Satan in the guise of a serpent deceived both Adam and Eve in the first sin against God (Genesis 3:13; 2 Corinthians 11:3). Since that fateful event, Satan has played havoc in the lives of humankind through his deceitful schemes. The Apostle Paul warns against the devil’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11) and his trap (2 Timothy 2:26).
The Bible has issued very clear warnings against the practice and consequences of deceit through the Levitical laws (e.g. Leviticus 19:11), the prophetic writings (e.g. Jeremiah 17:9) and in the New Testament through the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ (e.g. Mark 7:21) and of the apostles (e.g. Romans 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:13; 2 John 7).
In the spiritual arena, one of the key ploys used by Satan is to deceive humankind about their sinful state. It is well known that a common impediment to a personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is the unacceptability of the universality of personal sin. Put it simply many pre-believers have difficulty acknowledging that they are sinners in the eyes of God. After all, they do not rob, murder or commit adultery and are generally law-abiding. Others are duped into thinking that being born into a Christian home, being baptised and attending church regularly makes one a Christian or that there are different ways to God. The clear teaching of the Bible is that salvation can only be obtained through repentance and a belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His atoning sacrificial death on the cross (Luke 5:32; John 3:16; Acts 4:12; 1 Peter 2:24).
Believers are not spared from various forms of deceitfulness, particularly deviant doctrines and teachings. For instance, the Apostle Paul warns the Corinthian church about “false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). Since Biblical times believers have had to contend with false teachers and some epistles like Jude were written to counter heresies and to bolster the faith of believers. In modern times many Christians have been hoodwinked by the allure of movements such as the prosperity gospel. Such movements succeed because they pander to our innate desire to be rich despite Biblical warnings against it (Proverbs 23:4,5; Ecclesiastes 5:10; 1 Timothy 6:9,10; Hebrews 13:5). Seeing that all of us are vulnerable to this danger, what can we do to neutralise its stranglehold on us? First practise generosity (1 Timothy 6:18-19); second practise contentment (Proverbs 30:8,9; Ecclesiastes 5:18,19; 1 Timothy 6:6-7; Hebrews 13:5).
Make no mistake, the practice of deceit is very insidious and will persist unabated even until the end times. (Revelation 13:14; 20:18). The best defence against false teaching is to be grounded in the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). Aside from being vulnerable to deceitful teaching, we need to examine ourselves whether we have been guilty of being deceitful in our day-to-day life. We want to be transparent before God and man. It is so easy to be pharisaical and to give the impression that we are more righteous than others. The dire warning given by Jesus Christ about hypocrisy (Matthew 7-23; Matthew 23:27-28) should drive us to our knees in repentance and pray to have a pure heart and a steadfast spirit like the Psalmist (Psalm 51:10).
“Therefore, rid yourself of all malice and all deceit . . .Like new born babies crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1-2).