My "Worst" Sin: Losing $1,000,000!

What is my “worst” sin? All sin is serious (Num 32:23). All sin leads to death (Rom 6:23). So “worst” is relative; it does not in any way lessen the severity and seriousness of “lesser” sins or other sins.

I lost $1,000,000! Over 6 months in 2004, I gave 1.1 million USD in cash to a conman, believing he would invest the money, and give me 20+% interest rates yearly for the rest of my life. It is beyond reason and rationality. Also, I was the only victim! I was stupid beyond belief! Give cash…at a gas station…with no paper trail! Seriously?? That’s my “worst” sin.

Why did I do it? Greed? Pride? Self-sufficiency? Yes. But basically, I wanted to retire ASAP! I wanted to be a benevolent UBF man who can financially support poorer UBF people through out the world. But really, folks! Mainly I just wanted to retire, because I was just plain sick and tired of working as a doctor! (Now I am still working and will likely have to work for many more years! God is funny, isn’t He?)

Did I have that much cash to give? No. But being a doctor, I was able to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2 banks. I also borrowed significant cash from friends, and used up all the cash and savings we had.

Did you have to file for bankruptcy? I thought I would have to. But I worked 10 hours a day, 6 days a week for 2 years in order to pay off all my debts. My mom gave me $100,000, that helped me out tremendously. I have since paid her back.

What happened to the guy that conned you? I reported him to the FBI. They arrested him in 2006. He is now serving an 8 year sentence.

Did you get your money back? Some of it. When the FBI arrested him, they found some of the cash in the trunk of his car! This is nothing but God’s mercy, for I had resolved never to get anything back.

How did this sin affect you? It devastated and embarrassed my wife and 4 kids. To this day, I grieve because I brought upon them such shame and pain. I had totally dishonored my God, my wife, my children, my church and myself.

What did you learn from this sin? Many things. But amazingly, at this lowest point of my life, Jeremiah 31:3 came to me: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” I was truly stunned that when I could not even bear myself, God’s love for me did not change one iota! Knowing God’s unchanging love for me was literally the ONLY thing that kept me going.

Does your wife blame you? She should. I would not blame her if she did. But she never did. What can I say! It is a grace that is second only to the grace of Jesus.

What did you do during this time? I continued being a shepherd and Bible teacher, as though nothing was happening! I acted like a good Christian.

Now what? I live with the fear of God. Just recounting this story still gives me chills and shivers! But it is not a fear that drives me away from God, but a fear and trembling that draws me to cling to Jesus (Phil 2:12-13). Also, I live with the boldness, confidence and fearlessness, that even though my sins are too great, God’s grace is greater still.

That’s it? I have lots more sins and blind spots. I need the prayers and help of friends to help me see them. Confessing sin is surely what God expects from sinners. This quote might help:

Well may the accuser roar of sins that I have done;
I know them all and thousands more and Jehovah knoweth none.

Do you have sins you want to confess?


  1. Wow, it really takes guts to share this and to use yourself as an example that even Christian leaders mess up. It shows that Jesus’ grace extends to all people including the “good Christians”! When one person steps forward to admit a wrong and ask forgiveness, it compels others to come forward in brokenness as well, so I believe Christ is exalted through your willingness to share your story. Even though it’s humiliating to confess, Christ exalts the humble, and He lifts you up. I’m honored to call you my Dad, and same for Mom.

    • Thank you, my dearest. This must surely be the best comment ever on this blog!!! Probably, I’m biased.

  2. Reminds me of stanza 4 of Cowper’s timeless poem:

    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,But trust Him for His grace;Behind a frowning providenceHe hides a smiling face.  

    • Classic Cowper! Amen, Ian! It’s worth repeating: “Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.”

  3. I remember this event.  All I could think of, “what the H E double hocky sticks”  is Dr. Ben doing!!! (But I used much more graphic words…)  I remember Christy shedding tears and I could not but want to punch Dr. Ben in the face.  But I also remember how much she stood by him and prayed for him, and still respecting him, despite all his obvious sins.  Through this painful event,  I realized that even in our weaknesses and shame, the glory of God and his sufficient grace is overflowing.  I can only thank God for blessing Dr. Ben with a forgiving God and a forgiving family. 

    • Thanks, Elena. Without a doubt, I can never ever repay my debt to Christ and to Christy! Please remind me often! (I know you will, actually.) Thank God.

  4. Thanks, for sharing Dr. Ben. Hard to believe, but it’s ok. I think it was from God. As Bible sais – the heart and steps and words of man in God’s hand… I just want to say here, that such things could happen to everyone, if God will take away his hand of mercy, I think. I just thinking how could I live if such thing happened to me… Probably I would feel both – shame and great regret about money through years. 
     And, you know, last time I think there is something good and what God worthy to be praised for about obvious sins… I think when God let us to sin obviously and shamefully it could be good for us and show God’s mercy. Because how such proud and stupid man like me can know that his position before God is bad, that he is worm, that he is selfish and lustful nothing? He can really find and know himself when he actually falls in shamefull sin! And then he can actually repent and humble himself. 

