Two men showed up one morning as construction volunteers at a Habitat for Humanity project located in their home town. Both men wore a hardhat, coveralls and leather work-boots. Both men carried a hammer on their tool belt, but that was all they appeared to have in common.
The first man showed up a little late. He was slow at his work, kept mostly to himself, and halfway through the day — he just up and left. The second man showed up early and brought enough coffee and doughnuts for all. He had a friendly smile, an engaging personality and expressed much enthusiasm for the project. He took the time to learn the names of each co-worker as he introduced himself with a firm handshake. He then listened attentively to what each person had to say. He stayed the entire day and even volunteered to act as an ad hoc spokesman for the group when a local news crew showed up unannounced to tape a segment about the project for the evening news.
Now, just from what you’ve read, honestly ask yourself how you would answer this question. Which man loves his neighbor more?
Many of you might say that the answer is obviously the second man. Some clever readers, expecting this to be a trick question, might wonder if the answer is the first man. However, those who’s habit it is to search their heart for truth will humbly answer, “I don’t know.” Now that, my friend, is a very good answer, though there is one better still, which is, “God only knows.”
You see, when you look more carefully at my question, you will realize that I did not ask you for an opinion. I did not even ask you to make a guess. The question I asked sought a specific truth, a comparison of the heart, that none but God can truly measure, especially since all there is to go on is the “surface-appearance information” which I previously provided.
Yet, how often do we habitually rely on our own understanding of, and assumptions about, “what” we see, read or hear? Aren’t nearly all of us swayed by appearances to some degree? I mean, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, right? — Unless, of course, it’s a chicken at a costume ball.
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus teaches us the Parable of the Tree and its Fruits. He warns us to beware of those, who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Interesting, that word, “inwardly”.) Jesus teaches us that we can recognize a person by their fruits, thereby overcoming any costumes (disguises or masks) they might be wearing. So, how do we do that exactly? How do we seek to know the fruit such that we are not taken in by any “outward” appearance?
Perhaps in this particular story it might help if I also offered something of each man’s “motives of the heart” at this time.
The first man happens to suffer from a condition of chronic, debilitating pain. Yet, out of a deep sense of compassion and concern for his homeless neighbors, he forces himself to go and labor for as long as he is able, one day a week, every week, as a loving sacrifice to the Lord, because he, himself, at one time had also endured the pain and shame of homelessness. The second man had no practical, construction experience at all, but was preparing to run for a political office, and through his personal contacts he had arranged behind the scenes for the news crew to be there at just the right moment. The first man, though he was there but half a day, completed far more construction work for the homeless than the second man who spent the majority of his time talking and listening (campaigning).
Okay, so now how do you feel about the second man? Does he seem more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing to you now? Well, again you would be wrong.
You see, he was not acting. He is genuinely kind, friendly and enthusiastic, a people person. He is someone who sincerely cares about “all” the people in his home town and believes with all his heart that he can do some real good if elected. Though at this point in his life, some of his methods may not be the purest, the Lord knows his heart and has plans to use him as a leader in the near future.
Funny, isn’t it, how the deeper we willingly travel toward the true motives of a heart, the more that person’s overall appearance will change before our very eyes, and the closer we will get to knowing the actual person? We begin to see them “inwardly”. Yet, the straightest path on any journey to the heart begins by being disciplined about not relying on, or making assumptions about, what we outwardly perceive. We ought never to take anything at face value (especially ducks at costume balls). We ought rather to seek the intimate truth by asking that often most threatening of questions: — “why?”
For every “what” that you see or hear, there is always a “why”, usually more than one, each leading to a deeper truth, each leading to a more accurate taste of a person’s fruit.
Defining The “What” And The “Why”:
The “what” that we offer is what others can see and what others can hear. It is the “appearance” of the facts of our life. It is what we do, what we wear, what we say or write, even what tone we use when we say it. It is what we choose to share and what others can observe for themselves.
The “what” is just the shallow, surface layer, the cover of our own book. And, in this world, aren’t most people far more concerned about primping and polishing the cover of their book than they are about what’s written on the pages inside? Aren’t most of us afraid to expose the truth of our pages? Individuals, companies, governments — they all try to present a pretty book cover, don’t they? We should all know by now that we are fools if we blindly trust what we see on the shallow surface. The wolf is underneath the sheep’s clothing, remember?
