( A commentary on Matthew 7: 15-20)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”( Matthew 7:15-20)
Today Jesus continues his concluding remarks in the Sermon on the Mount by stressing two points: first, the need to beware of false prophets; and second, the principle of discernment between true and false prophets is the fruit each bear.
From the Beatitudes onward, Jesus was showing a different standard, his own standard, which he was encouraging us and helping us to adopt: whereas everyone else will encourage us to be rich, jovial, merciless, sexually “fulfilled,” satiated, and liked by all, Jesus stresses that the path to happiness, his own path, is to be poor in spirit, mournful, merciful pure in heart, hungry for holiness, and persecuted and hated because of him.
He told us yesterday that many are on the broad road leading to perdition and few have found the narrow road leading to life. For that reason, he tells us to beware of those who preach, by words and actions, the anti-Beatitudes, who seek to draw people on the broad, easy, popular path.
He tells us that the way that we can distinguish between true and false prophets — since every roving prophet dressed with a sheepskin mantle and looked alike and at first glance sounded alike — is to examine the fruit they produce up close.
We live in a world that is overgrown with bad fruit. In truth they exist everywhere. Be it a Hollywood star, a politician, or even the latest evangelical pastor, we find evidence of false prophets. They cry for our attention, convince us that they have a way to solve our problem. And more and more people flock to the message. After all, it is a lot easier to believe the slick message than it is to follow Jesus.
Think about that the next time you may choose to believe a rumor, the next time you may choose to spread gossip, the next time you may choose to demean another because some talking head on TV tells you to believe him or her.
A sound mind accepts what is truly good and right and rejects what is false and wrong
What’s the test of a true or false teacher? Jesus connects soundness with good fruit. Something is sound when it is free from defect, decay, or disease and is healthy. Good fruit is the result of sound living – living according to moral truth and upright character. The prophet Isaiah warned against the dangers of falsehood: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20.).
The fruits of falsehood produce an easy religion which takes the iron out of religion, the cross out of Christianity, and any teaching which eliminates the hard sayings of Jesus, and which push the judgments of God into the background and makes us think lightly of sin.
How do we avoid falsehood in our personal lives? By being true – true to God, his word, and his grace. And that takes character! Those who are true to God know that their strength lies not in themselves but in God who supplies what we need. The fruit of a disciple is marked by faith, hope and love, justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance.
When each of us can claim that we know we are tethered to Him, the one, true Vine.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, may I bear good fruit for your sake and reject whatever will produce evil fruit. Help me grow in faith, hope, love, sound judgment, justice, courage, and self-control.”
To discern good fruit from bad fruit, we must know Jesus Christ. We have to put some effort into reading, studying, asking questions–in other words, seeking–and praying. As we draw closer to Christ, he gives us ways to discern good fruit from bad fruit, and good trees from bad ones. As we grow in holiness, not only do we more easily recognize good fruit, but by his work within us, we bear good fruit of our own, such as forgiveness, humility, chastity, love, mercy, and self-control.