So how do we tell if someone is worth listening to? Just a few points.
First, what seems to be the real motivation of the prophet? Is what they are saying for your good – or for theirs? Who really benefits if one follows the prophet’s advice? History is filled with con men and women who have sold entire communities and countries a promise and nothing else. The prophets who have filled their personal bank accounts, who have gained power and influence at the expense of the gullible, who have held on to that power by any means necessary, these are influencers whose only real aim is their own well-being.
So the fruits of the prophet’s life – the gathering of wealth, power, expressions of immorality and personal greed will tell us who they are really trying to help – the listener or themselves.
Second, what are the fruits of their teaching? People worth listening to build up communities, they don’t divide them. How I wish our politicians understood this! People worth listening to speak truth, they call out injustice, they put a verbal spotlight on the dark places of our world, but they do so in such a way that the entire community is lifted up, not torn down. They call us to better expressions of ourselves, of ourselves as a community, of ourselves as a culture.
Third, they point us to a truth that exists beyond ourselves. They point us to a truth to which we are all accountable, including the speaker. As Christians, we believe that Scripture holds these truths. The power of Martin Luther King, Junior was not in his powerful oratory, although he was certainly a strong, charismatic preacher and teacher. No, the power of Martin Luther King was in his ability to articulate a dream of a society where the justice of human culture lined up with the justice of a divine God. King pointed us to truths beyond what we had settled for.