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Bernard Madoff, a name once connected with integrity, wealth, admiration and opportunity, is now sullied; the now-infamous Wall Street swindler having been convicted for a fraud so massive, words fail to do it justice.
Sentenced to a well-earned 150 years in prison, stripped of virtually all worldly possessions, Madoff is now a disgraced pariah, leaving a wake of hapless victims, future convictions and punishments for his associates, and an uncertain future for his own wife.
Like so many who have been self-deluded by wealth and power, this man apparently thought he had "made-off" with billions of other people's money, and would continue dining sumptuously, at their expense. He was wrong.
Scripture tells us, "Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel" (Proverbs 20:17). Mr. Madoff's prison meals, as well as his life, must now taste like "gravel." A far cry from the gourmet meals and fine Champagne served in a mansion, on a yacht, or the terrace of a swank Manhattan apartment.
Of course, self-delusion is not unique to Mr. Madoff. In the book of Jeremiah we are told, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). As Proverbs warns us: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). So, in the end, no one actually "gets away with it."
Though we may understand and appreciate the fact that punishment can help a person change (Proverbs 20:30), we must not take pleasure in the justified punishment dealt Mr. Madoff; we should instead realize our own human weakness – face our own potential for self-delusion – and realize that, in the final analysis, "[t]here is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10).
So, what about you and me?
Is there a standard we can each look to in our personal quest to avoid trouble and, instead, secure blessings for ourselves and our loved ones? Yes there is! "In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death" (Proverbs 12:28).
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