Ruja Ignatova created a new cryptocurrency—OneCoin—that she promised would make everyone rich. She would pack stadiums, telling everyone they could live the life they’ve dreamed of with this new product. Mind you, this was just before Bitcoin took off, and cryptocurrency was still in its infancy.
People began investing their savings in hopes to get on the ground level of this get-rich investment. You sell OneCoin to others, who would sell it to others. The webinars appealed to people, saying how lucky they were to have this opportunity.
It was a scam. It cheated people out of thousands of dollars of their savings. Like many multi-level marketing schemes, only the people at the top of the pyramid make money. OneCoin was also meaningless because it didn’t have a blockchain.
I’ve seen so many examples of these get-rich-quick schemes. They’re all about the show.
They are slick, and they appeal to your “I know a secret you don’t” mentality. The leaders are attractive and well-polished. They put on a huge show. People offer their testimony about how they were down-and-out and this product, this mentality, “saved” them.
By appealing to your desires and emotions, they don’t need much evidence. They tell you to “act now” before everyone else finds out about it.
I wonder what these schemes looked like thousands of years ago. Deuteronomy 18:20 describes using God’s name for purposes that aren’t from God. How do we know? Because what they say doesn’t come true. Eventually, they are found out.
What we see in Jeremiah 14:14 is similar to what we might see in both the get-rich schemes and in some televangelist’s programs of today. When they put themselves at the center and assume a God-like posture, they fill you with false hopes. To bend you in their direction, they tell you exactly what you want to hear. They distort the truth so that they can put you in their camp. They appeal to your need to belong and fear of isolation.
Although The Chosen (which, by the way, I love) depicts the Sermon on the Mount the way a televangelist or multi-level marketer might produce a workshop, how it’s depicted in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke is very different. It wasn’t hyped up.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus spent one evening in prayer, woke up the next morning, named his apostles, then spoke to the masses. Similarly in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus returns from his 40 days in the desert, calls his disciples, and heals people. After they are healed, they tell others about this Jesus. They begin to follow him, and then he preaches the Sermon on the Mount.
I wonder how this would look today. Jesus was a model of humility, and his Sermon on the Mount wasn’t about financial prosperity and getting in before everyone else. It was about putting others before yourself.
Rather than putting bright spotlights and a high-tech headset mic on the speaker, Jesus says that we are the light. False prophets need to put lights on themselves, but true prophets have the light within. They don’t need to be amped-up on social media. Their message is amplified by joining with the God’s voice within us.
Above all, Jesus doesn’t tell us what we want to hear. He speaks of suffering. He speaks of pain. He speaks of generosity. He speaks of submitting to God’s will.
That might not be attractive in our society today. It’s not what we want to hear, but it’s what we need to hear.