In the period following the crash of the world stock exchanges in 1929, the world fell into the worst economic depression known in modern times. Fortunes were lost, people committed suicide and rates of unemployment were often as high as forty percent or greater.
In post-World War 1 Germany the depression hit particularly hard on the back of the economic woes suffered from the loss of the war and the reparations that were to be paid. The German nation was reeling and was utterly spent physically, emotionally, psychologically and financially. If ever a nation needed a saviour at that time it was Germany. And they thought they found a saviour.
His name was Adolf Hitler.
Hitler was a master communicator and the German people that were ripe for some good news. He promised jobs and economic recovery in speeches loaded with rhetoric. He gave the German people hope and restored their national pride. He enabled investment in manufacturing, the most memorable of which is the Volkswagen. To restore national pride he invested heavily in rebuilding the armed forces. He provided them with new weapons and equipment and paraded the German military might frequently.
Beware of wolves clothed as sheep
Today we know that Hitler was a dangerous, evil, arrogant, and power hungry man. But when he began his reign in Germany, he was greatly loved by most of the people.
He did not appear to be a crazed, deranged despot seeking world domination. He did not appear to be someone who would again lead Germany into a world wide war and become known for atrocities on a scale that still strike horror into the hearts and minds of people today.
Instead he appeared to be the man who would lead Germany to stability, peace and prosperity. And the world bought into his vision, at least in the initial stages, right up until war was declared in 1939.
Hitler was the classic example of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. He came dressed as a saviour, but was the ultimate destroyer.
Now, while Hitler was an extreme, there are many other wolves in sheep’s clothing today, prowling around and wreaking havoc in the day to day lives of people. Jesus warned us about such people, especially those who will infiltrate the church and try to lead the people of God into sinfulness and drag them away from Christ. So the question is, what do we do about it?
Don’t be hasty
First and foremost we need to learn to weigh people up by their words and actions. We don’t blindly accept anyone at face value.
Haste is a trick of the devil. It is the stock in trade tool of con men and tricksters. You’ll hear them tell you that you have to “get in now,” or something is “a never to be repeated offer,” and the like. You cannot make a rational decision under the pressure of haste. When you are making hasty decisions based on emotion rather than facts and logic, you are ripe to be ripped off.
Don’t be hasty in your decisions. Every request and offer should be carefully weighed to test whether the intentions are good, and whether the proposition adds value or takes it away. It is even more important to weigh the heart of the decision and of the person making the proposition.
You will know them by their fruits
The Bible tells us how to weigh up the heart and intentions of people around us. We are instructed in Matthew chapter 7, verses 16 and 17.
You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.
The person who is evil, proud, arrogant and self-seeking is wearing a mask. They hide behind it to try and trick people into doing their bidding, just as Hitler fooled the German nation into giving him power.
But such people cannot hide forever. The mask will fall and their true character and motivations will become plain to all. Just as a bad tree might look good on the surface and you are not aware it is diseased until the fruit appears, so too we will see the true hearts of evil people in their words and deeds over time. As Jesus eloquently said in Matthew chapter 12, verse 34.
You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
No person can hold a facade forever. The mask will fall and their true colours will show. So in all situations we must watch and assess the people involved, testing the fruit of their words and deeds, and we will know the abundance of their heart.
Since retiring from work, John Lemmon now spends his time teaching, preaching and writing about the word of God, online and offline, answering God's call on him to “Speak to my people.” John and his wife Colleen travel all over Australia and you will often find him playing guitar or ukulele outside their caravan somewhere in the Great Outback. You can connect with John on Twitter (@JohnBLemmon) or on his Christian Bible study blog (freegiftfromgod.com/blog).