    • The last paragraph is really just general thought. Sure I can not put myself on God’s place in your situation. The meaning of the event is just up to God, not to sinners like me.

  5. Dear Dr, Ben, my only comment is praise God!! When we are tested in the fire and water we come to know our naked self and realize the greatness of God. Thank you for sharing, I think Christy was also tested and proved herself to be a woman of God who is worth far more than rubies.

  6. Dr. Ben, First I am very sorry you had to go through that terrible incident. I hear a lot of agony and self-condemnation in your testimony and I understand where you are coming from. But, I don’t believe God wants you to live among your past failings by continually rehashing them and feeling guilty about what you have done. I believe God provided us with a pattern to follow to get beyond our past sins. First, of course we must confess the sin we have committed and as 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Next Romans 7:15-24 tells us we need to understand why we do such things. (I won’t take time to quote that scripture. I’m sure you know these scriptures well yourself.)  Then Romans 8:1 tells us we must let go of them. “There is, therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.”  Finally, I believe God tells us we can forget about that sin because in Psalms 103:12 He says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” and Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will be merciful to their righteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”  So, if God does not remember them why would we want to?  I don’t feel God wants us to live in the past for we can do nothing about it. We can’t live in the future for we don’t know what it holds. We must live for today. I believe we should make our testimonies about the good things that the Lord has done for us and not our past sins. 
    Philippians 4:8 says “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of a good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
    Dr. Ben, I believe you are a wonderful Christian Pastor and a very goldly man.  Since becoming your friend on facebook I see these virtues about you. Don’t beat yourself up for a past sin. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  But because of Christ wonderful grace we are free from the bondage of sin and death.
    Mary Spratt 

    • Mary,

      “So, if God does not remember them why would we want to?” 

      I think you would agree with all this, but I want to point this out for our readers, as well as to express some things that have been on my mind a lot:

      attempting to hide our sin only leads to death, but confessing our sin leads to life and healing (Leviticus 5:5, Acts 19:18, James 5:16). Then after that, it may be possible to cover over sin with love (1 Peter 4:8, Proverbs 10:12)

      So while we are to identify and remember our sins for a time, we eventually find God’s healing and entrust all things to the cross and love of Jesus. But…we cannot skip the confession and repentance part. If we do, we hinder and even hurt those around us because of our inner pain and unresolved sin (Psalms 32:3). Furthermore, skipping the confession and repentance steps would mean we are not practicing the Christian concept of forgiveness.

      I think Ben is confessing sin, which is one of the first steps of repentance. I for one don’t recall ever hearing about the details of this incident. So I believe it is healthy and right for public confessions with enough detail to demonstrate the sin and also the repentance.

      As I and my friends know all too well, those who call themselves pastor become dangerous wounding machines if they fail to confess their sins. Christian confession of sin is not a “take your flogging and forget”, nor is it a way to earn God’s favor or salvation; Christian confession is part of repentance and leads to healing and reconciliation among our brothers and sisters. 

      I believe confession and repentance are actions God can and does use to sanctify us (1 John 1:9).

  7. Thanks, Mary, for your empathy, compassion, love and prayer. It is surely appreciated! Also, I absolutely love and believe all the verses you quoted! which is surely nothing but the grace of Jesus to me. 3 thoughts and reflections:

    1) Just to clarify, I “rehashed my sin” not to beat myself up, for my dear Lord has already taken that for me on the cross. I remember my sin, so as to live and to continue in his grace alone, not at all to condemn myself. I would actually be quite arrogant if I condemned myself, because it would be denying that Jesus had already taken my condemnation on the cross on my behalf.

    2) Also, I shared my sin openly and publicly to encouage honesty, openness and transparency in our Christian community.

    3) Most importantly, I shared my sin because it displays the greatness of my Savior in that even my horrendously inexcusable sin could not separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, my Lord (Rom 8:39)!

  8. Thanks for sharing Ben. The sin of folly is surely burdensome and not be overlooked or dismissed, as I think you point out by making this post here. Psalms 38:5 and Psalms 69:5 come to mind. 

    My sin has been the sin of omission and of idleness. Here is my list of sins and repentance. When we become a Christian, we do not then cease be human.

    Stop pretending everything is wonderful.

    Stop defending organizations of men as if they were God’s kingdom.

    Stop dictating my ideas about truth.

    Stop demanding other people adhere to my standard of piety.

    Stop thinking that my piety is the highest and best in the world.

    Stop inventing glorious reports about the work of God.

    Stop taking direction from doubled-minded people.

    Stop spinning facts into perceptions that fit my ideals.

