A Global Deception?

" The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

On BBC Radio 4 this week, Gordon Brown, in charge of the British Treasury for 10 years to 2007, stated that he had not seen the global bank collapse coming. The credit crunch has left many hard working people without jobs. Some have lost all or part of their pension provision. Families are deeply shocked to find within months that they are in "negative equity", losing their homes. The collapse is affecting most families across the globe.

Why, one asks, have so many, including those in control of finances, been victims of a "global deception"? Well, partly it was due to lack of transparency, things done in secret. It seems that only bankers knew the huge risks they were taking. While lending was easy, no one dreamed that the one day the reserves would be more than drained, and that those who had enjoyed too many material goods on credit, would not be able to remortgage or sell, at the price that would pay off their spiralling debts. The trap had shut.

This reminds me of another kind of "global deception" which John 10 v 10 reminds us of: this is the global deception of the Adversary who promises, through every TV channel, advert and home buying programme encouraging endless borrowing, real "life" and "life to the full", while at the same time, draining the spiritual bank accounts (inside us) with which we would enjoy these pleasures. After all, what is the point of having a huge mansion, and several overseas properties, if you are also in massive debt, your company has gone into administration or your name has been put to shame, in public? Better to have a room in His mansion in Heaven than a mansion on earth! And how much more is this true if you are wracked with guilt about how you have ruined many others too! True "life" is not about material things but about having the peace and inner "connections" to find life's simplest experiences enjoyable. Knowing this, Jesus, who seems to have owned nothing material, warned: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul?".

When Jesus tells us that He came that His sheep (and no one else) should have "life" and "have it more abundantly", He also draws a picture of the inner life of someone who serves money and the Adversary, rather than God.

What can we make of such a person from this passage in John's Gospel? This person thinks he has "life" but he is actually either living in an inner wasteland or living on a "bubble" which he suspects might be ephemeral and which will one day go up "in smoke". Depending on how God deals with him or her, this person may not see the truth until it is too late. Those who obstinately refuse to listen to the Gospel are often suddenly ruined with no remedy, like those bankers who put their hope in a never-ending stream of "financial investment", until it suddenly dried up. Most embarrassing of all, these people pride themselves that they are "free", particularly of God's moral restraints, but at the end of the day they come to see they are just "pawns" of a global deception, now in real bondage - to money in the form of debt. The "free" are really the spiritually "wise" whose feet are on the Rock of the Word of God which clearly warns against money and attachment to worldly goods. Additionally, unless these people turn to Christ, they do not have their prayers answered, will not see the resurrection nor have their sins forgiven

These people can also be members of the visible Church for reasons of status and "respectability". Then they are "Pharisees", servants of the global spiritual deception, parading as believers ("wolves in sheep's clothing"). Have you ever wondered about the inner life of Pharisees in the New Testament? Jesus said they were "whitewashed tombs" - "dead bones". From this passage, we can also surmise that they do not have "life". Do they oppose the true Gospel, and its true servants, to try to give themselves an "edge" they do not really have? But in fact, they are "dead" because they are in the power of sin and do not know God, who alone gives real life, and because they are still in the power of "the great deception" and its originator, Satan. Satan blinds them from seeing the truth, from evaluating risk correctly - from being simply pragmatic. He fills the spiritual hole inside them with his deceptive "lures" - greed for money and for deeds performed, under cover. His lies tell them that they will never be found out. Such were the Pharisees who opposed Jesus in the new Testament. They are very much in existence today.

Believers must always consider those "without life" as victims, like those duped by global economics, but also somehow as perpetrators. Everyone who "plays ball" with deception becomes part of it. There is retribution for self-deceivers, as well as for those who deceive others, in personal terms, professional, spiritual and national terms. We should all continually ask ourselves, "Am I really playing ball with some dangerous delusion or deception?" If so, we should give it up - before it is too late.
The primrose path to "the everlasting bonfire" seems to have few thorns from the outside. Jesus knew better because through Him was created the very heart of man. There are even times, like now, when things go radically wrong, even for those seeking the wrong things in life. According to this passage, whatever "life" unbelievers have, Jesus considers it worthless compared with His gracious gift of forgiveness which enables us to simply enjoy Him and his Creation, knowing that the Truth of his teaching "shall set you free".
Such people are "free indeed".

Alison Bailey Castellina - January 2009