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  • Daniel Botkin

Light that is Darkness


Two times in the Gospels, Yeshua spoke about a light that is in reality darkness.

The first time: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single [or ‘good’], thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:22f).

The second time: “Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness” (Lk. 11:35).

The context of these two statements is in regards to generosity versus stinginess. Having a “good eye” or an “evil eye” are Hebrew idioms for being generous or being stingy. In other words, don’t mistake your stingy giving for generosity. If you are a multi-millionaire and you give 25 cents to a beggar, don’t brag about how generous you are.

So sharing and giving to others is the original context of Yeshua’s reference to a light that is darkness. However, giving financial and material aid is not the only context in which light can be darkness. Light can also be darkness in the context of sharing your knowledge of truth with others. When you share your knowledge of spiritual truth with others, you think you are sharing spiritual light, because you think you have some intellectual, academic, historical head knowledge. But the “light” you are sharing might in fact be darkness. How so?

There are two ways in which light can be darkness. The first way is when your “light” (i.e., your knowledge) is information which is not true. You hear or read something and it seems to enlighten you, because you “light up” on the inside when you learn about it. But if it is false information (either inaccurate information based on exaggeration or misunderstanding, or information that is contrived, or information that is entirely fabricated), it is darkness, not light, regardless of how enlightened you felt when you first heard it.

A second way in which light can be darkness is when your knowledge is absolutely true, but you misuse that information to harm and destroy. Your knowledge might be 100% factual, and yet be darkness. On an intellectual, academic, historical level, your knowledge is light, because it’s true. But on a spiritual level, your knowledge is darkness, because you are using it in a way that only drives people deeper into darkness rather than into the light. Let’s consider both of these forms of light that is darkness.


Light that is Darkness: False Information


There is a lot of false information that floats around in the Church and in the Messianic Community, and many people gullibly believe it. They hear or read something that makes them feel enlightened or elated or enraged, and they immediately swallow it. They are like babies who crawl on the floor and try to eat any object that resembles food. It reminds me of an article I wrote in 1997, “Urban Legends in the Church.” In this article, I wrote about how Christians gullibly swallow one unsubstantiated rumor after another, one far-fetched fable after another. Here’s just one example from my article:

In 1976 my wife and I went to Israel and lived there for one full year. When we returned to the United States, some people showed me a tract that had been circulating and causing a great deal of excitement among Christians, especially those who were into end-time prophecy. The title of the tract was “Why All the Vultures?”

According to this tract, vultures were multiplying at an unprecedented rate in Northern Israel, in the vicinity of the Valley of Armageddon. The tract gave the impression that Israelis all over the Galilee area were scratching their heads in bewilderment, wondering why the vultures were becoming so numerous. Of course the reason for the vulture population explosion was obvious to Christians familiar with end-time prophecy: the vultures were multiplying in preparation for the Battle of Armageddon, when an angel will cry to all the fowls that fly in the heaven, “Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men” (Rev. 19:17f).

Christians who showed me the tract asked me if I had any additional information, since I had just spent a year in Israel. I told them that the last six months of my one-year stay in Israel had been spent living in Northern Israel, and this was the first time I had heard anything about the subject. I had not seen a single vulture, nor had I heard anyone else say a word about vultures.

Some Christians seemed a bit disappointed by my answer, and at least one seemed upset and a little angry that I would dare to cast doubt on the accuracy of the tract which he had been eagerly distributing to people. “But it says so right here!” he exclaimed.

A couple months later we returned to Israel and lived in the Galilee for another six months, and I still neither saw nor heard any signs of the ominous vultures. A few years later I read in an Israeli publication that the vulture was actually a rare, endangered species in Israel, and Israeli scientists were conducting breeding experiments in Tel Aviv to prevent its extinction.

You can read about other similar false rumors that Christians believed in my “Urban Legends” article in the GOE archives on the web site (GOE 3-3, May-June 1997).

Christians believed a lot of unsubstantiated rumors in the latter decades of the 20th century. Now we are in the 21st century, and things have gotten even worse, thanks to the Internet, YouTube, Facebook, and other social media.

Misinformation normally comes from extra-Biblical sources, whether by word of mouth, or in print, or online. Extra-Biblical sources are not all bad. They can be helpful for understanding the Bible. Dictionaries and lexicons help us understand definitions of words that are used in the Bible. History books help provide a background for the Biblical text. Through history, we can learn about life in Biblical times. We can learn about the tools, weapons, housing, transportation, commerce, agriculture, and industry of people in ancient times.

With the help of history, the Bible stories paint a picture in our minds. For example, when you read about Moses going before Pharaoh, what do you see? You probably picture Moses with a long, white beard and a long, flowing robe, and Pharaoh as a beardless man wearing a tall, funny-looking hat and a knee-length skirt. But the Bible does not describe the physical appearance of Moses or Pharaoh. Why do you picture them that way?

“That’s easy,” you answer. “Because we saw Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner in the movie The Ten Commandments.”

That’s probably true, but why did Cecil B. DeMille portray Moses and Pharaoh that way when he made his movie? Because history teaches us about the appearance of the Hebrews and the Egyptians.

So yes, extra-Biblical sources can help us understand the Bible. However, if you read something in an extra-Biblical source that sounds like far-fetched fantasy, don’t be quick to believe it and repeat it as truth. Check the source. Is the information available only online, or is it printed in a real book that is published by a real publishing company? What do you know about the author? Does the author cite his sources? Is the information from a credible, reliable source?

Using extra-Biblical sources to help you understand the Bible is important, but please: Don’t do your scholarly research on the Internet. Anyone with a computer and some computer skills can put together a web site that looks legitimate and informative, and they can type out anything they want to say, whether it’s true or not.

“But Daniel, people can do the same thing with books. Anyone with a typewriter and enough money can self-publish a book and say anything they want to say, whether it’s true or not.”

Yes, that’s right. However, it takes more money, more time, and more effort to publish something in a book than it does to post it on a web site. Furthermore, if the book is published by a real, reputable publishing company, the information is more likely to be credible and reliable, because publishing companies have a reputation to uphold. They do not want to get a bad reputation as a publisher that prints unreliable, unverifiable information, like tabloids do.

Most people are familiar with Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Real encyclopedias, the multi-volume ones printed in books, are written by educated experts who are hired to write entries in their areas of expertise. An encyclopedia publisher uses writers who know what they are talking about. But Wikipedia allows anyone to write about anything they want. I know absolutely nothing about brain surgery, but if I wanted, I could write and post an article about brain surgery on Wikipedia. I could even claim to be a world-famous brain surgeon.

Furthermore, anyone can edit articles that are posted on Wikipedia. You can add or delete information, or modify the text in some other way. (Which means that my claim of being a world-famous brain surgeon might get deleted as soon as a real brain surgeon sees it.) If you have a favorite celebrity, not only can you read about him, you can write about him. My brother has a friend who was reading the biography of his favorite rock star on Wikipedia. My brother’s friend edited the text by adding: “And in high school, his best buddy was _____.” And then he inserted his own name. “They hung out together all the time in high school,” my brother’s friend wrote. It’s absolutely false, but now he can show the article to his friends and “prove” to them (at least to the ones who think Wikipedia is a reliable source) that he was that rock star’s best buddy in high school.

Even worse than Wikipedia are the “fake news” web sites. These are professional-looking web sites that post articles, often accompanied by high-quality photographs, and they appear to be reporting news about actual events. But the events never happened at all. The stories are entirely fictional.

Or, sometimes, the events did in fact happen, but the fake news web site will embellish the story with details that are absolute fiction. They will put fake quotes in the mouths of people, or greatly exaggerate details, or make up fictional details to make the story far more bizarre or outrageous than it really is. When people read these stories (the ones that are based on real events), they will be more inclined to believe them, because they know from other more reliable sources that the event did in fact happen. “Yeah, I heard about this on Fox News and CNN and on the radio, so I guess this must be true.” Well, it’s true that the event happened, but the details on this particular web site are fictional.

Why do people want to write and post fake news stories? Because they are pranksters. They enjoy tricking gullible people into believing incredible stuff.

Many of these fake news sites deliberately target conservative, Bible-believing people. The fake news story will either enrage or elate the gullible Bible believer. He will post it on Facebook, draw comments from other gullible people, and thus the Bible believers look like the naive, gullible saps that they are. There’s even a web site that reports fake stories about archeological finds that “prove” the accuracy of the Bible. Bible believers get all excited and share this information, but none of it is true.

If you see information online that seems fishy, or weird, or outrageous, or incredible, or too good to be true, check the source. Is it from a legitimate, credible source? Even if it’s on the web site of a real, legitimate source, make sure it is not meant to be just satire. Satire is not meant to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, some people do not recognize satire when they see it.

