A Reader’s Digest article titled “The Anonymous Confessions of a Con Artist”
chronicles the saga of a heroin-addict-turned-con-artist who ripped off thousands of people to the tune of millions of dollars, and eventually landed himself in Federal prison. Years later he came out a changed man, and began a career working for the federal government to help train them on how to prevent fraud.
The article is fascinating. Known in the story only as “Jim” this man describes how as a child growing up in Brooklyn he learned to manipulate not only his friends and family, but the people in his neighborhood. He perfected the skill, and as a drug addict fed his need by continually using his skills of persuasion.
As a middle-aged adult he began his career of taking money from the masses. His target? Not the uneducated as some might assume. It was educated people that made his best victims. Doctors. Lawyers. Engineers. College Professors. People with $50k laying around, that would seem too smart to fall for a scam.
The process was simple. Run an infomercial on television promising a get rich quick scheme that required a significant initial investment. When they would call the call center (at one point receiving 10,000 calls per day), Jim was one of the closers who would get the yes and secure the funds.
This man ripped off thousands of individuals millions of dollars. And I’m sure that created hardships. Strained marriages. Debt. Perhaps even a suicide. How did so may people get ripped off?
Jim’s approach was very simple. He said smart people get duped because he is playing on emotions not their intellect. Scams are never logical, but they are desirable. His approach was to find out what concerned his victim—someone who just lost their job and was financially unstable, or needed more money to pay for their kids college tuition—Jim would sympathize and then he promised them that he had a solution to make their problems go away.
Jim knew how to exploit their vulnerabilities. He knew that within each of us is insecurities, fears, desires to feel good or safe or important. Jim’s scams never delivered anything he promised. All of his victims ended up worse than when they started.
But do you realize that these scams only impacted things that were temporary. At some point they were going to go away anyway.
Satan, is far craftier than any human con artist, and he has been applying his strategy to destroy humanity for millennia. He is a master manipulator. He understands human behavior. He knows how to get people vulnerable and what will appeal to their flesh. As the father of lies he knows just what you need to hear to give in to temptation.
Thank God that Jesus has overcome the world, including Satan. But he is nevertheless a formidable foe. And the reason Satan is so dangerous is because of our own hearts. Just like in our illustration—a person who was rational, asking questions, doing do-diligence was not going to be a victim. In fact, Jim said if people started asking any questions he would promptly hang-up. So Satan is only powerful because of our flesh. James says resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Today then we want to have our minds prepared for action… prepared for the truths that will protect us from the scams that we are so vulnerable to become victims of.
I titled this message, “Stripping the World’s Veneer” because that’s exactly what this is about. Veneer is a shiny surface that covers up what’s really going on underneath. What looks like real wood is actually particle board. Get it wet and find out.
We need the shiny veneer pulled off the spiritual scam so that we can see it for what it really is.
Grab your Bibles and turn with me to 1 John 2:15-17.
John is going to help us understand Satan’s attack plan. And he is going to fortify our thinking about how to deal with the world. And he will put before us what we ultimately need if we will ever be immune to loving this world.
My goal (and John’s) is to wither the allure of this world. To see it dry up and wilt in light of God’s glorious worthiness. And I’m here to tell you that the only thing that could ever compel you to not love the world is to have a better love.
1 John is a short letter written by John (the apostle who wrote the Gospel of John and penned the Revelation). John’s purpose in writing is so that his readers might know that they are saved (5:13). He gives three tests…
Do you believe sound doctrine?
Do you love the people of God?
Do you obey the commands of God?