“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves…. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:15, 21)

We’re still in the red letters. If you haven’t been keeping up you can go to https://gotpotential.org to catch the last couple Purpose Weekly posts.

We have a passion for celebrity. Entire industries are built on feeding the public the whereabouts and whatabouts of every private and public moment of an actor’s life. Who married whom? Who divorced whom? Who was spotted on Rodeo Drive wearing a t-shirt? Who was spotted not wearing a t-shirt? Who’s put on a few pounds? Who’s lost a few pounds?

What qualifies these folks for our constant attention? Do we know these people? Have we met them? Will we ever? Are our lives so devoid of meaning that we have to keep track of every moment of theirs? This mass fascination with every celebrity breath and burp isn’t just weird, it’s sick.

And it’s not just actors; we make paparazzi gods out of athletes, politicians, anybody in the ‘public eye’ – even preachers. Why the fascination?

Maybe part of it is because we want to be like them. They’re in the spotlight – they’re significant. It must be glorious up there in the stratosphere.  Not like down here in the dust where mortal men are doomed to live their days. We watch them because we want to be like them – because they’re not like us.

But maybe there’s something more to our fascination. We like to watch famous people in their glory; but we love to watch famous people when they fall. Nothing’s more tantalizing than the tale of a fallen star. Confirmation that he’s not a god after all; but only a flawed lump of clay – just like us.

So how should we regard those people in the public eye?

First, we’ve got to see people for who they really are. When we look at a celebrity, whether he’s a movie star, an athlete, a politician or a preacher, it isn’t really the person we see – it’s the façade in front of the person. An elaborate structure that has been erected to represent the person in light of the role he is playing. We see the structure, the façade – not the person. Jesus said that if we wanted to ‘recognize’ a person for who he really is, we have to look past the façade.

Jesus always saw behind the structure to the man. That’s why he warned people about ‘false prophets.’ These are people who purport to be God’s mouthpiece, but are really just dressing up their own words as the words of God to achieve their own selfish purposes. They build big facades around their roles to make people think their voice counts for more than it really does.

Remember “The Wizard of Oz”? Dorothy and company finally reached the hall of the ‘GREAT AND TERRIBLE WIZARD!” They approach the monumental, smoke breathing, thunder clapping visage of the TERRIBLE WIZARD OF OZ and they’re shaken by his power and authority. Dorothy’s dog Toto, however, draws their attention to the curtain behind which the real wizard of Oz sits, pulling the levers of the GREAT AND TERRIBLE machine. All the smoke and thunder was just a show, just a façade. The real wizard of Oz was just a man behind a curtain pulling levers.

By the way, the smoke and thunder don’t mean much.  Jesus doesn’t necessarily count all that in favor of the prophet. “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 perform many miracles.’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers!'” (22-23)

Jesus said “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-16) “Look past the façade; look behind the curtain. Look at what the man produces.” Steve translation)

So when it comes ‘prophets’; those people, who through the roles they play, we’ve come to regard as celebrities, how do we tell a bad apple from a good apple? Test the fruit.

Go back to the red letters. Make a list of everything Jesus said was right and another list of everything he said was wrong. Jesus made this easy because the whole time he was talking, his focus was on two groups of people – the regular folks and the Pharisees. When he spoke about what was right, he was talking to the regular folks. For what not to do, he always implied something that the Pharisees had either taught them or provided the example for.

He said. ‘don’t pass judgment on your brother’ (regular folks, not representing themselves as God’s mouthpiece) but do ‘beware of false prophets’ (people representing themselves as God’s mouthpiece for their own ends).

Am I saying that regular folks are all okay and religious leaders are all rotten? Nope. There’s plenty of rotten to go around amongst the ranks and the majority of religious leaders don’t choose that career path for the money or prestige.

But Jesus did want people to know that they would be judged by the same measuring cup with which they judged others, and that those who claimed to represent God were going to be judged by what they produced, not by the great façade they erected – and we’re supposed to know the difference before we start following instructions from someone who says he represents God.

So, how do you trust what anybody has to say?

There’s a bright side. It’s all in the red letters. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the wind blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

Build your house on the rock – everything else is shifting sand.