Formations 10.18.2020: Fools and Their Money

Proverbs 3:5-20

Every year, people lose a lot of money to phone scams. Sometimes, they can lose their whole life savings to scammers who have figured out how to spin a story designed to separate people from their money.

The US Federal Trade Commission has provided a helpful website explaining how to recognize such scams and what to do if you have been targeted by scammers. Here is what the FTC has to say about recognizing a phone scam:

There is no prize. If you have to pay to get a prize, it’s not a prize.

You won’t be arrested. Real law enforcement or federal agencies won’t call to threaten to arrest, fine, or deport you because of some sort of infraction.

You don’t need to decide now. Legitimate businesses will give you time to think their offer over before you commit.

There’s never a good reason to send cash or pay with a gift card. Scammers often ask you to pay in a way that makes it hard for you to get your money back: a wire transfer, gift card, etc.

Government agencies aren’t calling to confirm your sensitive information. Never give out sensitive information like your Social Security number, even if they say they’re with the Social Security Administration or the IRS.

You shouldn’t be getting all those calls. If you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry, you shouldn’t get live sales calls from companies you haven’t done business with before. Furthermore, if a company is selling something, it needs your written permission to call you with a robocall.

“Phone Scams” Federal Trade Commission <https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0208-phone-scams>

We might wonder how anyone could fall for the kinds of phone scams we hear about on the news seemingly every week. The truth is, human wisdom has its limits, and sometimes the prospect of getting something for nothing—fear of punishment—can short-circuit our ability to think rationally about what we’re being told.

According to Proverbs 3, wisdom involves honoring God with one’s material resources (v. 9) so that one may never lack in time of need (v. 10). Wisdom and stewardship intersect whenever we must make sound decisions about how to use our resources. The writer of Proverbs urges his readers to trust in the Lord rather than one’s own flawed wisdom.

In the end, wisdom counts for more than wealth (vv. 13-16), but the two are not unrelated. When we take these words about wisdom to heart, we can’t help but reevaluate how we take care of the many blessings God has given us.

Discussion

• What is the most outlandish phone scam you’ve ever experienced?
• What does true wisdom look like? Where does it come from?
• The biblical writer assumes that honoring God with one’s substance will lead to plenty, but this does not always happen. Is it worth it to seek wisdom in the absence of material blessings?
• What might a disparity between wisdom and material blessings teach us about both blessing and wisdom?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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