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“I Love You, Now Give Me Money” Also Known As: The Art and Science of Manipulation

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses even while for a pretense you make long prayers.” (Matthew 23:14)

A stock cartoon situation that has set up punch lines for thousands of comics has someone climbing to the top of a mountain to consult a guru for his pearls of wisdom. In today’s Hagar comic strip, our favorite Viking plunderer has scaled the mountain. He says to the bearded seer: “O wise one, you are like a father to me.”

The old man answers, “I am honored. What is your question?” Hagar says, “Lend me money.”

Thanks to the Internet, those of us who write these articles frequently hear from the Lord’s people across the globe. That’s one of the great blessings of ministry in these days. The other day, a fellow in an African country telephoned me. That was unusual.

Our connection was difficult, so I suggested he use email. Within the hour, there was his message. He wanted me to know what good work he was doing for the Lord and how difficult it was. I responded in a typical way, thanking him and saying I was praying Heaven’s blessings upon his work. (And yes, I stopped at that moment and prayed.)

He didn’t waste any time. His next email hit me up for money.

What’s funny is that his message had a typo. Instead of saying he needed a “car,” he said he could use a “cat for my ministry.” I replied, “A cat? You need a cat?”

His reply apologized for the typo and assured me it’s a car he needs. “Two thousand dollars will buy a good car in this country.” He added, “My birthday is July 1, and it would make a wonderful birthday present.”

I waited a while, wondering whether to ignore him altogether or to respond. Clearly, all Americans are rich in his thinking. And by tugging at our heart strings, he can loosen our restraints enough to untie our purses.

A few hours later, I wrote him. “My friend, did you think I am so foolish as to send a large amount of money to someone I do not know simply because he said he’s doing the Lord’s work? There are so many scam artists in the world today.”

He took it in stride and responded with ways to check out his ministry.

Sorry. It doesn’t work that way.

Even if it turns out that he is doing significant work for the Lord, I can take you to a hundred—many hundreds, in fact—people doing important work for the Lord, all of whom could use a sudden gift of $2,000.

We used to tease my big brother Ron about his manipulative ways when we were growing up. As the eldest of six children, Ron took upon himself the mantle of authority anytime mom and dad weren’t in sight. The youngest of our clan was Charlie. Charlie might have been 6 or 7 at the time this happened, making Ron 15 or 16. I heard this exchange myself and burst out laughing.

Ron: “Charlie, are you my buddy?”

Charlie: “What do you want me to do?”

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.