As residents in the Chicago area in 1982, Jody and I clearly remember the Tylenol tampering episode that happened there. Some of you may remember that someone bent on random murder put cyanide in a few capsules. In all, seven unsuspecting people died.
Two unforgettable lessons emerge from this tragedy. First, faith does not, in and of itself, have any special merit. Faith does not have the power to change the nature of a drug from harmful to helpful. Seven people over the course of just a few days firmly believed they were taking medicine that would help them, but their faith in Tylenol did not save them. In fact, their faith killed them.
You see, faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Or, to put it another way, what we believe is more important than the fervency of our belief. That old cliché,, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere” is just simply not true. What you believe really matters.
A second lesson learned from that Tylenol episode is: Sometimes a false belief resembles a true one. To the casual observer, the cyanide powder looked just like the Tylenol powder. The label had all the earmarks of being authentic, it seemed genuine so there seemed to be no need to distrust the contents. Similarly, Christ taught that many people who have a strong and abiding faith will someday discover that their faith cannot save them. Indeed, if I can be so blunt, their faith will lead them straight to Hell.
This should come as no surprise. It’s not as if God has not given warnings, and road signs. These truths are not hidden in code. They are boldly proclaimed from the lips of the Son of God…from the lips of Christ Himself. “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience— doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.” Matthew 7:13-14 TM
The people of whom Jesus spoke in Matthew 7 never dreamed that they would be banished from heaven. They were good people. They were religious people. They had faith. The problem was that they had faith in the wrong thing. They were sincere, but they were sincerely wrong. These good people of faith were fooled into accepting cyanide in Tylenol capsules.