15-20"Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don't be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned."
We have all met or heard of individuals with such dynamic charisma that people just flock to them and seemingly "give all they have" to see that person's vision be furthered. In some cases, the efforts of that individual have been very pure and the rewards have been genuine. In others, the motivations were very much indeed personal gain and personal grandeur. Jesus tells us to watch out for the "practiced sincerity" of some, but to look at character rather than charisma.
There are lots of people in this world, in the church and outside the church, who rise to the level of leadership based on nothing more than charisma. Charisma is the power or quality that gives an individual influence or authority over another individual or group of individuals. Sometimes we call this charm, magnetism, or "personal presence". Regardless of what we call it, Jesus warns us that seeing only this "personal presence" or charm is dangerous - we must evaluate the individual and their work by the character of their heart.
The truth Jesus is speaking relates to individuals who have the most significant influence - preachers or teachers. Yet, this lesson could apply to anyone who we elevate to a position of leadership over our lives - local officials, our boss, or even a friend who seemingly is always the most influential in our group of friends. The purpose of what he tells us is simple - we have to become good "inspectors" of the fruit of a man's life. It is the "fruit" that makes up the character of an individual, not the charismatic traits they possess.
When we go to the supermarket, some of us make more conscious decisions about what ends up in our cart than others do. In fact, by reading labels, comparing prices, looking carefully at the quality of the item we want to purchase, we choose one over the other. Over the past several years, my mother's eyesight has become so "blurred" by a disease that she no longer can read the labels, see the prices on the shelves, or recognize a piece of fruit has bruises in it. She needs someone to come alongside to assist in "picking out" the right stuff.
The truth is that we sometimes need someone to come alongside us in helping us to pick out the right stuff, too! Especially when it comes to what or who we dedicate our time, attention, and life treasures toward. We can get "pulled in" by the fancy labels, the promise of good things inside, and the "sale price", but in the end, the quality of what we got did not match the label, the promise, or the price! I am not just talking about groceries here! This also applies to who we engage as our friends, pastors, teachers, mentors, and leaders. We need to be careful to not be "lured in" by the allure of charisma - a charismatic friend may not make the best confidante!
I looked up that word this morning and found that "confidante" is actually defined as a woman to whom secrets are confided or with whom private matters or problems are discussed. We can see how easy it is to go to the person who seems to know all the answers - yet they may not be the ones to give us the best answer, or hold the confidence we discuss. The choice of confidante is best measured by the character of the individual. Charisma may be there, but if it is not backed with character, we need to cautiously back away!
So, today we have a chance to become better at "reading labels", "examining the fruit", and considering the "price" of the relationships we keep and the placement we give to others in our lives. It could be the best move we make in keeping us safe from being lured into places and practices we will later regret!