We often hear conflicting moral teachings from our religious and secular leaders. Many claim to have the true message of God or the true message of Christianity. We hear about "Christian values," or "God's will," or "The Bible says...," or "Jesus says...,", etc. How can we tell who is interpreting the Bible with true understanding and who is, consciously or unconsciously, merely using it to serve their own ends?
Jesus gives us the answer in the parable of the good and bad fruits. He tells us to judge a teacher or minister by his or her deeds, not by his or her claims. Just as a fig tree produces only figs, a good teacher will advocate only good deeds and will live a life of good deeds. Just as a tree that produces poison fruit, a false teacher will advocate evil deeds and practice evil deeds, even while claiming to give godly advice.
"Beware of false teachers who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are wolves and will tear you apart. You can detect them by the way they act, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit. You need never confuse grapevines with thorn bushes or figs with thistles. Different kinds of fruit trees can quickly be identified by examining their fruit. A variety that produces delicious fruit never produces an inedible kind. And a tree producing an inedible kind can't produce what is good. So the trees having the inedible fruit are chopped down and thrown on the fire. Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit produced. "Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as 'Lord,' but still won't get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven. At the Judgment many will tell me, 'Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.' But I will reply, 'You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.' (TLB, Matthew 7:15-23)
The true teachings of the Bible will be consistent with the two great themes of the Ten Commandments and the Greatest Commandments of Jesus : reverence to God, our Creator, and respect for all persons, everywhere.
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (NIV, Luke 6:45)
False teachers will preach a doctrine filled with prejudice, hate, greed and covetous desire which is distorted to sound as if these things were virtuous. False teachers will take Bible verses out of context and convolute their meanings to serve their own ends. The Apostle Paul warned the people of his churches to be wary of those who teach a false gospel.
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. (NAS, Romans 16:17-18)
The prophet Isaiah and Jesus both warned against misleading others into sin.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight! (NAS, Isaiah 5:20-21)
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! (NIV, Matthew 18:6-7)
Learning the wisdom of the Bible helps us discern good from evil and good teachings from evil teachings. Even when evil teachings are disguised as good, and argued shrewdly, we will not be easily fooled. There is no better application for the wisdom of the Bible than to be able to distinguish good from evil, and to practice good in our own lives.
For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, To deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; From those who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; (NAS, Proverbs 2:6-13)
Wisdom is a buffer against life's constant battering of conflicting ideas and desires. Wisdom frees us from the tyranny of popular opinion and from the emptiness of a status-seeking existence. The wisdom of the Bible is a solid foundation on which we can base our attitudes and actions. It is the key to making the best choices throughout our lives.
Related verses: Matthew 5:17-18, Matthew 12:35, Matthew 15:13-19, Matthew 23:2-12, Matthew 24:3-5, Mark 7:20-23, Luke 21:8, John 3:20-21, Romans 2:19-23, Colossians 2:8-9