«The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful» (Proverbs 12:5).
In The War of the End of the World, Mario Vargas Llosa describes the impact of religious fanaticism on society. Antonio, the Counselor, is a traveling minister who goes through some rural communities in northern Brazil. General injustice, poverty, ignorance, social dissatisfaction and abuse by the clergy make up a breeding ground for a simple but charismatic individual to be elevated to a Messianic level. Canudos, the town where the Counselor is most powerful, becomes the mainstay of a religious movement that shakes the region’s political stability. People defy the government’s authority and only accept the Counsel offs word. The situation becomes so bad that the authorities feel it’s necessary to send an army, which is surprisingly suppressed in a bloody battle, where the renown colonel Antonio Moreira César dies, which increases the Counselor’s prestige and motivates many people to go to Canudos to defend the spiritual leader. Then, the army decides to launch a brutal attack on the people, who defend themselves by fire and sword. In the end, the Counselor dies along with most of his followers and a great number of soldiers.
Few people realize the terrible influence a deceiver can have in a community. Jesus warned us that in the end times there would be many deceivers who would use the Scriptures to satisfy their own interests (Matthew 24:11). Why do people listen to the outrageous things some visionary people proclaim? The Bible has the answer, «For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables» (2 Timothy 4:3, 4).
Itching to hear? Interested in fables? Why? Because they don’t study the Scriptures, they don’t have a solid relationship with Jesus, they lead an unsatisfactory spiritual life. So it opens the door to false Messiahs who disqualify established leaders, very enthusiastically proclaim lies and take advantage of their followers to such extent that they risk their own lives.
Do you have doubts? Do you harbor disapproval in your heart? Is your spiritual life full of dissatisfaction? Be careful! If you don’t know how to manage those attitudes you could end up in the clutches of a deceiver. Don’t forget that Jesus has the answer to all your questions.