By David Bachelor, PhD
Life imitated art in a series of stories this week. The “art” was the 1948 movie “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” This movie gave us the famous quote, “We don’t need no stinking badges.” In the movie this claim was spoken by bandits trying to convince their victims that the bandits were real police officers. Several recent headlines show that real-life bandits often pose as something they are not.
On Thursday, the News Agency of Nigeria had the headline, “Illegal M.O.T Agent Arrested in Lagos.” The story is about a man who used forged documents to pose as an agent for the Ministry of Transportation. The imposter collected registration fees from Nigerian drivers who thought the permits they received from the man were official documents. Such M.O.T imposters are very common in the capital city. A spokesman for the M.O.T. said, “My office will continue to go on sting operations and unplanned visits to catch these fake operators, their collaborators, and sponsors. Lagos has had enough.”
On Friday, the Tristatehomepage.com had the headline, “Police Impersonators Try to Scam Muhlenberg County Residents.” According to the reporter, the police in Greenville, Kentucky have received multiple complaints from residents contacted by someone posing as a police representative. The Greenville Police spokesperson said, ““They may use our officers’ real names and use a spoofing app to cause the Police Department phone number to display on your Caller ID. They will then claim they are collecting money and have a convincing story or threaten you with arrest or criminal charges.” The police spokesperson assures the residents of Greenville that the department never collects money or asks for sensitive information over the phone.
The most brazen imposters were in Friday’s edition of Indiatimes.com. The headline for August 19th was, “’Thugs of Hindustan’: Bihar Gang Ran A Fake Police Station In A Hotel For 8 Months.” According to a police officer familiar with the case, “The gang set up shop less than 500 meters from the home of the actual local police chief, wearing uniforms with rank badges and carrying guns.” The gang skimmed money “from locals who came to the fake station to file complaints and cases.” The fake cops “…also promised to help others find social housing or jobs in the police.” The fraud was eventually caught by a real police officer who noticed these “cops” were carrying the wrong kind of gun.
In the Bible, it was Absalom, King David’s son, who pretended to be someone he was not. For four years Absalom set up his fake court in front of Jerusalem’s gates (2 Sam 15:1,2 & 7). When people would come to the capital from the rural areas to seek justice, Absalom would say to them, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you” (2Sa 15:3). Absalom’s real theft was the loyalty of his father’s subjects. In later verses, “Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice…Absalom behaved this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel” (2 Sam 15:4-6). Absalom was nearly successful in stealing David’s crown, however God never bought into Absalom’s scheme. In the middle of the heist, God turned the tables on Absalom (2 Sam 17:14).
In art and in life, bandits claim an authority that is not theirs. The only way to defend against such fraud is to be intimately familiar with the real authority. This antidote works also for God’s people. Jesus said about His sheep, “They will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:5).