One episode of the Andy Griffith show was about a famous criminal who was transferred to the Mayberry jail for a few days. This prisoner was a likable con man who could talk people into just about anything. Barney had heard a lot about him and was thrilled to meet him. The deputy knew his record for swindling people, but soon he was taken in by his smooth talk. When Aunt Bea and Opie came to visit at the jail, the con artist flattered her with compliments and amazed Opie with tales about robbers. Before long he charmed them into calling him “Uncle Dan.” All this time Andy was getting aggravated with them. He could see through Uncle Dan’s slick talking, but he made them feel so good they forgot he was a liar who did nothing but take advantage of people. That warm feeling changed when he stole Barney’s gun and pointed it at all three of them.
There are preachers and other religious leaders who are just like Uncle Dan. They have a record a mile long. Their record shows that they claimed to predict the future by the Spirit of God on numerous occasions, but those predictions did not come true. It reveals that they have been greedy and immoral. It shows that they have taught doctrines contrary to the Scriptures. Any of these charges should be enough to convince people that these leaders are not what they seem to be.
You would think that people would be able to see through these fakes. But false teachers often have what the shrewdest con artists have. They can act so religious and talk so sweet you would think they could charm the horns off the devil. They break down people’s defenses with flattery and big promises. If they get caught in immorality, they play on the sympathy of their followers and spin their way out of it.
We get just as frustrated as Andy Taylor was. Why can’t people see through false teachers? Pat Robertson and John Hagee say God speaks to them, and both have made predictions they claim were from God. It is a matter of public record that their prophesying is false, yet people still send them millions every year. Benny Hinn is a fake healer whose ridiculous stunts have been exposed, yet thousands throng stadiums around the world to watch him perform. The Pope is the leader of the largest and most corrupt apostate church in history, but millions almost worship him. Some of these followers are just gullible, but others are very intelligent and highly educated in their fields. False religion may well be the easiest con game in the world.
Paul wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17-18). There is a lot of smooth talking out there, but beware. Jesus said false prophets are like wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). They are just as subtle and deceptive today as they were in Jesus’ time. Sadly, there are plenty of naïve people today as well.