A society based on appearance, will easily be deceived by those who boast a facade piety. It is enough that the subject uses half a dozen religious jargon, and that is it, he has already deceived half the people who assist him.
Writing to his pupil Titus, the apostle Paul denounces those who “profess to know God, but deny him by his works, being abominable, disobedient and disapproved of every good work” (Titus 1:16).
Talking about theology does not mean knowing God. Forge supernatural manifestations, ditto. Time at home also means nothing. I know people who have embraced the faith so recently, but who demonstrate to know God more deeply than some who were born and raised in the church environment.
So, how can we infer whether someone knows God or not, or whether he is a legitimate Christian or a fake ? From God’s point of view, there is no problem. After all, “the Lord knows those who are his” (2 Tim.2: 19a). But from the point of view of this side, there is only one way to know: “Whoever speaks the name of the Lord will depart from injustice” (v.19b).
We will try to understand this better through a curious episode not well known narrated in the Old Testament. We read that the sons of the high priest Eli were “sons of Belial, for they did not know the Lord” (1 Sam.2: 12). How can one be the son of the high priest, be born and raised in the temple environment, yet still not know God? Not always son of fish, goldfish is. Although they were children of a correct and just man, in the eyes of God they were only children of Belial (name used in the OT in reference to the devil).
How would the sacred writer have come to this conclusion? Let’s see the report:
“ Now, the custom of these priests to the people was that, offering someone a sacrifice, while the meat was being cooked, the young man of the priest came with a fork with three teeth in his hand (the famous ‘trident’). He put it in the boiler, or in the pot, or in the cauldron, or in the lunchbox, and whatever the fork took out, the priest took for himself. So they did to all Israel who went to Shiloh ” (vv.13-14).
This was the priests’ means of subsistence. They devoted themselves entirely to worship, and depended on offerings to survive. However, there was a protocol to be followed.
“But even before they burned the fat, the priest’s young man came and said to the man who sacrificed: Give this meat to roast to the priest; he will not accept cooked meat from you, but raw. If the man answered him: Burn the fat first, and then you will take whatever you want, then he would say: No, you will give it now; if not, I will take it by force. The sin of these young men was very great before the Lord, because they despised the Lord’s offering ” (vv.15-17).
According to the priestly protocol, the meat of the sacrificed animals should be placed in the cauldron until the fat is burned, and only then, the priest would put his fork in and remove his part.
Eli’s children did not have the patience to wait for the fat to burn. The fat represented the best part, and it belonged to the Lord. But they were not satisfied with their share.
They were ensnared by the same proposal made by the serpent to the first couple in Eden, taking up what belonged exclusively to God.
Remember: Whoever knows God, loves justice and escapes injustice. Justice is giving each one what is his right. To God what belongs to God, to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, to the employee what is his right, to his spouse his part (1 Cor. 7: 3-5), and so on.
Instead of fighting for profit, those who know God fight for justice. It doesn’t matter who gets the best part of the cake, as long as it’s fair.
In the words of the apostle, “give to each one what you owe: to whom tribute, tribute, to whom tax, tax; to whom fear, fear; whom honor, honor. You owe nothing to anyone, except the love with which you love one another ” (Rom.13: 7-8a).
Giving honor is the reverse of wanting to take advantage .
What denounced that the sons of Eli were in fact “sons of Belial”, and therefore, fakespriests , was the fact that they wanted to take advantage of everything, even of what belonged to the Lord.
There are those who try to take advantage of the suffering of others, without the slightest constraint. Others know how to capitalize on their most bitter experiences, taking to the letter the favorite adage of some: if life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.
Of course, we have rights, but the rights of others always come first. We have to wait for the fat to burn, to take what is ours. This is what Paul speaks of in Romans 12:10: “Love one another cordially with brotherly love, preferring them in honor of one another.” To be cordial is to give in to the turn, putting the interest of the other above ours, as Paul instructed us in another passage: “Do nothing by strife or vainglory, but out of humility, each one considers the others superior to himself. Do not pay attention only to what is yours, but each also to what belongs to others ” (Phil.2: 3-4).
There will always be a cauldron before us, and our posture when we put our fork down will reveal whose children we are. It is as simple as this : “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).
Justice is giving others what is theirs. Love is giving others what is ours. Those who follow Christ must be willing to give up even what is rightfully theirs, for the benefit of others.
Before following someone on social media, or introducing someone to your circle of friendship, try to check their behavior towards others and how eagerly they put their fork in the cauldron of life. Remember that it was not the kiss that identified Jesus’ traitor, but the fact of putting his hand on his master’s plate without any modesty.