And all who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
Here is an Old Testament verse that very oddly but accurately describes the state of many today. As I study this verse, I am reminded of all those people who have lost almost everything they had, and in some cases, their lives, because they listened to somebody making a pitch. The story of Jim Jones’ leadership comes to mind. The informal infamous name for the “Peoples Temple Agricultural Project” was Jonestown. It was a community in northwestern Guyana (South America) where, in 1978, very close to one thousand people died from a ‘cyanide poisoning’ event that was deemed to be a revolutionary mass suicide, encouraged and exampled by Jim Jones himself.
Another illustration of this phenomenon of ‘listening to the wrong people’ is the fraudulent investments called “Ponzi schemes”. These are operations that pay returns to separate investors from their own money or money paid by future investors, rather than from profit earned from a product, service or entity that the investment goes towards. These Ponzi schemes, in operation from as early as 1920, still duped thousands as late as 2008, when Bernard L. Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme was exposed. In essence, these so-called investment plans entice new investors by offering returns that far surpass what normal, legal investments can guarantee. Ponzi returns come in the form of outrageously high short-term gains, but in order to be maintained, require more and more funds from new investors. The system collapses because the payments outstrip any real earnings or any newly found funds from more investors.
The Shechemites in our verse were that foolish. They listened to those ‘men’ who were their leaders, but they failed to question the wisdom of what they were hearing. Many of them may have been the same men who probably had laughed and congratulated Shechem on his rape of Dinah a few days ago. They certainly were the city’s business owners who wanted more trade. The deal sounded good. Their chances of making great material gains were excellent. But they didn’t count the cost. They didn’t know the enemy (in this case Jacob’s family) well enough. They neither calculated the risk involved, nor the motives of the Israelites in offering this arrangement. They certainly weren’t thinking defensively as to what could happen during those few days of recovery, if they all got circumcised at the same time.
What scheme are you considering today? Whose pitch are you listening to? Have you counted the cost? Have you calculated the risks? What are the motives of those pitching and those behind the deal? What are your motives? Where does God come into play?
Consider the Shechemites (and these questions) whenever you are faced with a deal that sounds too good to miss.
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