A few years ago, I received an email that introduced himself as a Christian brother in Nigeria. He told me he needed help because he had fallen on hard times due to war and political changes. He was in need of leaving his country to come to the United States. God had blessed him and his family with a great fortune, but he needed help in getting his fortune out of the country and into an American bank. If I would only open a bank account for him in the US, he would be able to transfer his fortune to a safe location. Later, when he and his family were in the US, he would share his funds with me or a church of my choice. All I had to do is open an account and deposit a minimum of $1,500 of my own money (as not to draw attention from the new government in Nigeria). Wow, what an opportunity to help a brother out and put a little coin in my pocket (or the church of my choice, of course). The only problem, as I hope you know by now, is that this was a total scam. The scam was so popular that in 2019 CNBC did a story reporting that the Nigerian letter-style scams have cost victims an average of $2,133. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/18/nigerian-prince-scams-still-rake-in-over-700000-dollars-a-year.html What is more troubling is that this article was written in 2019 and the scam had already been going on for over ten years. Even though it had been widely reported and debunked for years, people were still falling for it!
Fast forward to the present day. This morning I read about the city of Newark, New Jersey admitting that it was scammed into becoming a "Sister City" with a fake Hindu nation. Mayor Ras Baraka invited representatives of "Kailasa" to Newark's City Hall for a "cultural trade agreement" to be signed as Sister Cities. However, a simple Google search shows that "Kailasa" isn't a real country. "Kailasa" is reportedly the fabrication of a notorious scam artist and fugitive from India who is called Swami Nithyananda. Other reporting shows that Nithyananda has "been on the run from rape charges since 2019." https://komonews.com/news/nation-world/newark-nj-admits-it-fell-for-sister-city-scam-after-holding-official-ceremony-for-fake-country-kailasa-ras-baraka-swami-nithyananda
How could a very intelligent group of leaders fall for something so obviously fake and easily debunked? Pride; arrogant, selfish pride. The leaders of Newark tout themselves as being more progressive and openminded than other cities when it comes to cultural diversity. Seeing an opportunity to publicly embrace a visually obvious Hindu culture (the representatives of Kailasa are always dressed in beautiful formal traditional Hindu garments), the city leaders jumped at the opportunity presented to them. After a very public ceremony proclaiming the new Sister City partnership, the media debunked and mocked Mayo Baraka for being duped.
In our pursuit for personal affirmation and virtue signaling, our Adversary finds an easy target (1 Peter 5:8). I am reminded of the caution Jesus gave to us about the religious leaders of His day. “Do as they say, not as they do,” Jesus warns in Matthew 23. In verse 5 and following He warns, “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra-long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’
You might say, “but this was religious leaders, what does that have to do with those outside the church?” It is human sinful nature to desire the applause of other people. If in a religious setting, public service setting, or anywhere a leader is present, he or she is representing those they lead. When the attention begins to be directed onto the individual’s ability and not the source of one’s authority (God, the public who in powers, etc.) you should be cautious. When it’s all about the leader, beware. Very soon the leader will use that authority not to enhance those who empowered him, but himself only! Be on your guard today my friends!
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to control his whole body. James 3:1-2
Serving the Savior,
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