OVERCOMING HARDSHIP #3: DANGERS PONZI SCHEMES POSE TO BELIEVERS
In continuation of our Overcoming Hardship Series, we hereby take a closer look at the dangers Christians expose themselves to when they engage in Ponzi schemes. To lay the foundation for this post, you can click on the titles below to read the previous topics in the series.
DANGERS PONZI SCHEMES POSE TO BELIEVERS
There are many dangers of Ponzi schemes. I will just explain a couple of them and list others to prevent having an extra post on this topic.
1. They are illegal and thus can land one in trouble with the law:
It’s amazing that many people who engage in Ponzi business do not realise it’s illegal, you know, it’s a breaking of the law and that sometimes has nasty consequences. Fraud is not a civil offence, it’s a crime. It, therefore, attracts jail time and forfeiture of proceeds. The only thing deluding people is that the law is not always enforced. For all our professed smartness, human beings haven’t really changed over the millennia. See what King Solomon said about human reaction to lax punishment for crime way back in Ecclesiastes 8:11:
“When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.” – NIV
This is how the New Living Translation puts it:
“When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong.”
In Nigeria, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission has repeatedly warned the citizens to steer clear of Ponzi schemes. The Central Bank has done so too. But because arrests and prosecutions have not been made, even students are getting brazen enough to float their own schemes.A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud and so it attracts jail time. Click To Tweet
People forget that law enforcement is a process. Investigations are made, sometimes covertly, before suspects are picked up and Wilson Uwujaren, the spokesman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, admitted to newsmen last year that the agency was keeping tabs on these fraudsters.
Their ultimate destination is prison as was the case of Charles Ponzi himself, the ill-famed originator of the pyramid swindle. But the devil will always deceive some criminals into thinking they are smarter than the law. Even when you incarcerate them for something, rather than turning a new leaf, they come out and “finetune” their act. So it was that Ponzi, the “clever” scammer, went to jail three times for various terms and (died penniless in Brazil), a man who was once a millionaire!
The authorities may not apprehend everyone who’s committing a particular crime but a Christian who’s involved is particularly vulnerable. God, sometimes, overlooks the wrongdoings of the unsaved. In Jonah 4:11, He described the Ninevites as unable to tell their right hands from their left hands but told the Israelites in Amos 3:2:
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” – (ESV)
We like to sing that Abraham’s blessings are ours but do we forget that God commanded Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless? (Genesis 17:1)
God’s standards have not changed and in case you still don’t know where I’m going with this, I fear when I consider what might be the fate of Christians in the event the authorities begin a crackdown on those engaged in these scams where they have not bothered them before. They might think they know where to hide, they may have many pastors praying for them, they may claim they paid their tithes on their proceeds, but God might ensure they are handed over to the authorities. It doesn’t matter their countries of origin or residence, God is the same all over and He will first blow the whistle on His stubborn children before the people of the world.
It is also worth considering that people engaged in fraudulent activities make their family members, friends and associates subject to surveillance and questioning by the authorities. They might have to account for everything they own and will probably have a hard time convincing the authorities that they were unaware of and did not benefit from the crooked deals.
2. They create anxiety and worse because of the instability of the schemes and the facelessness of many of the administrators:
Someone once told me that in a financial transaction, the power is on the side of the one who has the money. If you put your money in a bank, you can largely withdraw it when you want. It’s not so in a Ponzi scheme. The Ponzi thing is like a football game where the officials keep shifting the goal posts to keep the players from scoring. The lofty promises made can be changed without warning, creating panic and devastation.
Last year, as Nigerians were heedlessly pouring their money into MMM (then a popular Ponzi scheme), some were calculating the huge gains they would make at the end of the year. Then, out of nowhere, on Dec. 13, a message on their web site informed those due to be paid that their accounts had been frozen for one month on the flimsy grounds that the operators were facing heavy workload and attacks from the media. (Newspaper report here.)
The real reason, though, was widely suspected to be the administrators’ fears that massive withdrawals in December would crash the scheme as public interest in it appeared to be waning. When they showed up this year, they introduced a tedious process that required “investing” more money to recover a fraction of previous deposits. Some of the money so trapped was borrowed or used without their owners’ permission, hence the desperation of the depositors. To date, some people are still holding out hope of getting the money back instead of cutting their losses and running. This can only push them further into disaster.
These schemes are, therefore, likely to bring disappointment, despair, debt, desolation and even, death.Involvement in Ponzi schemes usually leads to indebtedness and despair. Click To Tweet
Other Dangers of Ponzi Schemes
3. They are scams, no matter how well organised or how long they have lasted. They open people up to the spirits of gullibility and deception.
4. They breed greed and callousness. Imagine a believer thinking it’s okay to make a windfall, knowing fully well that some other people will suffer huge losses later! The Bible talked of people’s consciences being seared with hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2), making them impervious to compassion and correction. That’s a terrible state to find oneself in!
5. They foster unrealistic expectations (trashing the rules of sowing and waiting a reasonable length of time to reap as well as artificially magnifying the proportion of harvest).
6. They discourage industry (hardwork, inventiveness, sacrifice of time and energy to do a good job).Ponzi schemes distract people from seeking sustainable means of livelihood. Click To Tweet
7. They consume time that should be invested in more meaningful activities. For example, I wonder what kind of grades students who are mired in these schemes will make.
8. They distract people from seeking sustainable means of livelihood.
9. Most frightening of all, like other sins, indulgence in fraudulent activities bring negative spiritual baggage into our lives making us deserving of God’s punishment and giving the devil legal grounds to harass us.
If you are a Christian and you lost money in these schemes, I think you should thank God. You are better off than your brethren who made some money and are congratulating themselves, not knowing that God is not smiling at all. See what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:7-11 (ESV):
“… Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud-even your own brothers! Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”(boldface mine)
Let us pick out the bolfaced letters:
Do not be deceived: neither the greedy nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Having been washed from these things, why are we returning to them like dogs to their vomit?
Revelation 21:8 says in part that “all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Believers who promote Ponzi schemes, rather than preach the gospel; who persuade people to part with their money on the basis of the untenable terms promised by Ponzi schemes should, therefore, think again.God hates and punishes cheats and liars but He blesses the upright. Click To Tweet
Whatever doctrinal differences we may have about the eventual fate of believers who live in sin, the bottom line here is that God hates cheats and liars and He is never going to change His mind about that. Why are we risking being in the camp of those whom God hates? What can be the benefits of that?
Proverbs 12:22 (KJV)
“Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.”
Amos 8:5-7 (ESV)
“saying, ‘When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?’
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.”
My brother, my sister, if you’re a Ponzi fraudster, how safe do these scriptures make you feel?God can sustain and prosper His children without involvement in illegal deals. Click To Tweet
My advice is that everyone who has participated in this evil should humbly repent and ask God for means of making restitution if they profited from it. We are living in the end times and we cannot keep running after fads that dishonour God and blur the distinction between us and the world. Matthew 7:20 states that “by their fruits ye shall know them” ((KJV). Our faith becomes suspect before the world when we profess Christ and continue to bear the fruits of wickedness.
It is true that things are hard for many people, including believers, but we should walk in the steps of Jesus and allow God to prove His faithfulness to us. And He will surely do so in Jesus’ name.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Philippians 4:19 (KJV)
“… my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Amen and amen.
The next topics in the Overcoming Hardship Series explore what we can do to survive and prosper in spite of the hard times.
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