The Proof is in the Eating of the Pudding

by Rob Tims

“The proof is in the eating of the pudding.”

You may be more familiar with the shortened version of this common proverb: “The proof is in the pudding.” I’m unsure as to why it was ever shortened, as the simplified version seems to imply that one has to dig around in a gelatinous mess in order to find some sort of evidence that the pudding is, indeed, pudding. But the original proverb makes a lot more sense when you understand that “pudding” was not something Bill Cosby encouraged you to eat when you were a child, but a kind of sausage sealed with animal intestine. If it sounds a little grotesque and suspect, good. That means you understand the nature of the proverb. You’d never know something like that could be good unless you tried it. “The proof is in the eating of the pudding.”

The proverb applies to many other areas of lives, but I’m particularly interested in the topic of love. How can we know for certain that the love we express is really and truly love? How can we know that the love God expresses toward us is really and truly love?

“The proof is in the eating of the pudding.”

That is, the proof is in the tangible expressions of that love. The actions. The sacrifices. The costs.

The way we know someone loves us is that they experience something at great cost to themselves in order for us to experience love. Applying this to our love for others, loving anyone rightly will involve inconvenience and sacrifice.

We know this is true because of the gospel. Consider these three things from 1 John 3:16-24.

First, what Jesus did for us is not something to be merely admired. It must be acted on. Verse 16 states, “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” If self-sacrifice and inconvenience do not come easily for us, then a meditation on Jesus’ life and work is in order.

Second, if we can see and meet the needs of others, we must do so, and it will almost certainly be inconvenient and costly to rightly reflect the gospel. “If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him—how does God’s love reside in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth” (vv. 17-18). Indeed, “The proof is in the eating of the pudding.” There is no being Christian without doing Christian. There is no speaking of love if there is no acting in love.

Finally, when we do love like this, assurance of our salvation is the dividend. Verses 19-22: “This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows all things. Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commands and do what is pleasing in his sight.” The Spirit and our conscience work together to either condemn our hypocrisy or confirm our salvation. As we actively love others with compassion, we are assured of what is already certain. If we do not act in love … if we only speak only love-like things … if we only admire Jesus’ work and not model it … we bring condemnation on ourselves and begin to question the work of Jesus in our lives.

Let’s not go down that road.

“The proof is in the eating of the pudding.”

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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