18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen).
19He said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.” 20They left their nets immediately and followed him.
NET Matt 4:18
I received an email the other day claiming to be from the security people at PayPal.com. It said that there had been a security problem and asked me to log into my PayPal account to make make sure everything was OK. They even provided me a link to click on in the email. I could rush right to my account login page to check the safety of my money. However, a quick look at the actual address of the link confirmed my initial suspicions: It didn’t go to PayPal’s servers at all, it was another email phishing attempt.
“Phishing“ is a popular and effective internet scam where the “phishers” set up a webpage that looks exactly like the login page of a popular site, like paypal, eBay, or one of the many banking sites, then send out an email claiming to be from that site and asking you to login. Once you fall for the lie and enter you username and password, they’ve got you, or at least access to your personal information, credit card number or bank account. The scam is most effective if:
- Everything looks like the “real thing” – the email looks like official ones you may have gotten before and the website is letter for letter identical to the site your know – The fake parts are hidden or difficult to see on the first glance. I have gotten scam attempts that are full of misspellings and grammar errors – not likely something a real multi-million dollar organization like eBay would send out – not very convincing.
- It appears to come from a service you are a member of – I get phishing attempts all the time from banks I don’t have accounts at – I can’t think of a reason to login and check anything at the National Bank of Australia.
- The email has a convenient link to the account login, claiming to want to make it easier for you, The scam wouldn’t work if I read the email then manually type http://www.paypal.com/ into my browser. I have to use their counterfeit link in order to be lead astray.
So the question arises, are we “fishers of men”, or “phishers of men“?
In Titus 2:7-8, Paul urges us to:
…in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
We are called to be authentic examples, not Sunday-go-to-meeting, or “shush, the Pastor might hear us!”-examples, but day-in, day-out examples of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Phishing is about looking just enough like the real thing to lead someone astray.
I am called to be a member of the body of Christ, including my home fellowship, the local church, and the body at large. But, am I really a member? I don’t mean having take the membership classes, but really joining into the mission and focus of the church, serving one another in Christ. The phishers fake their connection to the group to achieve their own end, not to build up the group, but pick off the needy and the easily deceived.
The phishers have a mission, a purpose. The problem is that the purpose they appear to have is 180 degrees opposed to the their real intent. They appear to be giving you help with a security problem, or helping you login to check you bank account, but that was never their goal. You can’t check your PayPal account through a phishing site, not matter how helpful it looks. As Christians, we don’t have that option.
Our mission is clear, tell people of the Good News, and make disciples. Everything else we do, we do to supplement or to augment our ability and effectiveness at completing that those primary goals. We Worship at His feet, study His Word, feed His sheep, steward His riches, all to the end result of participating in His desire that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Unlike the phishers of men, we do not have the option to be deceptive about our mission, we can’t trick people into making a heart-felt decision for Christ. We can’t throw advertise a keg party and have them showing up at a revival meeting.
I still get those phishing emails, but a have a little bit of simpathy for the con-artists: Because in the end, as phishers of men, all they will have caught is a few suckers and a few bucks, but as a fisher of men, we will inherit the Kingdom of God and the eternal fellowship of all those who fell into our nets.