“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ -Matthew 25:41-43, NIV
I had more than my fair share of people feigning to care for me while they served themselves in some way or another. From a (now former) father-in-law who was trying legitimize his daughter’s adulterous divorce to a church officials thinking I was both blind and dumb to their true motives, I had a whole slew of people pretending to care for me.
Thankfully, these were not the only people in my path. God sent me people who actually did care about me as well. These were true followers of God who gave me something to drink, so to speak, and even set up the STD testing appointment for me. That’s true concern and care.
Look at actions, faithful spouses. They will tell you whether or not this person is truly looking out for your best interests or their own. As a warning, they may even think they are counseling you from a place of love and care. That does not make it so. Good intentions, as the saying goes, pave the way to Hell.
And I would test their words by Scripture. Do these words conform to the God revealed in the Bible? Are they condemning words? Do they in anyway suggest I am deserving of being sinned against? Do they blame-shift for my adulterous partner’s sin, in other words? Are they words that attack my worth? Do they use shame as a weapon to manipulate me? Does their counsel feel like a sin-inquisition full of critical comments and attacks? If you answer “Yes” to any of these except the first question, then that is a good indicator that these people are not demonstrating care for you in their counsel. It is fleshly counsel at best.
On the other hand, do their words build you up (see Eph 4:29)? Do they help you see your mistakes, when talking about these, but give you hope for change in a life-giving way? Are they liberally seasoned with the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23)? Such is counsel and care marked by the Spirit of God.
Returning to the passage from Matthew 25, I encourage all to beware of those who say the right things yet act contrary to those words. Personally, I found such behavior the most befuddling and painful in my dark season and recovery. It was hard–especially at first–learning to not trust the words at face value as I am a trusting soul. Today, I do not take the words as they are but also look at the actions that come with them. I encourage you to do the same.