I hate chain letters where you have to forward something or face dire consequences. Out of nowhere, someone in your contacts has a weak moment and falls for the mafia pressure. They make the poor decision to hand off the matter to all their acquaintances so they can sleep at night.
Along the same lines, I don’t appreciate multilevel marketing schemes where your friends suddenly are known as your ‘upline’. When they call, you stop answering, and you can’t take another meeting that costs you your entire savings account for a supplement made from a rare botanical plant grown in a foreign country.
Another life invading moment I don’t care for is the bread recipes where a freezer bag of tan liquid is put on your counter without your permission.
“I’m giving you this nice starter bag.” They say. “It’s so easy to do; just follow the instructions.”
It appears to be benign, but then you find out you have to stir it for ten minutes each day for ten days at the exact same time, add flour fifteen days in, squish it around in the bag until day twenty and swear yourself over to a new religion at the end of thirty days for the bread to bake.
Then you have to take the two cups of the liquid you separated and plague someone else with the mess. That’s time you just can’t get back.
And the biggest cringe worthy scam is the one that comes with the promise of a direct connection to heaven by using various gimmicks so you can advance spiritually and unlock all the treasures that are hidden away in a vault.
I was watching something I had recorded and fast-forwarding through commercials when I saw an infomercial for a seed packet. I paused, went back, and watched pure fraud marketed for those who were in desperate situations. As if asking God for help isn’t enough, this flashy segment used words such as “miracle power” and “special blessing” to gain the emotions of the vulnerable. Planting and harvesting ancient sprouts is a sure-fire way to have it all, was the claim.
They paraded out one paid actor after another, singing the praises of these tiny seeds that produced results that rivaled the parting of the Red Sea, Noah’s Ark, and Lazarus coming back to life.
The real catch is that no money is needed to obtain the Jack and the Beanstalk beans, but just a simple giving of your home address to get added to the hit list.
I clicked past it, glad I wasn’t that gullible.
A few days later, my girls and I were watching something, and the same ad came up again. I had them see how ridiculous it was. Then I forgot all about it until I got a gigantic packet in the mail.
If you have ever attended a closing or refinance on a house, that’s the amount of paperwork that was stuffed into this oversized envelope. I looked at the return address and realized I had somehow been caught in the seed pusher’s snare.
I said to my daughter,
“How did they find me?”
She came over to see what I was holding in my hand.
“What is it?”
“It’s from that ministry that promises fake results. How did they get this to me?” Were all the conspiracy theories right about our televisions being one extensive computer database that could be used to infiltrate our lives? How did this happen to me?
I opened it and took out three different colored envelopes along with multiple pages of rules. It would take hours to follow all the steps, so I decided to rip into the red envelope, which held more instructions.
I glanced over at one of the other pieces of paper and saw this written in bold lettering:
“Do not open the red envelope! This will cause a curse to come upon your house! Open that last!”
What if someone receiving these were color blind? Would that rule still apply, or would there be an exemption?
Since I was already flirting with unleashing eternal damnation upon my house, I started opening up all the envelopes to skim read. Why not keep this game of Russian Roulette going?
The central theme of it was to send in a prayer request and money. The simple message was camouflaged by threatening remarks, intimidation tactics, and arm twisting. It was a “let me help you, help us” type of approach.
Everything was time sensitive. Specific actions and rituals had to take place, or you would miss your “moment of visitation.” Each statement was backed up with a scripture verse as solid proof this was a life changing moment.
Sprinkled throughout, there was the ego rewarding phrases such as “you have been chosen” for this, and my first name was strategically placed so that I would feel like they knew me.
Just when I had seen it all, I found a small, clear plastic packet. Holding it up to the light, I could see beads of moisture inside like something had been in it but had evaporated. Looking further through all the material, I solved the mystery. I had not been lucky enough to get a seed packet, but I had been selected to receive healing water that had dried up or leaked out before getting to me.
I was supposed to place it under my pillow and watch everything I had ever wanted continuously stream to me.
That was it. I gathered it all up and threw it away, imagining a gasp from an invisible audience.
Later, I pulled one sheet of the disposed of paper from the trash and showed my other daughter when she came home from work.
“Do you remember this? We saw this advertised?”
“They sent me an empty packet of tap water!”
“What?” She said, taking a closer look, laughing.
“How did these people find me?”
Without hesitation, she said,
“I signed you up.”
Just like that, very matter of fact.
“You did this?”
So much for being tracked by an evil entity through the TV, thank goodness!
“Do you know how much junk I am going to get now from this?”
She laughed more. Oh, she knew pretty well what would happen! And she also was very pleased with herself for getting me all rattled.
“I’m going to take every single thing they send, put it in a box, wrap it and give it to you for Christmas!”
She knew she had done a great job on this and wasn’t threatened in the least.
I came home a few months later to more correspondence from the dreaded prophet.
This one was just as bad as the first with extra pleas because I hadn’t responded. Maybe I was just about to hand over my offering if they coerced more.
“How are you enjoying your water packet?” was one of the lines.
I clipped out the stock picture of the guy who said he had such a burden to help me and taped it directly across from my daughter’s bed. He has his arms outstretched and eyes closed, sending that extra special prayer that she needs.
I haven’t received any more, so maybe he got the hint that I wasn’t such an easy mark.
The counterfeit is aggravating because you know people fall for it. They think that to gain God’s attention and favor, there has to be something materially given to receive. And those who are hurting can be talked into anything. Their want for a better life isn’t wrong, but it is preyed upon by those who gain financially.
God loves a cheerful giver, not a dragged-out, beaten down, out of guilt and obligation giver.
And in John 6:35, this verse sets you free from accepting empty promises from water packets and time-consuming recipes:
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (NLT).
There are no mountains to climb or steep obligations to meet. Divine messages may come that you don’t understand at first, but it’s never complicated, allowing you to cut out the middle man. God’s recipes for life are simple; Follow Him for more.