For anyone who spends much time in the woods, mushrooms are a fairly common sight. And if you happen to be among the growing group of individuals who enjoy foraging wild mushrooms, you recognize the importance of an accurate identification. An error could leave one quite ill, or worse, dead. And in the mushroom world, look-a-likes are common.
While foraging for mushrooms on a private farm recently, my husband and I stumbled upon what I consider to be a huge patch of delectable Chanterelle mushrooms. Dozens of cheerful little orange faces peeped through the leaf litter as if to say, “Peek-a-boo! Here I am!!” It was very exciting to find one, then a small cluster, then two here and there. And then I looked up and saw off in the woods a bit a huge patch of orange–large and bold. Could it be?
“KALON!! Come quick!!!!”, I yelled, as I hurried to the site. I thought I’d found the much-coveted “Chicken of the Woods”, or Sulphur Shelf mushroom. Being in an oak dominated forest, the setting was perfect, so my assumption was logical. But as I approached the glowing mass my heart sank. What I’d found was a large specimen of a poisonous Chanterelle look-a-like known as the Jack O’Lantern. And it definitely does a fair job at imitating!
Both Chanterelles and the “Jack” mushrooms share the bright orange color. Both of them like oak (or hardwood) dominated forests. Both have what appears to be “decurrent gills”, meaning the gills run part way down the stalk. They also share the same growing season. But there are some dead-ringer ways to tell the difference between the two.
- While the Chanterelle appears to have gills, they are actually folds; the poison Jack O’Lantern has true gills.
- While the Chanterelle lives in a mycorrhizal relationship with the oaks, meaning it grows on the forest floor, the Jack is what’s known as saprophytic, meaning it grows directly on wood.
- While the Chanterelle is typically a smaller mushroom, the Jack can grow quite large.
What does this have to do with us? As Christians, we may put on a fair show of being genuine. But the Bible has a rule by which we must measure ourselves. That rule is found in Isaiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them.”
Perhaps I consider myself to be an honest, truth-telling soul. I hang out with Christians, go to church, dress right, eat right, etc. But am I thoroughly honest? Let me give you an example of what I mean.
I had a friend once who would come visit about weekly. I would throw up my Southern (as in hospitality) hand as she would leave and say, “Yeah, I’ll come visit sometime!”, but I never did. I would sometimes even say more specifically, “Yeah, I’ll stop in tomorrow sometime!”. Little did I know that she would wait, looking out the window off an on all day. Finally she confronted me and (very gently) assured me that it is dishonest to say you’d come for a visit and never show!
Maybe some would think her perceptions were too narrow or extreme, but were they really? Think again of the passage above from Isaiah 8:20. What does “to the law” mean? Buried within the heart of God’s law is “thou shalt not bear false witness”. To say I’d do something and never do it was dishonest. Granted, I never REALLY had any intention of going to visit my friend. It was just the “polite” thing to say, and that’s the way I grew up! We’d always say, “Y’all come see us!”, to which we would hear a dutiful response, “Yeah, we’ll do it!” In all honesty…that is not true!
I looked up some words as I pondered these things. Consider these:
Prevarication–speaking or acting in an evasive manner. A false or deliberate misstatement; a lie.
Equivocation–allowing the possibility of several different meanings, as a word or phrase, especially with intent to deceive or misguide; susceptible of double interpretation; deliberately ambiguous.
Ambiguous–open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations; equivocal.
Guile–insidious cunning in attaining a goal; crafty or artful deception; duplicity.
Duplicity–deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter; double-dealing.
Dissimulate–to conceal one’s true motives, thoughts, etc., by some pretense; speak or act hypocritically. to disguise or conceal under a false appearance.
Discreet–judicious in one’s conduct or speech, especially with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect.
As I pondered these words and reflected on my life, I had to bow my head before the Lord and pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart, and see if there be any wicked way in ME!!!” Psalm 139:23. It can be pretty easy to speak other than straightforward truth! To speak anything but the straightforward, honest truth, is a lie. And no liar shall enter the kingdom of God.
Psalm 34:13 “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” Duplicity–any deceit in my thoughts or speech–is guile. In this practice, Christ never once participated, as it says in 2 Peter 2:22 “…Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his (Jesus’s) mouth:” Of those who have a right to enter heaven it will be said, “And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” Revelation 14:5
Take some time this week, (month and year) to ponder the definitions above, comparing them with your life and speech. But more importantly, compare your life and speech with the standard found in the Word of God. How do you measure up? If your thoughts are like mine when my friend confronted me, you may pride yourself in your honesty and be offended. But I encourage you to pray the prayer from Psalm 139:23,24. We cannot afford to miss heaven over our supposed honesty, so may the Lord bless us with clear-headed, Holy Spirit guided thinking in this matter. Blessings, friends!