The college entrance cheating scam has probably just scratched the surface. If it was happening at the elite universities so far discovered, it’s probably happening at others. Some are justifiably outraged. I think a lot of people are shrugging their shoulders and saying, no big surprise. Money doesn’t talk – it screams. What did Jesus have to say about cheating?
The Rise of Cheating
Unfortunately, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman may be the new faces of cheating. They replace well-known cheaters like Lance Armstrong and Tonya Harding. And before them, there was Barry Bonds and before him there was Nixon, and … well, you get the point.
Cheating was frowned upon when I was a kid. Both by my mentors (teachers, coaches, parents, etc.) and my peers. Even on the elementary school playground, if one of us was caught cheating the others would crystalize into one loud chant — “Cheater, cheater, Pumpkin Eater.”
I have no idea what that means (apparently, it’s an allusion to a weird nursery rhyme entitled, “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater). I just knew that you didn’t want anyone singing it at you.
Fast forward about fifty years and cheating has become fairly commonplace. From athletes cheating to win, to celebrities cheating on their spouses, to politicians cheating to cheat, to parents cheating to get their kids into the best universities — cheating is the latest sin we’ve decided to wink at.
Don’t get me wrong — cheating has always been with us. Just read the Bible and you’ll find plenty of cheaters (Jacob, Laban, Samson, David, and Zacchaeus, just to name a few).
However, there seems to be a rising apathy towards those who cheat. What’s the BIG problem with cheating?
Jesus on Cheating
Jesus was big on trust. He said to his disciples, “You trust in God, trust also in me” (John 14:1). At a certain point, people began to leave the Jesus movement. Jesus asked his disciples, “Are you going to leave me too?” Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).
This was a trust moment.
Jesus understood the importance of trust. He understood how cheating destroys something critical to the fabric of life. He called his disciples to repent of any and all desires to cheat others.
When Zacchaeus, the tax-collector (i.e., a big-time cheater), decided to follow Jesus he began his profession of faith by saying: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).
Wow! That’s an amazing profession of faith. Faith in Jesus changes you.
The most prevalent method of cheating in antiquity was the dishonest use of scales. They used scales to measure the worth of any product they were selling. The product was placed on one side of the scale and payment on the other side – whether silver or gold or some other product being used as barter. Corrupt merchants would fix the scales to their benefit.
The Mosaic Law addressed the issue: “Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin” (Lev. 19:36).
The writer of Proverbs said, “The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him” (Prov. 11:1).
This is why Jesus was so big on trust.
Three BIG Problems with Cheating
Here are three BIG problems with cheating.
1. You are NOT depending on God.
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness” (Prov. 23:4).
Every year at my church we give our first-graders a Bible. I get to sign it and write a life-verse inside the front cover. I usually give them Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
If you can live out that one verse you will be successful in life. God first. Trusting in your own cleverness gets you into trouble every time.
2. You are short-changing yourself.
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
I understand how a parent wants the best for their child. Getting into a good school is not unimportant.
However, when you do too much for your child you cheat them and all those around them. And when you cheat to give them more, you teach them to cheat their way through life. Cheaters never really win.
The compulsion to cheat comes from basic insecurity. I cheat because I feel that I’m not good enough to compete fairly. I cheat because I think everyone does it and I need to measure up to them. I cheat because there is some emptiness inside of me that my current relationship cannot fill.
All cheating is a short-changing of the person God created you to be.
3. You are hurting others.
The prophet Amos, in particular, railed against cheating:
Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”— skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. The LORD has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done” (Amos 8:4-7).
This is the heart of the problem. When you cheat, you trample on another human being.
The Apostle Paul was appalled that some in the Corinthian church were suing each other because there was cheating going on. Paul told them that they had already lost – all of them. He is incredulous when he says – “you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters” (1 Cor. 6:8).
Here’s the BIG problem – Somewhere, someplace someone has been hurt by your cheating. Oftentimes, the people closest to you are the ones who hurt the most.
Unfortunately, the latest scandal in the Academic world is simply the latest in a long line of cheating scandals. Even more unfortunate – it probably won’t be the last.
- Jesus demands that we speak against cheating and work towards redemption for those who have fallen to it.
- Jesus demands that we care about those who have been hurt and advocate for safeguards against future abuses.
- Jesus demands that we act with love and justice towards everyone in the world.