false prophets

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day,‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Jesus’ words should first of all, as Scot McKnight points out on his recent, excellent commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, probe our own lives. We need to ask ourselves before God the hard questions about ourselves and our life. Although we will surely fall short, is our life about loving God and others, about doing to others as we would have them do to us? Or is it about the great things we do, people simply nice in terms of numbers and our agenda or program?

False prophets can look good on the outside, but probably what Jesus is getting at is to check the fruit of their lives. And always in terms of the first and greatest commandment along with the second like it.

It is striking and noteworthy that Jesus’ words allow for people doing signs and wonders and yet never knowing the Lord whose name they invoked. Scary too, I might add. Key in the issue, as Scot McKnight points out is whether or not we do God’s will. And especially in terms of love for God and for others, including our enemies and with a special emphasis on helping the poor, those in need.

In all of this we have to be extra careful. Some yellow lights might go on in our minds when we see the life of another. But are we looking at our own lives? The passage should shine a light toward us, not just toward another. Jesus’ words are given to us so that we might have discernment in this area.

A helpful article related to this happens to come from the seasoned wisdom of Chuck Swindoll, the article entitled, “5 Signs of a Mean-Spirited Leader.” Probing questions for us all.