“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:21-23 NIV

A puzzling word in this portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is “evildoers”, otherwise translated as “law violators”. Aren’t acts of uttering prophetic words, the purging of demonic forces, and performing miracles in the name of Jesus evidence of a sincere, dedicated discipleship? Taking exception, Jesus foresees that many “pretenders” will display these practices in his name while disrespecting the will of our Heavenly Father. 

The term “charlatan” is an apt synonym for “evildoers/law violators”. 

Charlatan – (also called a swindler) is a person practicing quackery or a similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, power, fame, or other advantages through pretense or deception. – Wikipedia

A bit earlier in in his sermon Jesus emphasized:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 NIV

The term “sincere” can be applied to disciples who faithfully meditate on Jesus’ teachings and, as a result, treat others in the way they would like to be treated. 

Sincere – genuine in feeling, and stresses absence of hypocrisy, feigning, or any falsifying embellishment or exaggeration. Synonyms for sincere are wholehearted, heartfelt and unfeigned. – Webster’s Dictionary

The author of a book I‘m reading concludes that true followers of Jesus are those who deliver lasagne casseroles to those experiencing a crisis. I don’t believe this is the leading indicator of sincere faith, but tangible care fleshes out Matthew 7:12. 

I believe it is wise to be aware of popular notions that masquerade as sincerity or honesty. In the movie Gone With the Wind, Rhett Butler utters his lines with a classic self-centered and toxic attitude. Those who practice this brand of “sincerity” are inclined to amend the words of Jesus to read “do unto others before they can do unto you”.

Since Jesus informed us that “Many will say to me…”, we shouldn’t be shocked when high-profile, church-affiliated, charlatans are exposed, while even more suspects operate under cover of darkness. Such impostors have proven all too common since Jesus issued his warning. 

Sing or listen to the prayer below as you trust the Holy Spirit to guide you into heartfelt obedience to Jesus’ teaching. Ask him for discernment about church-dwelling charlatans.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12 ASV

by Kathleen Petersen

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