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Know them by their fruit
- Jacob Ninan
When we read the warning from Jesus about identifying false prophets by looking at their fruit (Mt.7:15,16), I think we usually look for fruit in terms of love, joy, peace, etc., because we are conditioned to associate 'fruit' with the fruit of the Spirit. So when we find some good things in the 'prophets' we are examining, we conclude that they can't be false prophets. Or at least we give them the benefit of doubt and refrain from making any judgment. But I think that is not what Jesus meant!
Jesus was trying to warn us about ravenous wolves! Isn't that the 'fruit' that should trigger our alarms? Ravenous wolves are not interested in blessing the sheep (!) or feeding them! Their only aim is to devour the sheep. In other words, false prophets are seeking, primarily, to get something out of us who are listening to them! But Jesus also pointed out that they come dressed in sheep's clothing. They use the right words, they do everything 'in the name of Jesus,' they quote from the Bible, they have choirs and bands singing moving songs, and they even perform miracles, cast out demons and prophesy (in the name of Jesus) (v.22,23). They are extremely careful to make every part of their presentation to look like sheep. But just as we can make out a wolf when it opens its mouth and shows its teeth, we can also make out false prophets when we see them trying hard to get something out of us.
Most false prophets are after our money. Apart from forceful pleas they offer ingenious schemes to entice us and to make us sign off our money for their 'ministry.' Many preachers who offer us prosperity in return for our seed money are living in styles that can only be termed extravagant. It would seem that they would be in a position to fund some poor believers instead of having to cajole even poor believers into funding their ministry. Many even peddle snake oil of the spiritual variety such as holy oil, anointed handkerchiefs, etc., while more respectable looking ones are selling CDs and DVDs at exhorbitant prices. How come many preachers never come out fully with what they promise can bless the hearers but keep the final details of their techniques on CDs and DVDs which seekers have to buy? The sad thing is that many innocent sheep are getting devoured because they have been warned 'not to judge,' 'not to touch the Lord's anointed,' etc.
It may not be always money that false prophets seek. Some may seek fame and glory at our expense. The common factor is that instead of seeking our welfare, they are using us for their own gain.
The apostle Paul felt that there was only one Timothy who loved and served the Lord and His people faithfully and sincerely, when all others sought their own (Php.2:19-21). Seeking one's own is a sinful tendency we all have in our flesh. That in itself does not make us wolves. But when we take advantage of others in orer to seek our own and we do it in the name of Jesus, that's serious, isn't it?