How to Know if a Religious Leader is Full of Garbage

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With the rise of the internet and Facebook and Twitter and blogging and podcasts and YouTube, lots and lots of people, especially religious leaders, have the opportunity to get their opinions and thoughts out into the world. And lots and lots of people are really good at sharing what they think in a way that sounds and looks really credible and convincing. So, a question I find myself asking is, “How can you tell when what someone says or does is full of garbage?”

We see this kind of thing play out in Acts 8. Acts 8 shares about two people who have pretty large followings. The first is Phillip and the second is Simon (not Simon Peter, a different Simon.) From looking at this chapter, it looks like a key to deciding if a religious leader is full of garbage is by looking at who or what they’re pointing to with their words and actions.

Verse 5 says, “Phillip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.”

Verse 9 says, about Simon, “He boasted that he [himself] was someone great.”

Both had followers, both performed signs, both had people who listened to every word they said, but they had very different motivations. Phillip wanted people to know about Jesus. Simon wanted people to know about himself. Lots and lots of people can and do perform signs and speak in flashy ways and gain a lot of followers, but what’s their motivation? That’s a good way to tell whether or not they’re full of it. Are they trying to build up God’s kingdom or their own kingdom? Is it about gaining more followers for themselves or for Jesus?

I’ve got to evaluate myself by the same standards. What’s it about for me? Is it about having more people participate in my programs and having more followers on Twitter and more traffic on my blog and about boasting that I’m “someone great like Simon?” Or is it about proclaiming the Messiah, like Phillip? Programs will change and Twitter and Facebook and blogs will be replaced by something cooler, but the Messiah, Jesus, will reign forever. Do I want to spend my whole life working for temporary things or do I want to pour all of my energy into contributing to something that will last forever? What is it for me? What do I care about? What drives me? The temporary or the eternal? Do I want to gain followers for myself or followers for Jesus? Am I full of garbage, or am I speaking the truth?

I guess a lot of those questions apply to people other than religious leaders, too. So, what about you? What motivates you? Do you spend more time focusing on the temporary or the eternal?

God, regardless of my temptation to promote myself and to “boast that I’m someone great,” may I be like Phillip, willing to proclaim the truth of your son, Jesus, rather than that of my own “greatness.”

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