THEME: BY THEIR FRUITS, YOU SHALL KNOW THEM
READINGS: Sirach 27:4-7/ 1 Corinthians 15:54-58/ Luke 6:39-45
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
According to the Book of Sirach, “when a sieve is shaken, the refuse remains…. The kiln tests the potter’s vessels…. Do not praise a man before you hear him speak” (Sir. 27:4-7). These series of nuggets of wisdom are summed up in another statement in the same passage: “the fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree” (Sir. 27:6). Similarly, Jesus says that “each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44). Relating these statements to manufactured products, one could say that the quality of the raw materials and the quality of the skills of a manufacturer determine the quality of their products.
Generally, today, many people are very careful about the quality of the products they buy; for they want to ensure that they obtain true value for their money. Some read the minute texts of labels of products to ascertain whether the ingredients meet certain standards and where they originate from. Others may even probe further to ascertain whether the products were made by child labour, by oppressed labour or made with animals that were cruelly abused.
If we are that critical about the quality of the products that we use for our bodies, then we must be more critical about the quality of the “products” we use for our souls. Paradoxically, however, when it comes to the “products” utilized by our souls, many (especially in Africa) seem to care less about quality. Many Africans, for instance, are less critical about the source of “power” and false teachings of many so-called bishops, pastors, apostles, prophets and evangelists, who are invariably self-made.
With regard to the source of “power” for miracles, for instance, there is common knowledge of the use of occultism in some cases. Yet, many Christians, even knowingly, seek miracles for healing and prosperity from these so-called men/women of God who operate with such powers. This is certainly, a case of a blind man leading another blind man (Luke 6:39). There are also cases of staged miraculous healings. Last year (2018), for instance, a woman confessed on one of the local TV stations in Ghana of belonging to a “school” which trains able persons to act as sick persons during healing services in various “churches”. The “school”, according to the woman, was located at Offinso in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. She confessed that she had been contracted to act as a blind woman, a wheelchair-bound paralyzed woman, etc. in various healing services in several towns and cities in Ghana. Once, again, we have the case of a blind person leading other blind persons.
With regard to the teachings, there is a lot which amounts to playing on the ignorance of the congregation by the so-called men/women of God who themselves have very little understanding of Scriptures. Most of such men/women have no post-secondary formal training in Scriptures and Christian Theology. Once again, the blind are leading other blind people. Sometimes, we have the case of such non-trained men/women of God with log in their eyes trying to remove the specks from the eyes (cf. Luke 6:41) of well-educated persons who were brought up with sound Christian doctrines. It is unfortunately that often the latter who have only specks in their eyes allow those who have been totally blinded by logs in their eyes to lead them.
How can we ascertain the source of power and veracity of the teachings of these bishops, pastors, apostles, evangelists and prophets? One sure way to do this is by looking at their fruits. That is, by ascertaining whether their teachings, ministry and way of life correspond with the values of the Gospel of Christ. In the first place, we may have to shake the “sieve” of their teachings and see the “refuse” that remains. If we do, we shall see very toxic “refuse” of teachings like “the person who does not pay his tithe is an armed robber”, “you will never be blessed if you do not sow a seed (special money offering)”, “if people say that my ministry is dubious, then I [pastor] challenge God to kill me instantly…”, etc.
Secondly, we may have to shake the “sieve” of their ministry and the impact of the ministry on their followers and see the “refuse” that remains. If we do, we shall see the “refuse” of staged miracles, of church members rushing out of a chapel to chew green grass at the command of the pastor, of pastors walking on church members including pregnant women, of hypnotized church members, etc.
Thirdly, as “the kiln tests the potter’s vessels”, so we may have to test the lifestyles of these so-called men/women of God in the oven of Scriptures. If we do, we will come to know the poor quality of the “vessels” of their lives, e.g., opulent lifestyles at the expense of the meagre income of the overwhelming of their followers, blatant and unsustainable justification of such lifestyles, sexual abuses of some church members, marital infidelity, etc.
Finally, therefore, since by the fruits of the so-called men/women of God we shall know them, let us, by the light of the Holy Spirit, always critically examine the fruits of their teachings, ministry and lifestyles. Amen.
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis