Eureka! was the cry of the ‘49er’ who found pay dirt in the California gold fields. It’s a Greek word—meaning “I have found it!” It summed up every treasure hunter’s dream and expressed the thrill of striking it big. For James Marshall (the first to discover the precious metal in 1848) and the 49ers who followed him, the term eureka meant instant riches, early retirement, and a life of carefree ease.
But would-be prospectors quickly learned that not everything that appeared to be gold actually was. Riverbeds and rock quarries were full of golden specks that were entirely worthless. This “fool’s gold” was iron pyrite, and miners had to be careful to distinguish it from the real thing. Many an amateur miner would labor for days only to be told by the local assayer that his pouch full of golden dust was worthless.
Experienced miners could usually distinguish pyrite from gold simply by looking at it. But, in some cases, the distinction was not quite so clear. So, they developed tests to discern what was genuine from what was not. One test involved biting the rock in question. Real gold is softer than the human tooth, whereas fool’s gold is harder. A second test involved scraping the rock on a piece of white stone, such as ceramic. True gold leaves a yellow streak, whereas the residue left by fool’s gold is greenish black. In either case, a miner relied on tests to authenticate his finds.
Spiritually speaking, Christians often find themselves in a similar position to the California “49ers” of the mid-1800s. When confronted with various doctrines and religious teachings, all of which claim to be true, believers must be able to tell those that are biblically sound from those that are not. As was true in the gold rush, just because something glitters doesn’t mean it’s good. Christians need to be equally wary of spiritual “fool’s gold.” They must not accept something as true without first testing it to see if it meets with God’s approval. If it fails the test, Christians should discard it as false and warn others also. But if it passes the test, in keeping with the truth of God’s Word, believers can embrace and endorse it wholeheartedly.
California gold prospectors would cry “Eureka!” only when they found true gold. When it comes to spiritual things, Christians should be careful to do the same. So how do we discern false prophets from true prophets and false Gospels from The Gospel?
Years ago there was a television game show entitled “Truth or Consequences.” Most people who are old enough to remember will associate that show with Bob Barker. The contestants on the show were given the responsibility of determining the truth about people, places, events or things by answering a series of questions. At the conclusion of each show they would reveal the truth about the topic of discussion.
Believers have been give the task of discovering truth or facing the consequences.