People in our church received phone calls, reputedly from the IRS or law enforcement, to inform them they would be arrested within the next few hours because of their tax debt. After setting their hair on fire with threats of arrest, the caller offered to put the fire out. They could avoid arrest and jail time by making the minimum payment required by the IRS. A means for delivery of payment was detailed.
Those calls are, of course, a scam. The receiver’s Caller ID has been “spoofed” and the number of the real caller hidden. A fake, and frequently local, number appears on the caller ID. I’ve even received a call the phone display indicated was coming from me.
The FCC encourages Americans to hang up as soon as they realize they’ve answered an unwanted call. Even better, they recommend not taking the call at all, unless one recognizes the number on the Caller ID.
I registered our phone on the “National Do Not Call Registry,” thinking that would give me some leverage with telemarketers, but we still receive numerous calls each day, often from spoofed Caller ID numbers. I used to stay on the line, wait for a real person, and then tell them that I am on the ‘Do Not Call” registry and politely ask that my name be removed from their database.
That used to work. Not anymore. The last few times I’ve waited for a real person to whom I could make my request, the caller hung up as soon as he heard the words, “I’m on the …” I didn’t even get the chance to finish the sentence. A lot of good it did to get on the registry.
They just keep on calling, sometimes from the same number, often from rotating numbers. I used to block each call, but that just seems to encourage them to call back from a different number. They are unrelenting, tireless, importunate.
It should be said that not all telemarketers are scammers. Their calls don’t all originate from the Hades area code. However, these days my default position is that the person on the other end of the line is out to relieve me of my money.
So, imagine you receive a call from someone claiming to be an attorney, representing the estate of William Rogers Hammond, your mother’s second cousin. You’ve never heard of William Rogers Hammond, so you tell him he has the wrong number and hang up.
The next day you get the same call. You hang up. The next day you get a call from a different number. A different “attorney” launches into the same spiel, and you hang up again. Then you get an email. Then a registered letter. Each time you are promised an inheritance you didn’t know was coming, and each time you ignore the message and try to block the caller.
Imagine further that the law firm is legit and the inheritance is real. If you were the attorney, how would you feel? Would you think, “What is wrong with this guy? I’m trying to help him more than he can imagine, but he won’t take my calls?”
Something like this, I think, happens to us, only the caller is God and the promised inheritance is what the Bible refers to as eternal life, which is not simply unending life but a different quality of life which begins concurrently with this life.
The Bible has a great deal to say about the “calling God.” Because he placed, as the author of Ecclesiastes put it, “eternity in our hearts” (how clever is that?), his call doesn’t just come from “out there” but from “in here.” Our name is on the caller ID.
That means we can’t escape it. We can try to block it, but God will just keep calling with the promise of life. The call to life – more life, richer life, “abundant life,” as Jesus put it – may seem to us to be coming from work or friends or hobbies or nature, but it doesn’t come from them. It comes through them. The caller is God and it would be to our advantage to talk to him, sooner rather than later.
Published by Gatehouse Media