By Dr. Harold Sala

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

Before the days of fast-burning powder, one of the problems of British sportsmen was that the black powder used to load shotgun shells didn’t always burn uniformly. So the shot in the shells would be scattered in a pattern that often allowed the fowl to escape unscathed.  The bird flew away and the shooter muttered, “I can’t understand how I missed. I had it right on the bird!”

One enterprising scam artist saw an opportunity to get rich quick, so he ran an ad in a popular sporting magazine saying that if the reader would send him one shilling, he would give him the secret of loading shotgun shells guaranteed to keep the shot from spreading. Thousands responded. After all, this was the answer and, besides, a shilling wasn’t so much that it would be missed. And what happened? The scam artist went to the bank; on the way he mailed a post card to the writer with this message:  “The way to prevent the shot from spreading is to put just one shot in every shell.” People were outraged. “I’ve been duped,” they yelled. Yes, he was sued; however, the court threw out the claims. He told you what he would do and did it, said the justice.

Most scam artists are clearly in violation of the law. They market to your greed and ignorance, and the two come together in a power appeal: get something for nothing.  So what’s wrong with that? It just doesn’t work. There are some laws–some written, some unwritten–which are as old as humankind, and one of them bears repeating: there is nothing free in the world, no free lunch, no Eden which is yours for the taking.

There will always be parasites of society who feel they are above soiling their hands, and that work is for stupid people who aren’t smart enough to beat the system. So what happens to the scam artists who rip off people?

One of the first case studies in scams is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Two sons, twins, were born to Isaac and Rebekah. Obviously fraternal twins, these two were about as different as daylight and darkness. One was an outdoorsman, the other an entrepreneur wheeler-and-dealer. Jacob’s name meant “deceiver,” and he lived up to the suggestion of his name. In time he deceived his father and cheated his brother out of his birthright. Yes, he got something for nothing.

But he also got more than he anticipated. His deception drove him from his home, and he lived as a fugitive for fourteen years; when he finally met his brother, he feared for his life.

Our old natures want something for nothing. We tolerate the disrespect of the scam provided the money is enough.  Yet there is satisfaction in knowing that your labors produced honest rewards, that you had the satisfaction of creating something, and that you earned your keep and didn’t live off the fat of another man’s herd.

A closing thought which gives hope: while Jacob was a scam artist, he eventually had his day of reckoning when he went one-on-one with God, repented, and did an about-face. When God touched him, he bore the mark–a limp which he lived with for the rest of his life. But when God touched him, he also changed his name to Israel.  David referred to the Almighty as “the God of Jacob.”  That commendation says a lot.  The scam artist is never beyond the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit or the hand of God, which arrests the wrongdoer and turns him around. It’s a fundamental matter of right and wrong, and what appeals to our greedy natures is never right. One piece of shot in a shotgun shell just doesn’t work–never has, never will.

Resource reading: Genesis 27.