Recently, I was conducting a workshop for an urban ministry. As I looked around the space, I noticed a white board with the heading “Watch Out For Opportunists”. Under the heading, someone had listed people like drug dealers, shady employers, and several more. I asked someone about the list and they said the list was part of a discussion from Proverbs with older kids.
As I thought about it later, I realized all of our children are exposed to opportunists. The list of opportunists our children may encounter could be slightly different or exactly the same. Jesus told the Apostles as he sent them out to teach, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIV) In today’s world, I think this verse applies to all Christians as much as it did to the Apostles.
We desperately need to train our children how to recognize and avoid those opportunistic wolves in life. How do we do that though, without making them anxious and untrusting of everyone they meet? What if they become so cautious, they are afraid to serve others and share their faith?
The good news is you can train your kids to be cautious without making them anxious around everyone. The trick is to teach them to observe carefully everyone they meet. If they see these warning signs of an opportunist, they need to be very careful about what they say and do around them. Caution them to check anything someone says against what the Bible says. If the two conclusions are different, teach your kids to not follow the advice of the opportunist.
So what are the qualities of an opportunist? There are probably plenty, but here are some that would be easy for your children to notice:
- What they suggest always seems to benefit them, often at the expense of others. Opportunists are basically selfish people. They take advantage of weaknesses in others to get what they want.
- They are not afraid to hurt or even destroy others in their efforts to get what they want. Hurt feelings, damaged relationships, even physical harm and death mean nothing to the opportunist – as long as they are happening to others and they lead to him getting what he wants.
- They take the credit for everything good that happens and shift the blame to others for anything bad that happens. The opportunist takes advantage of the good things that happen and claims total credit for them – even if she had little or nothing to do with it. He is also unwilling to take any blame when things go wrong. It’s much easier to take advantage of someone else and blame them for the problems.
- Their goals are often to get as much money and/or power as possible. Altruistic goals are not a part of an opportunist’s life. They will do whatever it takes to whomever is in their way in order to get as much money and power as they can.
- They are not afraid to lie, cheat or steal to get what they want. Morals and ethics are not a part of the opportunist’s toolbox. Oh, they may know how to talk as if they have godly morals, but in reality, they will break any and all of God’s laws if it is necessary to do so in order to get what they want.
- Opportunists will ask people to say, do and lead them to eventually have hearts that are far away from what God wants for our lives. Opportunists can sometimes be found in churches, but many are far away and want to keep others away too. The lifestyle they lead can draw your child far away from God also.
- Instead of helping people better themselves or improve, the opportunist often tries to keep others weak so they have more opportunities to take advantage of them. If they help others become stronger, it will be more difficult to take advantage of them. They will often do awful things to keep people who are capable of being strong from ever becoming that way.
- Spending time in the company of opportunists may eventually lead to your child becoming one. Street smart kids often figure out the games the opportunist is playing and see only the benefits of the money and power. They are smart enough to mimic the behavior and can quickly become an opportunist themselves.
- Opportunists prey on people who have no godly relationships, have no strong moral centers (that comes from knowing God and His commands) and whose families are too busy to notice what is happening until it is too late. If your child is strongly grounded, with godly friends and an attentive godly family, the odds of him being prey for an opportunist drop drastically. Read any study about gangs or child predators and you will find their first targets are often children whose parents are uninvolved and unaware.
Don’t think because you have a certain amount of money, live in a certain area, or your kids attend a certain school, they are safe from opportunists. The papers are often filled with stories of wealthy children from the “best” of families whose lives are scarred or ended by opportunists. Don’t be that parent who has to say they were totally unaware of what their child had been doing. Train your child to recognize and avoid opportunists and replace them with godly friends.