“The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape.”—Hamlet, Act II, Scene II


“For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray.”—Jesus


“You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!”—2 Timothy 3:1-5


I’m used to serving trays made of plastic that look at first glance as if they are sterling silver or at least shiny aluminum. We have some, and they come in handy. But until about a month ago I had never seen forks and spoons designed to fool the eye in the same way.


Susan and I were browsing through a chain drug store, having found the item we came in for, but on the lookout for something else we couldn’t do without. I happened to look to my left at the end of an aisle, and there with the usual white plastic utensils were others colored silver, with fluted handles. If you or I saw those on a dinner table, we wouldn’t know they were fake until we picked them up and felt the lack the heft or tried to handle a thick steak, only to have the utensil shatter in our hand.


In other words, if something is such a good fake that we can’t tell right away, we must judge its authenticity by experience. With plastic place settings, it doesn’t take much. But figuring out whether a colleague, a family member or a politician is on the level is sometimes very difficult. Some folks are so practiced at hypocrisy and lying that they can pull one over on just about everybody.


There’s the business executive that puts Bible verses on his email signature line, but is a pathological liar, spinning every bad situation and failure as someone else’s fault. Otherwise savvy businesspeople fall for his excuses and will not heed the pleas of a few to check out the facts. Or consider the teenage boy who charms not only his girlfriend, but her parents and grandparents, and seems the nicest kid in the world. But he is secretly involved in a relationship with another young woman of low morals. The young man manages this act for sometime, so skilled is he at deception.


If there’s any one quality that separates the fakes from the genuine articles, I believe, once again, it’s heft. You can tell a plastic knife from a sterling silver one by the weight of the real thing; what it’s made of it gives it substance. Just so, it is the weightiness of someone’s life that reveals what he or she is really made of—the strength of his character, the vulnerability of her spirit, the lengths they will go to help others and do the right thing. Quoting Bible verses or exuding charm, flashing a broad smile or beguiling others with a winning personality can be the manipulative tactics of the demonic. We have to look at what people do when they think no one is watching, what they say when they are unaware a microphone is on, whom they befriend and what causes win their hearts. That’s what reveals a genuinely good person, who when refined like silver, will stand the test.


© 2008 Tom Cheatham