    Stop proof-texting my religious claims.

    Stop sitting by idly while my friends are suffering.


    Start speaking up about things that disturb me.

    Start publicly and vocally discussing actions that are wrong.

    Start reaching out to other Christians.

    Start reading about Christian doctrines.

    Start expressing myself through blogging.

    Start holding accountable those who have been unaccountable.

    Start listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

    Start understanding humanity.

    Start studying the Old Testament from the viewpoint of Jesus.

    Start realizing, accepting and extending the grace of God.

  9. Yes, Brian and Dr. Ben, I too feel we must first confess our sins. I believe if you look at my first scripture I gave, which was 1John 1: 9, I said we must confess our sins. I also agree that we must learn from these sins and by God’s grace never repeat them.  We will never be perfect, we all know that too.  Again that is why we experience God’s grace because of the cross. I agree  public confession is good for the soul, and if indeed this is the first time Dr. Ben has spoken of this it is cleansing of the soul and a wonderful testimony to others that even Pastor’s are not immune to sin.  While I believe all that, I still believe we can live a joyful christian life by focusing on Phil. 4:8. I fail my Savior every single day there is no way I can ever be perfect. If I would focus on my failings and short comings all the time I would be down trodden with heavy guilt. That is why every day I ask God to help me to focus on Phil. 4:8. 
    I would like to say since becoming both Brian K. and Dr. Ben’s friends i am learning new and wonderful things about my Lord. I have been a christian almost all of my life and have been a member of an Assembly Of God church, which is pentecostal church. I have not had much influence or information about any other church. This is a wonderful experience for me. I appreciate both of you.

    • Mary, I also have been learning a lot from you! Thank you for sharing. I think we are talking about two extremes, hiding sin and dwelling in sin. Both should be avoided. And I agree 100%, it is possible to live a joyful Christian life through Philippians 4:8!

  10. I agree completely with you Brian.  We are talking about two extremes. There must be a balance. Can’t think of the scripture but “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

  11. Darren Gruett

    Thanks for sharing this, Ben! As always, your honesty and humility cause me to re-examine my own life and to reflect on the marvelous grace of our Lord.

  12. “Do you have sins you want to confess?”

    Yes. As I understand the grace of God more and more, I see my regret over my sin more and more, and my list of sins seems to keep growing. I confess them publicly as I continue my journey into grace and seeking God’s forgiveness and healing.

    I sinned by mistreating James and Rebekah Kim (

    I sinned by not speaking up when I heard my friends being publicly humiliated.

    I sinned by not seeking out Biblically sound teaching from sources outside UBF.

    I sinned by spreading my foolish defenses of UBF on the internet.

    I sinned by adding to the frustration of other former memebers.

    I sinned by shunning my friends when they decided to leave UBF.

    I sinned by not getting involved when my two close friends were asked to undergo “dead dog training” (not sure whatever happened).

    I sinned by not rebuking Korean leaders when they sinned.

    I sinned by inventing gimmick after gimmick to make people stay in UBF.

    I sinned by ignoring all the promptings of the Holy Spirit, resisting Him, and even grieving Him so many times.

    I sinned by 20+ years of attempting to conform the Bible to UBF ideals.

    I sinned by submitting to 6 months of obedience training.

    I sinned against God and against others by supporting the following:

    – Class system structure: sheep, shepherds, fellowhship leaders, staff, members, directors, continental/program-directors
    – Directorship hierarchy: the idea of a tree structure of benevolent dictators.
    – Marriage by faith: Willingness to let a leader choose your future spouse.
    – Pioneering: Sending out one or more families to campuses around the world to setup a chapter of the organization, often without any valid support.
    – Covering: Willingness to cover all sins and not expose things that bother your conscience.
    – Loyalty to leaders: Willingness to obey and follow leaders above all other authority.
    – Separation: Willingness to be separated from friends, family and the world in order to join God’s true children.
    – Appeasement: Letting someone who speaks up have a task to do to keep them busy.
    – Propaganda: Speaking only positive things about leaders and the organization.
    – Duplicity: Willingness to ignore facts and adhere to double-standards, double-meanings and secret language.
    – Vertical communication: the idea that group discussion and communication methods (such as email) are bad.
    – Conscience binding: All Scripture must be bound to a UBF ideal or activity.
    – Empire building: Every nation should become a “priestly nation”, which means people should become UBF-style people.
    – Numerical-driven performance: Members are judged and rewarded (or made to feel guilty) based on numbers: number of prayer sessions, number of times going “fishing”, number of sheep, number of just about everything. Activities are geared toward molding ambitious people with a soldier, fighting spirit to conquer.

  13. ahh, grace covers a multitude of sins.

    • Of those who repent, ccsmith. Praise God that Brian repented and is under His grace. Unfortunately, there are still so many in UBF who hasn’t repented of this multitude of sins and are not going to. Thank God that he leads his people out of (UBF) darkness into his wonderful light.

