False Prophets and False Politicians

False Prophets and False Politicians

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

— Matthew 7:17-18

IN the King James Version of the Holy Bible, Matthew 7:16 reads: Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?

The Biblical verse warns against false prophets, and in this Our Lord, Jesus advised us how to identify them. He does so by beginning a new metaphor, wholly separate from the wolves and sheep one of the previous verses. The new metaphor turns to botany. It specifically refers to grapes and figs, which were both common crops in the region. Thorn bushes and thistles also flourished in the region and were a constant problem to farmers.

Jesus states that one will be able to identify false prophets by their fruits because will not produce good fruits.

Fruits, which are a common metaphor in both the Old and New Testaments, represent the outward manifestation of a person’s faith, thus their behavior and their works.

We can draw a parallel concept from what is stated in Matthew 7:16 with what is happening in politics, especially since the national and local elections are a heartbeat away. Most of the candidates now have donned messianic robes that promise a better future when they are chosen and elected by the people.

In the Biblical verse, it is usually understood as saying that one should not simply judge a prophet by their words and this can be applied quite significantly in those gunning for an elective position in the forthcoming May elections. But it can be noted in the verse that there are two competing views regarding its meaning. Fruits can be read as referring to the behavior and life of so-called false prophets. If their behavior is not pious, one should not expect their words to be. This opinion was first advanced by John Chrysostom and is supported by many modern scholars such as Edward Schweizer and Ulrich Luz.

The alternate view, however, is that fruits refer to the teachings of false prophets and that the false prophets will be noticeable by teachings (advocacies in the case of our politicos) that don’t conform to correct doctrine. This understanding has been supported by Saints Augustine and Jerome, Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Chrysostom said: Yet He may seem here to have aimed under the title of false prophets, not so much at the heretic, as at those who, while their life is corrupt, yet wear an outward face of virtuousness; whence it is said, By their fruits, ye shall know them. For among heretics, it is possible many times to find a good life, but among those, I have named never.

And according to Augustine: Wherefore it is justly asked, what fruits then He would have us look to? For many esteem among fruits some things which pertain to the sheep’s clothing, and in this manner are deceived concerning wolves. For they practice fasting, almsgiving, or praying, which they display before men, seeking to please those to whom these things seem difficult.

These then are not the fruits by which He teaches us to discern them. Those deeds which are done with good intention, are the proper fleece of the sheep itself, such as are done with bad intention, or in error, are nothing else than the clothing of wolves; but the sheep ought not to hate their own clothing because it is often used to hide wolves. What then are the fruits by which we may know an evil tree?
The Apostle says The works of the flesh are manifest, which are, fornication, uncleanness, etc. (Gal. 5:19.) And which are they by which we may know a good tree? The same Apostle teaches, saying, The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace.

Jerome likewise points out: What is here spoken of false prophets we may apply to all whose dress and speech promise one thing, and their actions exhibit another. But it is especially to be understood of heretics, who by observing temperance, chastity, and fasting, surround themselves as it were with a garment of sanctity, but inasmuch as their hearts within them are poisoned, they deceive the souls of the more simple brethren.

What Jerome has pointed out clearly describes those aiming to be given the mandate as our leaders in the May 9 elections when our voters finally troop to the poll sites to exercise their right to suffrage.

In light of the present ills that beset our political landscape, the usual questions of “how we should vote?” and “how can we help?” have gained renewed traction and pertinence.

First, as many groups have already been voluntarily doing, let us leave no stone unturned to unmask the false messiahs in our midst.

Second, let us actively campaign and fight for those candidates who incarnate our shared dreams for a better future.

And third, since there is strength in numbers, let us set aside our parochial divisions by joining groups and communities who share the same advocacies and programs to turn the potentially catastrophic political exercise in May 2022 into an opportunity to liberate our country from its deep-seated economic, social, and political problems. We owe these to future generations of Filipinos who have suffered enough due to corruption, greed, and other social ills that have left us destitute and ungodly. (ai/mtvn)

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