Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.’
Jesus said to his disciples: Beware of false prophets.
We all understand the words beware and false, but what do we understand by the word prophet? In the context of today’s reading a prophet is one who speaks on behalf of God, proclaiming a divine message. However, the dictionary offers us other definitions that water down this sacred calling. After affirming the divinely inspired aspect of prophecy, we learn that the word prophet might be used to describe an ‘inspired’ teacher, preacher or poet. It might be used when describing an advocate for some group or movement or doctrine, whether holy or not. It might also be used when speaking of someone who is attempting to foretell the future. Then, in slang terms, it might be describing a tipster. These definitions make it clear that this world is full of false prophets – those who would deceive us to further their own ends.
Jesus himself was no false prophet. Jesus, the Son of God, came into this world to bring humanity into a new relationship with his, and our, Heavenly Father. Jesus spoke on behalf of God, proclaiming a divine truth that would benefit the whole of humanity for the whole of time. But … there were others, and there continue to be others, who would claim that their ‘truth’ is the one that we should be following. Those false prophets offer us an easier route through this life; they offer us the hope of comfortable wealth, accrued with minimum effort; they offer us the stars!
Today we are being challenged to consider which false prophets we might be following. Which advertising campaign, which get-rich-quick scheme, which sure-fire investment might give us the ‘perfect’ life we seek with the least effort or risk?
Every one of us likes to think that we are astute enough to avoid being deceived by the false prophets of this world. But, every day we hear of more and more people whose lives have been irreparably damaged by their own desire to get untold riches instead of the contentment and peace that comes from pursuing the path God has laid for us. However, the challenge in today’s reading is not about having sufficient acumen to avoid the confidence trickster. Today’s challenge is about something much more serious than that. Today’s challenge is about not allowing the false prophets to lead us away from God into the waiting arms of the devil. There are so many false prophets peddling false doctrines, predicting false futures, urging us to bet on the ‘certainty’ that will not only let us down but damage us for eternity.
Let us pray for the strength to remain steadfast in our faith, and to follow only the true prophet of God – Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.