The proof is in the pudding


There’s an old saying, “the proof is in the pudding.” The expression means the quality or benefit of something is determined by trying it, and then evaluating the results.

What does “pudding” have to do with it? Originally the adage went: “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” but over time the “eating” part was trimmed away. A pudding may look appealing, and be presented with whipped cream mounded and chocolate sauce dribbled, but if it doesn’t taste good, it will go down as crème de la crud.

Besides pudding, I think the principle applies to people also. When someone appears kind or generous or noble, is this a sincere expression of their heart, or are we posturing for the approval and admiration of others? We live in the Facebook generation, where social media entices followers to exaggerate and draw attention to themselves. We’re evaluated by how many “friends” we have and how many “likes” we get. Qualities like vulnerability, meekness, humility, and integrity don’t often go viral. Instead, we try to appear strong, and confident, and enviable.

A person’s life cannot be evaluated from a Facebook page. Instead of a mirror reflecting our character, Facebook often is merely a superficial fabrication of what we want others to think. You see, folks whose hearts are bent towards impressing others will struggle to maintain ongoing harmony in their heart and actions. If our motivations aren’t genuine, inconsistencies will eventually surface to conflict with the image we’re projecting.

The proof (of one’s heart) is in the pudding (our behavior).

(I know we all make mistakes, and will act in ways out of character periodically. Pudding has lumps on occasion. But a sporadic social faux pas is not what I’m talking about. The concern is when misbehavior is customary; when contempt becomes characteristic.)

Rather than taste-testing pudding, Jesus used a different idiom about evidencing a pure heart. He said, “each tree is known by its own fruit,” adding, “People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.” (Luke 6:44).

Similarly, James, the half-brother of Jesus, says the evidence of a person’s faith can be seen in their life activity. Let’s consider how Jesus’ kid brother breaks it down:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17).

Dead; faith like a lifeless corpse.

Our culture typically evaluates success by prosperity, power, and popularity. Regarding one’s true intrinsic character, these are merely surface cosmetics and not a true indication of heart. How then can we determine the authenticity of a person’s heart condition? If it’s pudding, taste it. If it’s a tree, watch the fruit. If it’s a person, consider the deeds (i.e. good works) harvested from their life.

We have an ongoing conflict polarizing our community: homelessness. Wilmington, like most other communities, has the unfortunate dilemma of residents without residences. The conflict is regarding the treatment and care of these folks. Some call them a blight and refer to them as vagrants; others see them as destitute persons stationed here for nurture and care. Polar opposite perspectives.

So, am I advocating the righteousness of those with compassion for the homeless, and rebuffing those without? No, I’m not saying that at all. The issue is deeper yet. The question is whether these opposing factions can interact civilly with those from the other camp? If we, the advocates for the unhoused, throw verbal stones of contempt at those opposing us, how are we any different than those pitching disrespect at the homeless?

I must ask a question: what would happen if those who want to kick the unhoused down the road, were to pick up their gauntlets, as well as we with hearts that bleed for them, and cooperatively pool resources to search for a resolution together? Something to think about.

You know, it’s possible both of the puddings taste good. They’re different, but both palatable, and we each can learn to better appreciate the opposing flavor we’ve not tasted before. Give it a try. Take a bite.

I’m just sayin’.

Dave Hinman

Pastor Emeritus

Dove Church Wilmington

[email protected]

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