A Gangster and Faith

When I was a kid, I ran a morning paper route seven days a week for over six years. I’m grateful for the discipline and relational skills it built into my life. There are some riveting paperboy stories stashed away in my memory: delivering newspapers in blizzards, fruitless attempts to collect from people who couldn’t pay, two dog bites, and one memorable encounter with a gangster.

At least I thought he was a gangster. It happened one day when I stopped to collect at the home of Miss Sharp, a 90-year old spinster who had taught English at the local college. She had no family and in all my years of delivering her newspaper and collecting, I had never seen another person at her house.

To my surprise, a man answered my knock. He looked to be about 60 years old with a mustache, bowler hat and pinstripe suit. I thought, “This looks like a gangster.” I think maybe The Sting had just come out, a movie about the Chi­cago mob. The man had a crooked smile like Humphrey Bogart. His voice had a nasal accent. He paid me with a $20 bill, which was much more uncommon then than it would be today.

I was immediately suspicious. I examined the $20 bill at home and asked my parents if I should call the police. It was exciting to think that maybe I had a counterfeit $20 bill in my possession. To their credit, my parents didn’t take my anxiety seriously.

Finally my dad flattened my excitement completely with just one sentence, “If it’s counterfeit, you can’t spend it.” I hadn’t thought of that! But it was true. Counterfeit money is worthless.

So is counterfeit faith. It’s worthless. Counterfeit faith is as old as the story of Cain and Abel. When it comes to faith, we need the genuine item.

We’ll talk about discerning real faith this Sunday at New Life Church. You’re welcome to join us.

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