GOOD TREES DON’T BEAR BAD FRUIT [MATTHEW 7:15-20]
Having exhorted His followers to “enter by the narrow gate” (Matthew 7:13), Jesus proceeded to warn them about hindrances they would likely meet along the way. He stated clearly that there would be false prophets along the narrow path. At first glance they might look like sheep; underneath they are wolves who will seek to destroy the flock. Jesus wanted us to be prepared for this danger.
This talk about false prophets can make us feel uncomfortable. After all, there is nothing more objectionable than a person who always claims to be right and always insists that you (and others) are wrong. How can we discern the motives of other people when the differences often seem so subtle? Jesus did want us to be able to recognize false prophets and be aware of the dangers they present. But how can we learn to detect the differences between the sheep and the wolves? How can we make such judgments without being judgmental or condemnatory?
Eventually a person’s true character will be revealed. Good trees don’t bear bad fruit; bad trees don’t bear good fruit (Matthew 7:18). This does not mean that whenever there is bad fruit, the person responsible must be bad. Even true prophets, being human, can make mistakes. On the other hand, some of the most notorious people in history may have some good to their credit. You may not be able to know immediately if the bud before you is a fig or a thistle, but you will know more clearly as the plant matures.
Christ’s followers must seek out and depend upon the witness of the Holy Spirit within them, the “Spirit of truth” (John 15:26). If we continue to place God first by seeking Him in prayer and reading His word, His voice and mind will become ever clearer to us. We will know if our treasure is in heaven or on earth (Matthew 6:19-21) and we will be able to tell when God’s teachings have been compromised.
Jakarta, 25 June 2014
A Christian Pilgrim
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