Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18
Jesus offers this parable to His audience just after warning about judging others. That message, plus this one, addresses what is one of the most misunderstood messages of our Christian culture ~ that under no circumstances should we judge others.
So is all judging wrong? And if wrong, why would Jesus bother to tell us about false prophets being bad trees? He obviously wanted us to beware of them and He gave us signs to identify who they were. I contend that this is righteous judging.
My husband’s father, a well-known evangelist, when calling a spade a spade, was often accused of judging. His answer was both comical and truthful. He said, “I am not judging. I am fruit inspecting.” That’s biblical.
What I can learn from this parable is that wolves do exist and with God’s help, I can recognize them. A righteous person bears good fruit and a wolf, as well as any unbeliever, bears bad fruit. If I believe that good fruit is defined as simply doing good things then I am spiritually immature and run the risk of being deceived by people with an agenda.
Good fruit is to do good things for the sole purpose of glorifying God. As a child of God, I am to do everything to the glory of God. Period. I don’t do anything good for my own reputation and self-gain.
This definition is critical and clarifying because I see unbelievers (and wolves) doing good things all the time. But if I possess Spirit-driven intuition, I realize that they are incapable of doing anything good with the intention of giving God glory. That is not their intent. They are, either, driven by human compassion at best or driven to the desire for power and recognition at the very worst. I must be a prayerful fruit inspector to tell the difference.
What is a good example of a wolf in the Gospels, according to Jesus? The Pharisee who stood up to pray in public and said, “I’m glad I’m not like other people.” He then listed all the other people’s sins. (Luke 18) Not only was he unaware of his own innate sinfulness, he thought himself better than anyone else, and he wanted others to know through the use of public prayer. Jesus was clear that this was unrighteous. Bad fruit.
Can I truly identify good fruit and bad fruit? Do I know myself well enough to know the difference in my own heart? I need to start there or the deception that goes that goes with my own sin will blind me when I need to understand others in a way where I am protected from spiritual wolves.
Foster and birth greater fruit inspecting skills. In Jesus’ name, Amen