    • cc, could you explain further?  No where do I read that “grace covers a multitude of sins.” Are you saying we should cover up sin?

      To clarify what I’ve learned on this topic: to cover up sin is very different from covering over sin.

      Scripture is extremely clear on this point.  Psalms 32:5 “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

      Christian repentance and forgiveness is not covering up sin, but confessing and allowing the love of God to cover over our sin in due time. For example, 1 Thessalonians 2:5 clearly points out that cover ups are wrong in God’s sight. James 5:20 clearly points out that love through correction can cover over a multitude of sins.


    • Darren Gruett

      Brian, I would also add 1 Peter 4:8 to that list of verses.

    • Yes, good point Darren. It is love that covers over a multitude of sins. God supports covering over (confession, repentance, forgiveness), not covering up (hiding, excusing, ignoring).

  14. Ben,

    This post has been bothering me since I first read it. I am glad you shared publicly, but I just don’t understand quite a few things.

    Why was this so devastating to you, your family and your church, as you say? Why would UBF be affected? Was their money involved somehow? It seems embarrassing or foolish yes, but I don’t see the devastation. I don’t see why this would be your worst sin.

    How could this actually happen? So in 6 months you raised a million dollars, much of which was by convincing friends and even your mom to donate to you? Was it really cash? For 6 months you were driving bagfulls of cash to a gas station?  I just can’t fathom this. At times my family has needed financial help, and it is nearly impossible to transfer even one thousand dollars quickly.

    Perhaps there are details to this that aren’t appropriate for this forum. But I just don’t see “the greatness of my Savior” in this, perhaps because I don’t see the “horrendously inexcusable sin”.


  15. Great questions, Brian. Losing $1 million caused tremendous financial stress, since that was not “loose change” to me. The most I gave at one time was $325,000 in cash!!! As a doctor, I was able to withdraw over $100,000 in cash on several occassions from 2 different banks, with no questions asked, since I had 2 legitimate business lines of credit (similar to a HELOC – home equity line of credit). This is extremely bizzare! and almost unbelievable, even as I am answering your questions. The movie “Matchstick Men” with Nicolas Cage bore a slight resemblance to what I experienced.

    My sin was horresdously inexcusable to me on so many levels, worst of which was that I hurt my wife deeply, something she does not at all deserve, not to mention that I violated countless biblical principles, which clearly dishonored my God.

    I experienced God’s grace, because I am “virtually unscathed” today, despite what I did. Surely, Jesus bore it all. If anything, I became a lot bolder and fearless (not to sin freely, but to take risks for the glory of God).

    • Wow Ben, maybe I should get to know you better :) My bank won’t let me transfer more than $1K per day.

      Seriously though, my main confusion is why your mom and friends (which must certainly be UBF people?) would lend you money to “invest” with a man you met at a gas station? My mom would probably slap me if I made such a request! There must have been a noble cause or some worthy motivation. 

  16. I didn’t tell them “how” I was investing the money. They just trusted me when I asked to borrow money from them. I didn’t ask my mom for money. When my mom found out I had lost the money, she gave me $100,000, which I eventually paid her back.

  17. interesting story. thanks for sharing. debt & servant parables probably read a lot stronger after an experience like that. Keep pursuing His graces. There are much more to come. rob

  18. Hey Ben, can you give us a link online to the info surrounding this case and maybe his name. If he served 8 years now, that means he is now currently out of jail and I think it’s important we all look out for each other and educate ourselves on people like this.

  19. Thanks for asking, Paul. Yes, my wife and I did think about the fact that he’s already out of jail. I actually considered looking him up to tell him that I forgive him.

    Here’s what’s online about him from 2005:

  20. This guy was in UBF or did you find him through the craigslist thing they were talking about?

    • He was invited to Bible study by someone in the church, which is where I met him. I knew nothing about his craigslist.

      As those who know me and love me say often, “How can someone who is smart enough to be a doctor be so stupid!”

  21. Did you testify before court? Wasn’t it hard to prove fraud with no paper trail /contracts? Or did you and the Fbi set up like a sting operation? Something similar to this happened to a friend of mine so I am curious if they are similar or not.

  22. The proof was in all our email correspondences over several months. Though he deleted them, the FBI was able to find them. Also I forwarded all my email correspondences with him to them. Based on the emails, it was obvious that he was defrauding me.

  23. Did you have to testify in court or did they just notify you when he got sentenced?

  24. Thanks for your interest in my case. I did testify in some initial hearing. Then his lawyer quit because he sensed that he would lose the case based on all our multiple email exchanges and him being caught with loads of cash (the cash I gave him) in his car. He found another lawyer who eventually also advised him to plead guilty, if I remember correctly. So I never had to testify in depth.