Trust, But Verify


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 148, Daniel 6:1-15, 2 John 1-13, Luke 5:12-26

A dedicated employee – or more specifically an overly-dedicated employee – can be a red flag to fraud investigators. That accounts payable manager who never takes vacation and works nights and weekends to make sure checks are getting cut may be doing those things so no one has a chance to notice the details. Such activity can go on for years until a change in pattern – such as a forced vacation – exposes the truth.

Former con-man and current FBI consultant Frank Abagnale Jr., whose story inspired the movie Catch Me If You Can and television show White Collar, pulled off many of his cons by presenting people what they expected or wanted to see. We expect someone in a pilot’s uniform (one of Abagnale’s many impersonations) to be a pilot. We don’t expect a long-time, dedicated employee to be a thief. Even if we are naturally skeptical, if we aren’t regularly practicing or studying deception, we probably aren’t skilled at anticipating it.

The Persian King Darius wasn’t anticipating deception from his appointed presidents and satraps (governors), but they were jealous of Daniel’s distinguished and reputable service. They trapped Daniel by flattering the king and convincing him to forbid, upon pain of being devoured by lions, that any of his subjects pray to any god or deity but Darius for the next thirty days. The conspirators knew Daniel would keep praying to God, so they reported him to Darius, who was reluctant but bound by his own law.

When Jesus sent his disciples out to spread the gospel, he advised them to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” It doesn’t take much wisdom to be skeptical of people we don’t like or agree with, but it takes some to determine at what level we should place our bar for “too good to be true.” Let’s avoid the trap Darius and Daniel fell into by not letting people or organizations exploit our ego, faith, or desire, perhaps by keeping in mind the Russian proverb: “trust, but verify.” We must love people, but that love is only blind when we close our eyes.

Comfort: You are allowed – even morally obligated – to think for yourself.

Challenge: No matter how much you respect someone, don’t trust them more than your conscience or your God.

Prayer: Loving God, teach me to find the balance between love and wisdom. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever fallen for a con because someone said what you wanted to hear?

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