“I urge you, brothers [and sisters], to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Reference: Romans 16:17-18 )
Our family has been living awfully close to nature recently – that is, we have a fly or two, ants, and the latest generation of fruit flies that we are sharing the living area with. None are overwhelming or insidious, just annoying. They cause “divisions and put obstacles” in our way of life. And most definitely they are “serving their own appetites.” When only one or two of them show up, you don’t think it is problematic – but the whole swarm arrives and you realize you have been deceived by the original small number. I don’t think, however, that is what the writer of Romans had in mind when he wrote this. At least not the part where the false prophets are insects.
But, on the other hand, one should not be deceived by the smallness of “false prophets” of the insect world. Many insects can cause harm to human habitats and humans. And that is often the way the damage happens, little by little your faith and sense of good and evil is eroded. This is the danger of smooth talk and flattery. It is not the large vermin that most likely disturb your sleep, but the small “gnats” of life that buzz around incessantly. In the same way it is the small doubts and momentary lapses of conviction that can cause a strong faith to weaken. So beware of them beloved. Set you mind to trap those thoughts and toss them out. Keep away from places and people that are infested in wrong thinking and beliefs. Don’t let anyone make a meal of your good faith. And may you sleep peacefully without disturbance in the arms of the Divine. Selah!