First it was a Nigerian widow who wanted to contribute $43,000,000.00 to our church. Then a friend who was stranded in France without money or passport. Next, the IRS called in from Puerto Rico to tell me that criminal proceedings were beginning in response to back taxes. Rachel and Veronica kept my phone hot inquiring about my lapsed car warranty and unpaid student loans – neither of which I ever had. And now representatives of Norton Security with atrocious spelling and even more unbelievable names are emailing me from clearly fraudulent domains to thank me for my $827 renewal of virus protection software I haven’t used since Win95.
Does anyone really fall for this? After all my spam filters have gotten so good that I never see most of this until my monthly spam purge. Even my smart phone is smart enough to change Rachel and Veronica’s names to “Spam Risk” or “Telemarketer.” And yet, they are unmoved. Confidence men or ‘conmen’ in the vernacular, continue with courage undaunted. Someone will always fall for their spiel. If not you, then the next mark. It is a numbers game fueled by the certainty that some people never learn. Or as P. T. Barnum was reputed to have said, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”
Pop psychologist Maria Konnikova examined this remarkable idea in her 2016 book, The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It…Every Time. She asks and attempts to answer age-old questions.
While cheats and swindlers may be a dime a dozen, true conmen—the Bernie Madoffs, the Jim Bakkers, the Lance Armstrongs—are elegant, outsized personalities, artists of persuasion and exploiters of trust. How do they do it? Why are they successful? And what keeps us falling for it, over and over again?
In her attempt to answer these questions, Konnikova brings readers into the world of the con, examining the relationship between artist and victim. The Confidence Game asks not only why we believe con artists, but also examines the very act of believing and how our sense of truth can be manipulated by those around us. No matter what you think of her conclusions, she puts her finger on difficulty of learning our lessons from a bad experience. We like to say, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” But how careful are we really to learn our lesson?
We know Santayana’s maxim that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We see this play out every day. But do we learn our lessons? And while this is important in regard to our relational, vocational, financial, and parental choices, it is of eternal importance in regard to our faith. Faith grows as we exercise it. And that exercise, not unlike physical exercise often comes in painful and trying circumstances. The agency of sanctification is always refinement in the crucible of tribulation, suffering, need, or uncertainty.
Faith grows when we lean into it, putting our weight upon the object of our faith. The biblical word ‘faith’ carries with it the idea of standing on something to see that it will hold up and not give way. The temporal things of this world and indeed your own skill, personality, talents, or circumstances cannot bear the weight of adversity in this life – but God can. The Bible describes him as one who holds all things together, who carries us, who carries our sorrows and afflictions, and upon whom we can cast our cares. He alone is the trustworthy object of our faith. But how well have we learned this lesson?
Moses struggled to learn this. His expectations of how God would work contradicted what God had revealed to him. He did what he was asked. He went to Pharaoh but his actions only made life more bitter for the Hebrew people. Pharaoh’s heart grew harder with every exchange. And his resolve grew greater with every refusal. What kind of deliverance was this? Moses was disappointed with his circumstance, himself, and most of all with God.
But Moses was still placing his faith in himself and not in God’s promises and God’s power. At the end of Exodus 6, God tells Moses to return to Pharaoh. Moses complains, “what’s the use, I am a man of faltering speech.” But he goes anyway. This time, however, he is careful to do exactly what God told him – no going off script, making apologies for God, or trying to smooth out what God said to make it more acceptable the unbelieving king.
Moses learned a lesson. Our faith in not in our faith, but in the object of our faith – God’s promises and power. Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Exodus 6:28-7:13 and consider some of the lessons learned by Moses about God’s promises and power and character – lessons we need to learn.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.