Without the real “why”, the shallow “what” simply can not be trusted here in the enemy’s kingdom. The “why” is the deeper layer, the heart layer. It is the layer where we meet God. The “why” layer is where our true motives are exposed, which is the very reason “why?” is such a dangerous question for those who wish to hide the truth. The “why” turns on the light of truth.
Giving The Enemy Opportunity:
A “why” must always accompany a “what” or the enemy will use every opportunity to fill in the “why” for us.
In a previous blog post titled, Armor Lessons – Satan’s Mirrors, I talk about a favored flanking-maneuver of the enemy, where he comes at us from the side and whispers into the “hammer and anvil” of our ear, attempting to filter “what” we hear or the truth of “what” we see. He does this by strongly suggesting a “why” specifically designed according to our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The enemy knows us well. He studies us.
Even when our “what” is accompanied by our “why”, the enemy will still attempt to filter it out anyway, overriding it with his own version of “why”. He will even attempt to set the tone of our own written words, causing others to read between the line what is not even there. (Too many times, my “why” has been overridden by the enemy’s “why” through a loved one’s eyes or ears on its way to their heart such that they could no longer hear me at all.)
In my previous Armor-Lessons blog-post, I also shared this little story:
Her neighbor said, “Thank you for the cookies, but I don’t care for oatmeal raisin.” But, in her mind she heard flanking-words that said, “She doesn’t want your cookies because they are awful! She’s just too nice to say so. You are a terrible cook, which means you are a total failure as a woman!”
This is a good example of how a demonic filter works. The enemy attempted to replace her neighbor’s “why”. Can you see how listening to flanking spirits and then speaking their words out of our mouths can cause us to sound paranoid?
Beware Unsubstantiated Heresay: (Reject Rumors)
When listening to one person speak about others (or about situations involving others), be very, very cautious when accepting their interpretation of the “what”, lest it be slanted. And, NEVER take to heart their interpretation of the “why” unless they can back-it-up with proof (the verifiable witnesses of facts and truth), otherwise you may come under the influence of the lying gossip of flanking spirits spoken through that person’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. (I spoke about this in a previous blog post titled, Assumptions.)
Accept hearsay only as rumor until you can properly seek the truth as your witness. In this way, you can avoid the enemy’s traps and stay clear of dissension and strife. It should go without saying that words like, “I promise”, “I swear”, “take it from me” or “trust me on this” do not count as proof of the truth, but instead could indicate that there is reason for concern.
James 5:12 “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
Habits Of A Warrior:
- Form the habit that whenever you speak, every “what” that you say is accompanied by your “why” so as not to give the enemy opportunity to speak for you. (And please do not substitute the real “why” for a lessor truth. This is a form of deceitful manipulation.)
- When others speak, learn to listen for the “what” and the “why” together, and boldly ask for the “why” when it is not offered. This will help expose a person’s fruit, revealing the truth behind their public mask, revealing the heart beneath the cover of their book. Remember to form the habit of asking for their “why”. Never allow the enemy to suggest a “why” or set the tone of any written words.
- Make sure that every “why” you hear involving a third person is accompanied by the proof of witnesses (verifiable facts and truth) before you take any heresay to heart. If you are denied access to the proof, then DO NOT LISTEN!
- The What: “I want to point out a mistake you made.”
- The Real Why: “I have compassion, and I’m trying to spare you any future embarrassment by helping you fix it now.”
- The Enemy’s Whispered Why: “You are being shown how much of an idiot and a total screw-up you are. You are being put in your place by someone better than you. You got served!”
- The What: “They were looking right at you when you waved, but they didn’t wave back.”
- The Real Why: “From that far away, they didn’t recognize you and didn’t think you were waving at them.”
- The Enemy’s Whispered Why: “They can’t acknowledge you in public. You’re a freakin’ embarrassment! Get a clue!”
- The Third-Person What: “I saw your ex walk out toward your car with a key in hand.”
- The Offered-Without-Proof Why: “Your ex was going to scratch the paint.”
- The Enemy’s Whispered Why: “Your ex hates your guts and is determined to ruin your life.”
- The Real Why: “Your ex was kindly surrendering the second car key in a non-confrontational way.”
- The What: “I decided to call you.”
- The Spoken Lesser Why: “I’m just checking in to see how you’re doing.”
- The Hidden Greater Why: “I want to pump you for certain gossip.”
- The Enemy’s Whispered Why: “It’s a pity-call, you worthless loser.”