Toward the end of the sermon on the mount the Lord gives a warning:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matt 7:15
Every time I read this I think of a prophet, or false prophet, as some crazy homeless guy with a cardboard sign – “the end is nigh.” It isn’t the right image I know but there it is nonetheless. I then immediately think of televangelists (sorry if I offend anyone with that comment). Then I begin to wonder if false prophets are something we really need to worry about in our time. A few minutes of reflection though leads me to suspect that yes it is something that merits concern.
There are many people in the world seeking to influence how we think, what we feel and ultimately how we act. We read their opinions in today’s literature, hear them in today’s music and debate with them on the internet and social media. Indeed, we grapple today with more and more cunning “false prophets” than ever before. I worry just a little for my kids and how they’ll interpret and internalise many of the messages they are bombarded with every day.
There is good news though in this teaching from Christ (pun intended). The way I see it there are two good pieces to this otherwise stark warning. First, it stands to reason that if there are false prophets than there must also be true prophets. If Christ were the end of prophets and prophecy then would he not have said “beware of those claiming to be prophets, there won’t be any after me”? There are worthy living role models we and our kids can follow.
The second excellent piece of news we can take from this teaching follows in the very next verse:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Matt 7:16
Christ warns us but then gives us a mechanism to choose for ourselves. What kind of fruit should we be looking for from those seeking our time and attention. In Galatians we read:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Gal 5:22-23
So my little ones beware that the fruit of those you seek to emulate is not intermingled with thorns and thistles: immodesty, intemperance, vulgarity, hate and so on! Choose wisely.