“But Daniel, I read online that they’re going to get rid of all the fake news web sites.”

Yeah, I know, I read that too. But that announcement is probably fake news. If a pathological liar tells you, “I’m never going to tell another lie,” do you believe him? I don’t.

Why am I ranting about fake news web sites? Because people can also create web sites and Facebook memes with fake information about the Bible, or about historical information that affects how we interpret the Bible. People can make bizarre, outrageous claims about the Hebrew text of the Bible (even if they do not know Hebrew), or about the pronunciation of Sacred Names, or about which books really belong (or do not belong) in the canon of Holy Scripture. People can make claims about the words and deeds of Christian church leaders of past generations, or about Bible translations and translators, or about alleged customs of pagans who lived centuries ago. Yet these claims are made without citing a reliable, verifiable source. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The trouble with reading stuff on the Internet is that there’s no way to verify it.” (That statement is satire, by the way.)

Whenever I hear or read something that sounds incredible, I ask myself: Why should I believe this claim? Is it a historical fact that can be verified in a reliable source? What is the primary source of this information? Is it a provable fact, or just someone’s theory, and mere speculation?

If you hear or read some new information that “lights you up” on your insides, verify the truth of this light before you embrace it. Take heed that the light which is in you be not darkness. And even if it is real, true information, take heed that the light which is in you not become darkness by your misuse of this truth.


Light that is Darkness: True Information that is Misused


A second way that the light that is in you can be darkness is by your misuse of truth. The Bible talks about “speaking the truth in love” as one sign of spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:15). When people get enlightened with some newly-discovered truth, they get excited and want to share it with others. That’s wonderful. It’s normal to want to share newly-discovered truth with others. But if you are unable to speak the truth in love, then you had better keep it to yourself until you have matured enough to speak the truth in love.

If you speak truth in a proud, arrogant, condescending, egotistical way, then that light which you have becomes darkness, because it drives the hearers deeper into darkness, rather than into the light.

When we speak about false teachers and false prophets, most people usually think of them in terms of false doctrines and false prophecies. It’s true that false doctrines and false prophecies are marks of false teachers and false prophets. However, the identifying marks of false prophets that Yeshua mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount are not false doctrines and false prophecies. Rather, the identifying marks of a false prophet that Yeshua mentioned are the fruits of the false prophet:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:15-20).

When you share truth with people, do you do it in love? Or do you pounce on your victims and tear into them like a wolf?

Notice the contrast that Yeshua uses: grapes and figs versus thorns and thistles. Grapes and figs are sweet, delightful, healthy, nourishing, and enjoyable. Thorns and thistles are harsh and sharp. They scratch and scape and draw blood. They do nothing to nourish or delight. When you share truth with others, do you do it in a manner that is sweet, delightful, healthy, nourishing, and delightful? Or do you do it in a manner that is harsh and sharp, in a manner that scratches and scrapes and wounds the hearers? Do you share truth in a way that enlightens the hearers, or in a way that drives them away from the truth, and deeper into darkness?

Yeshua said by their fruits ye shall know them. He did not say that you will recognize false prophets by how doctrinally sound and historically accurate their words are. Don’t misunderstand; I am not minimizing the importance of doctrinal soundness or historical accuracy. The point I am making is this: Even if the truth which you share is 100% doctrinally sound and 100% historically accurate, if you are serving that truth on a platter woven of thistles and thorns, then that light which is in you is darkness.

The Apostle Paul had espoused the assembly in Corinth to Yeshua, and he wanted to present them “as a chaste virgin to Messiah.” But Paul was concerned about false apostles coming into their midst appearing as messengers of light. Paul expressed his concern for the Corinthians this way:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Messiah. For if he that cometh preacheth another Yeshua, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him... For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Messiah. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:3-15).

Notice that the end of these deceitful workers shall be “according to their works,” not according to the doctrinal soundness or historical accuracy of their teachings. Doctrinal soundness and historical accuracy are important, but the most important mark of a false teacher or false prophet or false apostle is not the doctrinal soundness or historical accuracy of his teachings, but his fruits.

