Poison Mushrooms

mushroomsI noticed some mushrooms growing under a bush by a sidewalk where I was walking. My first thought was, “I wonder if they are poisonous?” My second thought was the recollection of a saying from my eastern Kentucky youth: “You don’t send a city boy to pick your mushrooms.”

With this saying in mind, I am going to attempt to deal with an important problem in our churches today.  Our churches are often pressed to find willing workers. We have all heard preachers say, “God is more interested in availability than ability.” I suppose I’ve made the statement 100 times or more. There is a truth there, but let me sound a warning:  the statement, if not fully understood, is dangerous. It is a half-truth, which can be more dangerous than a lie. The truth is that sincerity of purpose and good intentions are no guarantee of harmless actions, especially in the spiritual realm. You must be more than available. You must have some knowledge and be willing to prepare yourself.

An account in 2 Kings 4:38-41 illustrates this point. An apparently fine young man, studying to be a preacher, set out with the desire to help, but poisoned his friends. With the best of intentions, he responded to the prophet Elisha’s request and went out to gather herbs from the the countryside for a stew. After gathering a lap full of wild fruit, the Living Bible says, “He shredded them and put them into the kettle without realizing that they were poisonous” (2 Kings 4:38). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary (p. 233) notes that there was wild fruit in Bible lands that was very poisonous. “They cause derangement of stomach and bowels leading to violent diarrhea to be followed by death.”

The young man in 2 Kings may have been qualified to go get the cooking pot. He may have been qualified to gather the wood for the fire.  But he was not qualified to undertake a task about which he knew so little. We often have people in our churches teaching our impressionable young people, counseling new converts, etc., who are using the wild fruit of personal opinion. They are not well-schooled in scripture and doctrine, so they may teach things that are distorted or not true.

A layperson with the desire to serve either jumps in or is pushed in to teaching a Sunday School class, a small group, or a youth group, without preparation. Someone is elected or appointed to leadership in the church who is not spiritually qualified – not “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). A zealous person goes on a mission trip, but they make little or no effort to prepare themselves to handle the sacred truth. A well-intended person gives bad counsel at an altar that deflects real conviction. Another employs ‘pop’ religious psychology that is not Bible-based. Such people take on tasks without heeding the Biblical admonition, Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Our Lord never taught that good intentions and sincerity of purpose were sufficient grounds upon which to minister and serve. Hear Jesus’ response to Peter: “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus also said, “And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14). Paul speaks of those that “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2).

Lord help us to study, pray, and prepare ourselves if we want to be your witnesses.

~ Brother Roy

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