E-mail is an important way to communicate in today’s world. However, spam messages are a downside to e-mail communication. They can be solicitations for unwanted products or services, or even worse – they can contain computer viruses, which, if opened, can damage a computer or an entire network. Some messages are malicious “phishing” attempts to gather personal information. On the surface they appear legitimate, but they can cloak harmful attempts to gain access to private accounts, or even to steal an identity.
Opening or responding to one of those e-mails can result in trouble. The solution is to quickly recognize messages as false or malicious, and not be fooled into taking inappropriate action.
Millions of dollars have been spent creating software filters to eliminate unwanted e-mails, to repair computers, and even to restore lives that have been damaged by malicious e-mails.
While destructive e-mails have been around a while, the idea of scamming has been around much longer. More than 2,000 years ago Jesus said: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15, 16).
Jesus was referring to the spread of noxious ideas. He warned of the need to determine the integrity of the thousands of ideas people are exposed to on a daily basis. Each of those ideas requires a process of acceptance or rejection. And with all the new and growing means of communication these days, the number of ideas we need to filter seems to increase almost daily. While we may never have thought of sinful and tempting suggestions as spam before, the result is the same. If we accept and resonate with them, the results can be harmful to us and to others.
The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, counseled, “Stand porter at the door of thought” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 392). With the growing volume of ideas we are presented with daily, how do we set up a spam filter for our thinking? Following Jesus’ advice about fruits, here are two simple thought tests anyone can use to filter out evil thoughts before they take hold in our thinking:
1. Determine the source of the thought. Where does the idea come from? Is it from a source that has been known to produce good fruit? Is it ultimately from God? Because God is the source of all good, His ideas always result in good, including progress, happiness, and peace.
2. Look at the pattern of results. Have you seen this sort of thing before? Was the result good or bad, productive or harmful? It’s very likely that what is being suggested to you is not something new to your experience. In the past, did similar ideas yield good or bad? Were the results productive or harmful? Ideas from God are always useful and productive – and bring blessings to our experience.
It’s also important to keep in mind that God is helping us with the filtering. It’s in God’s interest that we entertain only His good, productive, and useful ideas. In the midst of the daily swirling sea of communication, we can listen for the “still small voice” of God (see I Kings 19:12), which is always present and available to guide our every thought, word, and deed.
On page 3 of her work “Pulpit and Press,” Mrs. Eddy wrote, “Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love. If you maintain this position, who or what can cause you to sin or suffer?”
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