By their fruits ye shall know them, Yeshua said. The truth you are sharing might be absolutely true, but is the light that is in you producing grapes and figs, or thistles and thorns? Are you bearing the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness; faith, meekness, temperance - or are you bearing thistles and thorns? When you share your knowledge of truth with people, do they generally perceive you as a person who is loving, or as a person who is uncaring? As joyful, or as cranky? As peaceful, or as agitated? As longsuffering, or as impatient? As gentle, or as harsh and mean-spirited? As good, or as bad? As faithful, or as unfaithful? As meek, or as proud and arrogant? As someone with self-control, or as someone who loses control?

By their fruits ye shall know them. If you are trying to discern whether someone is a false teacher, prophet, or apostle, look at his fruit. Look not only at the fruit in his own life, but the fruit in the lives of his followers. Are the people who love and promote and disseminate his teachings generally people who are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, gentle, good, faithful, meek, and temperate? Or are they generally unloving, cranky, agitated, impatient, mean-spirited, bad, unfaithful, proud, arrogant, and intemperate?

By their fruits ye shall know them. You might have genuine light, but if it is a loveless and joyless and peace-less light, a light that makes you turn cranky, mean-spirited, proud, and arrogant, then that light which is in you is darkness, regardless of how factual your information is.

Charles Finney wrote about loveless light and the fanaticism it can produce:

“Fanaticism results from what a certain writer calls ‘loveless light.’ Whenever the mind is enlightened in regard to what men ought to be and do and say, and is not at the same time in the exercise of benevolence, a spirit of fanaticism, indignation, rebuke, and denunciation is the almost inevitable result. By fanaticism, I mean a state of mind in which the malign emotions take control of the will, and hurry the individual away into an outrageous and vindictive effort to sustain what he calls right and truth. He contends for what he regards as truth or right with a malign spirit.

“In seasons of religious revival, there is special danger that fanaticism will spring up under the influence of infernal agency. It is, in many respects, a peculiarly favorable time for Satan to sow, in a rank soil, the seed of some of the most turbulent and outrageous forms of error that have ever cursed the world. Among the crowd who attend preaching at such times, there are almost always persons who have a strong fanatical tendency of mind. They are strongly inclined to censoriousness, fault-finding, vituperation, denunciation, and rebuke... The deep and perhaps hitherto hidden tendencies to fanaticism are blown up into flame, and often burst forth as from the molten heart of a volcano. Their indignation is aroused; their censorious and vituperative tongues are let loose... Their prayers, their exhortations, everything they say or do, are but a stream of scolding, fault-finding, and recrimination... With their tongues, they will make war upon everything that opposes them; they pour forth unmeasured abuse upon all who disagree with them; they hold no communion with those who cannot at once subscribe to their peculiar views...

“In revivals of religion this spirit generally manifests itself in a kind of scolding and denunciatory way of praying for all classes of people. Next, in exhortation, preaching, or in conversation. It especially attacks ministers and the leading influences of the Church, and moves right on progressively until it finally regards the whole visible Church as Babylon, and all men as on the high-road to hell who do not come out and denounce her...

“Now when this spirit first appears, it grates across the tender minds of those who are in a spirit of love. At first it distresses and agonizes them, but by and by there seems to be so much truth in what is said. Their prayers and exhortations are so exciting. Their own attention being directed to the faults that are so sternly rebuked, they begin to drink in the same spirit, and partake of that boisterous and fiery zeal which was at first so inconsistent with the sweetness of their spirit. They begin to see, as they suppose, how the denunciations of the prophets, of Christ and of His apostles, apply to those among whom they live. Their attention is wholly engrossed with the faults of the Church and the ministry, and they can see nothing good. They begin to doubt and query whether the visible Church are not all hypocrites... ‘Coming out of Babylon’ becomes the order of the day” (Charles Finney, Revival Fire, pg. 32-34).

In the Messianic Community there is a lot of talk about “coming out of Babylon.” Coming out of Babylon is a very important message, especially at this late hour in history. That’s the reason I spent three and a half years writing and publishing my series of 21 teachings on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, to inspire people to come out of Babylon and work to restore and rebuild, to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. We need to abandon the pagan practices and traditions that were borrowed from Babylon and her daughters. Yes, people need to come out of Babylon. But if your effort to call Christians to come out of Babylon only drives them deeper into the heart of Babylon, do not assume it’s because they are apathetic about the truth. Perhaps it is because you are radiating loveless light.

If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.


| DB

 

Image: Psalm 18 by Daniel Botkin from his Psurrealistic Psalms Pseries. View all of Daniel’s art galleries on his art website: DanielBotkin.com.

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