Signposts: Daily Devotions

Saturday, May 24

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God...
—1 John 4:1

How do we know that what we perceive to be our path—call it “right livelihood,” “God’s will,” “vocation,” or any number of other terms—is truly the direction we should go? We discern this, in part, by asking a series of questions: What are my gifts? What do others see in me? What gives me energy and joy? What are the needs surrounding me? But there is yet another question we should ask: What sort of fruit does this work produce?

Speaking to the crowd in what is now known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned that “false prophets” would come after him, claiming to do good works in his name. “You will know them by their fruits,” he cautioned. “Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?…[E]very sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.” Not everything that appears to be from God is truly so, Jesus observed. The proof lies in the results.

For example, does our gift for efficiency result in cooperation and good will, or does it leave people cross with one another? Does our openness and flexibility cause people to feel accepted, or merely confused about where we stand? Does our desire to serve our community mean that our family’s needs are ignored?

In short, to fairly evaluate our actions, we must look at them in context. God’s desire is that we use our gifts to build up one another, not merely to gain notoriety and praise for ourselves. Our true vocation, whatever that turns out to be, will encourage human wholeness, not diminish it.

O God, give me the wisdom I need to discern what is truly good from that which masquerades as holy.

The Signposts for May are written by Susan Hanson and originally appeared on in September 2004.