Great Swelling Words

by Tim Hall
The outrageous actions of Bernard Madoff point to a greater danger.
bernardmadoff.jpgThe name Benedict Arnold has long been anathema to citizens of the United States. His deceitful actions were designed to return the rule of this country to Great Britain. Another name is about to join that hall of shame: Bernard Madoff.
You probably already know the basic facts about Madoff. As chairman of Madoff Investment Securities he persuaded thousands to hand over large chunks of cash in hopes of making big profits. His track record looked appealing. Returns on investments were typically in the 11% to 15% range. It wasn’t hard to convince investors to write out their checks.
Now we know that the word securities had no place in the name of his firm. Money was never invested; it was shuffled. Cash most recently received was handed to earlier investors, with a tidy sum shunted into Madoff’s personal account.
When the swindler’s deeds came to light last month, dozens of stories surfaced of people whose entire savings were nowhere to be found. Those who had actually received profits now may have to repay. “There just aren’t any winners in this deal,” one attorney has been quoted as saying.
Loss of retirement income is a frightening prospect. But we have something even more precious at stake, and we must take every precaution against losing that.
Jude warned against the spiritual scam artists in his short epistle. “… I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, NKJV). His appeal to “contend earnestly” suggests that we have much to lose. How different this inspired writer’s message is from those commonly heard today! “Let your conscience be your guide,” we’ve often been told. Whom will we believe?
Jude’s disgust with religious false teachers is shown by his descriptions of their work. “… They are clouds without water” he wrote in verse 12 of his single-chapter letter. Farmers anxious about their crops are happy to see clouds appear. But what if those clouds never produce? Jude continued with his descriptions: they are “… late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots” (v. 12). Nothing comes from their promises.
Another statement worthy of note: “… they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (v. 16). Was Jude speaking of Bernard Madoff? The words certainly fit, but his focus was on the spiritual loss we will incur if we’re not diligent. Money will have lost all appeal to people who lose their souls.
You and I may have no personal connection with the Madoff story. But the one who moved Madoff to greedily rob people of their fortunes is the one who seeks to squeeze the life out of our souls. We must indeed “earnestly contend for the faith!”

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