The Sirens were a sort of Greek mythology girl band. According to the myth, they were half human, half bird creatures who lived on a rocky island, spending their days singing and playing seductive tunes in order to entice poor, sex-starved sailors on to the rocks in the waters below. The boats, lured in by the passionate music, ended up destroyed in the stony waters.
In The Odyssey, the story goes that the young Odysseus sailed nearby but ordered his men to put wax in their ears so they couldn’t hear the enchanting music of the Sirens and be led astray. Odysseus was tied to the front of the boat, to help navigate through the rocky waters and when he almost succumbed to the call of the haunting vocals and demanded to be set free, his men only tied him all the tighter.
In the end, the boat made it home, safe and without anyone being lost.
Greek mythology isn’t really my thing, but I was thinking about this story the other day when I read Proverbs 9:
“Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way, ‘Let all who are simple come to my house!’ To those who have no sense she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!’ But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.” Proverbs 9:13-18 NIVUK
It reminds me that in times when the truth is often stranger than fiction, that we have to be even more careful about who we listen to, or who we follow. Even in the wider church, there’s so many enticing voices which seem sweet, moral and right, but which could be pulling us toward the ‘realm of the dead’.
Over the last few years, I’ve been made aware of scams and fraudsters who’ve operated from inside the church. Shocking and unsettling, but it’s true.
I know people who’ve been hoodwinked by tall tales, and in some cases have handed over big sums of money to illegitimate schemes. Do a little googling and you’ll also find horrendous stories of people who’ve shared powerful life-transforming testimonies, only to have later been exposed as frauds.
Even on Social Media, it’s easy to hit ‘share’ on a quote, a picture or a story (even from Christian sources) which we might wish was true, but doesn’t actually have much basis in reality.
Sometimes, we’re awfully good at accepting what we’re told, lured toward seductive voices, without ever double-checking to see if we’re being enticed toward treacherous waters.
Perhaps I’m too cynical, but sometimes when I hear of a new start-up, a new mission, a new outreach, I’ll do a little digging before offering any public support. Are they who they say they are? Are they a registered charity? (You can check online with the Charity Commission). Who are they accountable to? Do the claims stack up? Will the money be spent wisely and with integrity?
We owe it to ourselves and to the reputation of the wider church to ‘test the spirits’, to check the things we’re supporting are actually legitimate. We can’t assume that fraud only operates outside of the church. In many senses, because Christians are often good at grace, good at trusting, good at offering second chances, it can make the wider church a target.
The tale of the Sirens is just a mythological story, but the picture of Folly in Proverbs 9 is a warning to us all. Don’t just accept every good thing as a good thing, until you know it is legit and is accountable.
Be smart, be wise, trust your senses. Pray.