Identifying Fruit (Matthew 7:15-23; Luke 6:43-46)

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-12-30 16:59.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

Jesus warned about being on guard against false prophets, those who, in their proclamations, would misrepresent him and his Father. Outwardly, they would appear as sheep, innocent and inoffensive. In actuality, they would be ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing, exploiting and injuring all whom they succeeded in deluding. (Matthew 7:15)

They would be recognized by their fruits—their disposition, conduct, and objectives. Persons producing good “fruits” would reveal themselves to be loving, compassionate, and impartial, seeking not personal advantage or gain but being intensely concerned about honoring God. Good and bad fruit would be as recognizable as that on a vine or tree. No one gathers grapes from a thorny shrub, or figs from thorny plants. A good tree does not yield bad fruit, and a rotten tree does not produce good fruit. Unproductive trees or those yielding worthless fruit were cut down and burned, as, in the first century, owners had to pay tax for these trees. For emphasis, Jesus repeated the words, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16-20; Luke 6:43, 44)

There are those who would call Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” using the right expression and doing so with a seeming intensity of feeling (as suggested by the repetition). Nevertheless, they would not enter the “kingdom of the heavens,” never becoming part of the royal realm where God is recognized as Sovereign. To gain entrance into that realm and coming to enjoy all the benefits and blessings associated therewith requires, as Jesus said, “doing the will of [his] Father.” (Matthew 7:21) Moreover, Luke’s account (6:46) indicates that their calling Jesus “Lord” was insincere, for they did not carry out the things he told them to do.

In “that day,” when the identity of those wanting God as the Sovereign of their lives is confirmed, many will claim that this was their desire. They would then point to having performed works they considered deserving of commendation. “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and did we not expel demons in your name, and did we not do many impressive deeds in your name?” (Matthew 7:22)

Although he is Lord and rightly addressed as such and the works enumerated are not deeds that would merit censure, Jesus would not acknowledge them as approved and as ever having had a relationship with him. Rejecting them, he would then say, “I never knew you. Depart from me, workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23) They would claim to have acted in his name or as representing him, but this would not have been so in actuality. They had failed in doing his Father’s will. Whatever their motivations, conduct, and deeds may have been, those who will be rejected brought no honor to Jesus nor to his Father.

Notes:

Jesus’ words are sobering, calling for serious self-examination as to whether one’s words and actions are focused on advancing his honor. Both as an individual or as part of a group, one can fall into the trap of promoting an agenda or working for a cause and winning supporters for it. The activity may then be mistakenly regarded as an expression of genuine faith. Whenever the tendency is to promote self or a particular movement, the danger of failing to live a life that truly brings praise to God and Christ is very real.

What counts with Christ is that we do his Father’s will. This requires being on guard against anyone who would make one the victim of a system, laboring for it and its interests.

In Luke 6:45, the aspect about fruit is amplified with the words, “A good man, from the good treasure of his heart, produces good, and the evil [man], from the [store of] evil, produces evil; for out of the heart’s fullness, the [his, in other ancient manuscripts] mouth speaks.” The true inner self of a person, the “heart,” is revealed through the expressions that come out of the mouth. These would be the spontaneous, unguarded expressions that are the real reflection of the individual’s inner life. Jesus expressed a similar thought on another occasion. (Matthew 12:35)